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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:



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. 



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.


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:

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Posted on May 30, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 2 comments

Radical poetry publisher Smokestack Books is now publishing Isabella, the first complete UK edition of poems by Isabella Morra, a powerful voice in sixteenth-century Italian literature. Isabella lived her life in strict isolation in the family castle of Valsinni. At twenty-six, Isabella was murdered by her brothers in an honour killing. Her forgotten poems are now re-discovered. The book also includes poems by the translator Caroline Maldonado in the attempt to ‘find’ the lost Isabella and to explore her life and her fate and the relevance of her story in our times.

Caroline Maldonado answers our questions about the book and her experience of translating a sixteenth-century text. How was the poetry of this young poet discovered? What type of research lies behind the translator’s work? Caroline tells us more about Isabella’s journey.


The translator Caroline Maldonado.


In your foreword, you recount how you first discovered the work of this young Renaissance poet. How did that happen? And what struck you about this poet when you first read her verses? 

I came across the poems and life of Isabella Morra when I was working on poems by Rocco Scotellaro, which I co-translated with Allen Prowle (Your Call Keeps Us Awake, Smokestack Books 2013). Both poets were born in Basilicata in Southern Italy and wrote powerfully about the impoverished land although they were separated by four hundred years. I first read her poems there and was struck by their emotional power and by the frustration expressed, which I felt is shared with young women in many parts of the world today: that of being an educated woman, aware of developments far from her home that she wished to participate in, yet imprisoned by her own circumstances. I also discovered that she was killed by her brothers in an honour killing when she was only 26, which made the poems even more poignant for me.


In your foreword, you introduce the life of Isabella Morra as well as the socio-political situation of her time. How important are Isabella’s personal story and the historical and social context to understand her poetry? 

Of course you can enjoy the poems by themselves and have a direct emotional response to them, but for a contemporary reader I think it helps to know the context they were born out of, particularly when the poems refer to it.


How much research lies behind a translation and how important is it for your writing? 

I’d approach every project differently but in this case I read as many studies as I could get hold of, very much helped by friends in Italy, including in the tourist office in Valsinni, the village where Isabella lived, although information about her is limited. I chose to write an extensive introduction to this English version about her life and death as it offers an additional dimension to the understanding of her poems. 


You also mention visiting the places where Isabella lived. How did this experience influence your writing?

For me those visits were crucial. They helped me to see Isabella and the features she refers to in her poems: the wild forests, hills overlooking the sea, the river where she wept ‘streams’. I was also particularