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THE TRANSLATOR’S (INTER)VIEW: ROSIE HEDGER ON ZERO.

Posted on June 11, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

 

Nordisk Books: “Mental health is at the heart of your book […]. Do you think this subject is treated enough/well in the arts today?”

Gine Cornelia Pedersen: “I think the human psyche, and the troubles of living, are subjects that get as much exposure in literature/art as love. And also, as love, subjects that will never get old.”

 – An extract from an interview with Gine Cornelia Pedersen, Nordisk Books 

 

Zero by Norwegian writer and actress Gine Cornelia Pedersen is an impressive debut novel touching upon the theme of mental health. Winner of the prestigious Tarjei Vessas First Book Award, Zero was compared in Norway with a ‘punk rock single’.

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen (Nordisk Books, 2018). Front cover. 

 

“Uncompromising, unfiltered, disquieting.” – The translator Rosie Hedger on Zero

 

Zero, translated into English by Rosie Hedger and published in 2018 by Nordisk Books, has been shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2019!

Founded by Lord Weidenfeld and supported by New College, The Queen’s College and St Anne’s College, Oxford, the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize is awarded to book-length literary translations into English from any living European language to recognise the art and the value of translation. The winner will be announced this weekend: the prize will be awarded on 15 June at Oxford Translation Day at St Anne’s College. Well done to everyone on the shortlist!

While waiting for Saturday, we have interviewed the translator Rosie Hedger to hear more about Zero from her perspective. With our blog, we also aim to highlight the importance of translation and to give translators a voice, to acknowledge their expertise and praise them for their hard work as mediators between cultures, languages, histories and societies, as well as literary traditions.

Rosie tells us today about her experience of becoming and being a translator and, in particular, about her experience of translating Zero – a clearly challenging text to transpose into English, as “purposefully confusing or grammatically ‘incorrect’” in its original version, as Rosie explains. Read below how she skilfully and boldly tackled what she calls “breaks in logic” and “grammatical oddities” in the Norwegian text and collaborated with the author Gine Cornelia Pedersen to convey the novel’s meanings and intention to English-speaking readers. In other words – see how she has well deserved her place on the shortlist and she definitely has what it takes to win the prize!

 
The translator Rosie Hedger. 

 

How would you describe Zero in a few words?

Uncompromising, unfiltered, disquieting.

Zero has been shortlisted for the 2019 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. What is the role of translation prizes today? 

Translation prizes draw attention to books that often go under the radar - an author's name might be totally unfamiliar and therefore struggle to attract the attention of readers and reviewers, or a publisher may only have a small marketing and publicity budget. In best case scenarios, literary prizes have the potential to boost the translation of literature from an entire region, or at the very least to draw attention to work that is already being published to very little fanfare, and that can be transformative.

What was your journey to becoming a translator? What languages do you translate from and how did you start translating?

I translate from Norwegian (both of the two official written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk). I took Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and I was fortunate to study under Kari Dickson, an experienced translator (and all-round delight) who picked up on my interest in literature and translation and helped to point me in the right direction. I spent my third year of study living in Norway, did a summer au pairing in Denmark, and after graduating I taught English in Sweden for a while. After that, I spent a few years teaching university students in the UK, but I plugged away at shorter literary translation jobs and dabbled in commercial work during that time. For a long while, I felt that I was lacking direction and had no idea how to progress in the world of translation, but now I look back on that time as really valuable unofficial training. In 2011, I was selected as the Norwegian candidate for the BCLT mentorship programme, working with Don Bartlett for six months and meeting other emerging translators and industry professionals, and it was transformative for my practice (and, perhaps more importantly, for my confidence). I can't underestimate the role that other translators have had in helping me on the path to where I am - there are huge reserves of kindness, generosity and knowledge among colleagues of all experience levels, and connecting with other translators has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job over the past few years.

Did you face any particular difficulties translating this book? How did you overcome them? 

This was one of my toughest translations to date - the fragmented nature of the writing left so much open to interpretation, and the poetic form and use of very short sentences further intensified this. Norwegian sometimes allows for a greater ambiguity expressed in very few words where the same thing in English would seem long-winded in comparison – I found that leaving time between re-reads helped me to edit more brutally, and as my familiarity with the text grew, I felt bolder about making those kinds of decisions.

The narrator's unreliability and poor mental state also had an effect on the translation process – through emotionally draining highs and lows, her grasp on language would sometimes disappear completely. Translation is often described as a very (very!) close reading of a text, and I battled with the desire to impose logic whilst processing this. When the original text is purposefully confusing or grammatically 'incorrect', working out how to accurately convey these breaks in logic or grammatical oddities can be a long and drawn-out process. I mulled over sentences like 'they not happy now' for hours, trying to decide if they adequately embodied the character’s voice whilst being only just as jarring to the reader as they came across in the Norwegian original. Gine was very open to talking things over, and I discussed these kinds of things with her during the process. She spoke of writing almost as if on autopilot - I sensed that it was difficult for her to 'unpack' certain sections or sentences in a way that might satisfy a translator's obsessive need(!) for explanation. Gine was wonderful to work with - she had a great deal of respect for the translation process and the choices I made, and was happy to offer her insight.

 

We thank the translator Rosie Hedger and Nordisk Books for their contribution to our blog.

Rosie Hedger was born in Scotland and completed her MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Most recently she has worked on translating Helga Flatland's contemporary family saga, A Modern Family (forthcoming from Orenda Books), and her translation of Agnes Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal won an English PEN Translates Award in 2016. Ravatn’s novel was later selected for BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. Rosie was a candidate in the British Centre for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for emerging translators in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett, and has worked on a range of fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature. 

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THE TRANSLATOR’S (INTER)VIEW. MIRZA PURIC ON UNDER PRESSURE

Posted on June 05, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

“Under Pressure is poetic, poignant, funny, witty, rebellious, snarky, minimalist and bold.” - The translator Mirza Purić

 

New from Istros Books (May 2019) is Faruk Šehić’s collection Under Pressure – a novel in fragments – a collection of brutal and heart-wrenching stories from the Bosnian war frontline. Waiting to welcome him to London later this week, Under Pressure’s translator Mirza Purić has answered our questions on his experience translating this book and working from a so-called ‘smaller’ language.

 
Under Pressure by Faruk Šehić (Istros Books, May 2019). Front cover.

 

Can you describe Under Pressure, its content, style and form, in a few sentences?

Under Pressure is Faruk Šehić’s first work of fiction. It’s a fragmentary novel or a collection of loosely connected stories set mostly in the far north-western part of Bosnia during the 1990s war. It’s about pressure and decompressing, war, alcohol, poetry, love, war again. Under Pressure is poetic, poignant, funny, witty, rebellious, snarky, minimalist and bold.”

What is your experience of translating a book of stories from the frontline? Did you face any particular difficulties?

“Just my glitchy brain. The fact that the stories take place in the trenches was the least of my worries, I’ve read tonnes of wartime literature and I used to be a military interpreter. The biggest difficulty was finding the official, published translations of all the poems and novels that are quoted or referred to in the text to lift the quotes from. There is no English library in Sarajevo so I had to search the dankest corners of the Internet and pester friends who live outside the noose.”

In particular, did you face any specific challenges related to the cultural specificity of the story and the author’s experience?

“In many ways this is a very local book. For instance, most of the dialogue is in a rather rustic local dialect which can be barely comprehensible to most outsiders. I grew up a bike ride from Faruk so this was no problem. I originally had broad Yorkshire there, as I thought the socio-linguistic status and distance from the standard were about right, but there were concerns that the readers would have to work a bit too hard to make sense of all t’ clipped articles, funny syntax and obscure words, so in the end I had to go with some kind of generic non-standard English. I’m a bit of a stickler for heritage languages and dialects and I’m not too happy about this, but it had to be done.”

 

The translator Mirza Purić. Photo credit: Stacy Mattingly.

 

More generally, what can you say about being a translator from so-called ‘smaller’ languages?

“A banal point perhaps, but I find myself explicating much less when I translate from German, or into the multinominal Balkan language. When I worked mostly from English, every now and then leaving things untranslated and unglossed seemed a viable option, or even the best solution. I can’t do that very often now, I have to work harder. And of course there is the perennial issue of no opportunities, few or no literary magazines, an off-putting publishing scene, the ‘smallerness’ of everything.”

What is your favourite passage from the book and why?

“The final paragraph of Undertakers’ Yarn is one of the most poetic bits in the book that are not outright poetry. I don’t want to quote it here, but it wraps up four or five pages of cringy sexual banter, and is just crushingly sad.”

 

“…That’s how he [Faruk] fits. He towers.” - The translator Mirza Purić on Faruk Šehić

 

How does the author fit within Bosnian literature?

“His version of the war doesn’t quite chime with the official interpretations, the stuff that you find in sanctioned, subsidised literature. Our lads in Under Pressure are shitfaced all the time, they swear like stevedores, fornicate, eat pig, smoke weed, take drugs and beat prisoners. The official – nationalist – narrative is that they were as chaste as Sir Galahad. So while the book was an instant hit with the readers, for reasons which I hope are obvious even in my translation, some didn’t like what they read, I imagine. Faruk has put something on the line for his art, not too many people here do that.

I’d always considered Bosnian literature terribly pedestrian and parochial, with the exception of a few greats. Faruk was the first modern Bosnian poet/writer I thought was exciting and relevant. Most of the previous generation were a shower of old men in dad jeans with absolutely nothing of interest to say, and I religiously avoided everything they wrote. When his debut collection Pjesme u nastajanju (Poems in Progress) came out in the early noughties, it towered. That’s how he fits. He towers.”

What other books by Bosnian authors would you like to recommend? Are there any books by Bosnian authors you’d like to see translated into English?

Moja fabrika (My Factory) by Selvedin Avdić, author of Seven Terrors, is a lovely non-fiction book about his home city of Zenica. Senka Marić has a harrowing novel about cancer titled Kinsugi tijela (Body Kintsugi), I’ve just started working on an excerpt and I’m humming with excitement. Nihad Hasanović’s first novel O roštilju i raznim smetnjama (On Barbecue and Sundry Disorders) is an important book to me, I’d love to see it in as many languages as possible. Lamija Begagić and Lejla Kalamujić write phenomenal queer fiction. Darko Cvijetić is an extraordinary language poet. Marko Tomaš and Mehmed Begić are rather underrated. This is a very good time to be a translator of poetry from these parts; a new generation of women poets is taking over, they are tremendous. Some names to remember: Anita Pajević, Dijala Hasanbegović, Lidija Deduš, Selma Asotić, Šima Majić, Zerina Zahirović. Yes, I’ve left somebody out, sorry.”

 

We kindly thank the translator Mirza Purić for his contribution to our blog. 

Mirza Purić is a literary translator, editor and bassist. 

 

Faruk Šehić is coming to London this week to talk about his writing: come meet him, together with Bosnian author Alen Mešković, at the Impossible Territory panel series on 6th June at 18:00 as part of the UCL Festival of Culture (book your place on 6th June here) and at the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü on 7th June at 18:30 for a book launch and talks (book your place on 7th June here).

The events are free, but registration is required.

Faruk Šehić is also the author of Quiet Flows the Una (Istros Books, 2016), translated by Will Firth. This autobiographical novel is the story of a man trying to overcome the personal trauma caused by the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. Find out more on Istros Books’ website here and at the events mentioned above on 6th and 7th June.

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CELEBRATING TRANSLATION FROM ‘SMALLER’ LANGUAGES. IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTINA PRIBICHEVICH ZORIC

Posted on June 04, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 1 comment

What does it mean to translate from a so-called ‘smaller’ language? What specific challenges do translators and publishers face when translating, editing, publishing and promoting literature in translation from ‘smaller’ languages, and how do they overcome them?

Experienced translator Christina Pribichevich Zoric answers our questions about her experience as a translator from Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (B/C/S). If you’re interested in the world of translation from ‘smaller’ languages, join us on Thursday 6th June for the Impossible Territory panel series as part of the UCL Festival of Culture.

Christina Pribichevich Zoric will be on the first panel Translating the War – Bosnian Writing through English and other languages at 18:00 with translator from Danish, Paul Russell Garrett, exploring how experiences of the conflict in former-Yugoslavia travel the world through other languages and translation. Join us there and come meet Bosnian authors Alen Mešković and Faruk Šehić!

The event is free but registration is required. Book your place here.

 

The translator Christina Pribichevich Zoric

 

What was your journey to becoming a translator from B/C/S?

“I came to what was then Yugoslavia as an American graduate student, planning to stay a year. I stayed for over twenty. I picked up the language along the way, although it helped that my father was from the region so there were some words that I already knew. I started honing my skills as a translator when I got a job as a translator/broadcaster with the English Service of Radio Yugoslavia. Eventually I moved on to translating works of literature.”

How else have you used your language skills in your career? 

“Language skills open all sorts of doors. I had studied French at the Sorbonne before coming to the former Yugoslavia, which was helpful when I came to head the Language Service at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where the official languages were English and French and the working language was B/C/S.”

What have been the biggest challenges you faced as a translator from so-called 'smaller' languages?

“Enabling readers of the English translation to understand cultural and historical references that may be unfamiliar to them.”

How have you evolved as a translator from your first to your last translation? 

“When I started translating I had to look for quotes, references and even terms wherever I could find them. The internet has made that so much easier, allowing me to spend more time on the translation itself.”

What is the current state of B/C/S literature in translation in the UK?

“Translated literature is still a poor relation in the English-speaking world. There was a spike of interest in B/C/S writers during and right after the wars in the former Yugoslavia, but that has tapered off yet there are still many classics and contemporary writers who more than deserve to be read in English.”

What suggestions would you give to emerging translators from B/C/S? 

“Choose books to translate that you feel you can do justice to and read as much as you can in English to develop your style.”

Do you have a favourite book in translation from B/C/S? And/or is there a book not yet translated that you hope to see translated for the English-speaking public?

“I don't know about a favourite book, but I would love to see more of Borislav Pekic's work translated into English. He was an acute observer of the world, combining erudition with an almost British sense of humor.”

 

We kindly thank translator Christina Pribichevich Zoric for her contribution to our blog.

 

Christina Pribichevich Zoric has translated more than thirty novels and short-story collections from Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and French. Her translations include the award-winning Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić and the international best-seller Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipović. She has worked as a broadcaster for the English Service of Radio Yugoslavia in Belgrade and the BBC in London and was the Chief of Conference and Language Services for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

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THE TRANSLATOR’S (INTER)VIEW. PAUL RUSSELL GARRETT ON UKULELE JAM

Posted on June 04, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

Bosnian authors Alen Mešković and Faruk Šehić are coming to London this week! Come meet them at the Impossible Territory panel series on 6th June at 18:00 as part of the UCL Festival of Culture and do not miss the launch of their books Ukulele Jam and Under Pressure on 7th June at 18:30 at the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü. The events are free, but registration is required. Remember to book your place here (Impossible Territory) and here (book launch).

While waiting to meet the authors themselves on Thursday, we have interviewed the translators of Alen Mešković’s Ukulele Jam and Faruk Šehić’s Under Pressure to gain an insight into the world of translation from so-called ‘smaller’ languages and learn more about these two fascinating books.

Today, translator Paul Russell Garrett answers our questions about his experience of translating Ukulele Jam from Danish. Mešković’s novel tells the story of a Bosnian teenager, named Miki, and his family, who are fleeing their home during the Balkan war.

“…There is a youthful innocence that is uniquely captured in Ukulele Jam, broken up by the outbursts of humour and maturity that teenagers often surprise adults with.” - The translator Paul Russell Garrett on Ukulele Jam
 
The translator Paul Russell Garrett. Photo credit: Camila França Photography

 

Can you describe Ukulele Jam, its content, style and form, in a few sentences?

Ukulele Jam centres on the daily activities of a teenager living in a refugee camp, with war raging in the not so distant background. The war is constantly discussed in letters, phone calls and at family reunions, but through the bulk of the story, the reader follows Miki on his quest to find new friends, music, and of course, girls. There is a youthful innocence that is uniquely captured in Ukulele Jam, broken up by the outbursts of humour and maturity that teenagers often surprise adults with.”

Do you have any favourite passages from the book?

“One of the chapters that I translated early on in the process, simply titled ‘Sweden’, is still fixed in my mind. Miki’s friends at the refugee camp are leaving one by one, a number of them granted asylum by Sweden. He daydreams about Sweden and of moving there with his older brother, even though he has absolutely no idea what Sweden is like, to him it’s just the knob at the top of the globe. But when his friend mentions music libraries in one of his letters, Miki’s mind is made up. Of course this leads to arguments with his parents, who have no interest in moving even further away from their home. A teenager’s simple desires versus the practicalities of adulthood.”

Ukulele Jam by Alen Mešković (Seren Books, 2018). Front cover.

 

“Literature has a vital role to play in ensuring society remembers its past atrocities and hopefully learns from them.” - The translator Paul Russell Garrett

 

Did you have any difficulties translating this book? In particular, did you face any challenges related to the cultural specificity of the story and the author's experience?

“I’ve met up with Alen a few times in Denmark, and we’ve had a great rapport from the get-go. I recall thinking once about how much I had in common with Alen, but of course I’d never lived in a war zone and hadn’t been forced to flee my homeland. But Alen and I connected on a human level, which is one of the things I think is so powerful about Ukulele Jam–it allows people who have never experienced the horrors of war or genocide to connect and relate with a character who has. Literature has a vital role to play in ensuring society remembers its past atrocities and hopefully learns from them.”

What languages do you translate from and how did you become a translator?

“I translate from Danish and Norwegian, and occasionally dabble with Swedish poetry. When I finished my degree in Scandinavian Studies, I had no idea what to do, and so I continued working odd jobs until one day, on a jaunt to Copenhagen, I stumbled upon a play script and decided I wanted to translate it. Things kind of fell into place, and within an incredibly short space of time, I was translating entire novels! It was completely unexpected and unplanned, but now it feels like it was always meant to be.”

What is your experience of translating from so-called 'smaller' languages?

“Smaller languages are often represented by cultural institutions that work to widen the reach of the literature from the various countries. Not only do they support the publication and promotion of books translated from their languages, they also provide translators with the opportunity for grants, cultural excursions and career development. Denmark and Norway are particularly good at this, and I hate to think what would have become of me and my Scandinavian Studies degree if these options had not been available.”

 

We kindly thank the translator Paul Russell Garrett for his contribution to our blog. 

 

More about the translator:
Paul Russell Garrett works from Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, translating fiction, theatre and poetry into English. Translations include Lars Mytting's The Sixteen Trees of the Somme (long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award 2019), Christina Hesselholdt's Companions, as well as her forthcoming novel, Vivian, a fictionalised account of the life of enigmatic American street photographer, Vivian Maier. Paul also mentors emerging theatre translators, teaches Danish and plays handball in his spare time.

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OUR TRANSLATED BOOKS IN MAY

Posted on May 31, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments
Inpress’ thought-provoking list of translated books in May explores the human experience from desire to violence, trauma and war. 

Here are our translated titles this month:

 

WOMEN’S VOICES

Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz (Charco Press), translated by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff.

Harwicz drags us to the border between fascination and discomfort as she explores aspects of desire, need and dependency through the dynamics between a mother and her daughter, searching through their respective lives to find meaning and define their own relationship.

Ariana Harwicz is also the author of Die, My Love (Charco Press, 2017), a book also exploring motherhood, womanhood, love and desire, which was longlisted for the Man Booker International 2018. Both books form part of what the author has termed ‘an involuntary trilogy’.

 

Feebleminded, Charco Press, 2019. Front cover. 

 

AN INQUIRY INTO VIOLENCE IN NORWAY

Termin: An Inquiry into Violence in Norway by Henrik Nor-Hansen (Nordisk Books), translated by Matt Bagguley.

Here is the shocking story of Kjetil Tuestad. In 1998 he was 26 years old, had just got married to Ann Elisabet Larsen, lived in Hommersåk, Stavanger and worked as an electrician at Rosenberg Shipyard in Stavanger. On midsummer night he was found severely beaten and unconscious. That night changed his life forever.

This short text reads as an enquiry into Kjetil’s case and the causes and effects of this tragic event and of violence. We have selected this book as our Translated Book of the Month in May because it is very powerful and unique in its style and topic. You can read our interview with the translator Matt Bagguley here and discover more about this text and the role of the translator.

 
TRANSLATING THE WAR

Under Pressure by poet and war veteran Faruk Šehić (Istros Books), translated by Mirza Puric.

Šehić’s new book is a collection of brutal and heart-wrenching stories from the Bosnian war frontline, combining beauty and horror.

Faruk Šehić is also the author of Quiet Flows the Una (Istros Books, 2016), the story of a man trying to overcome the personal trauma caused by the Bosnian war.

Come meet the author in London on 6th and 7th June and join us for a series of events celebrating translation from ‘smaller’ languages.

More information and registration links here

 

 
For sources and information:
http://charcopress.com/
http://istrosbooks.com/
http://www.nordiskbooks.com/

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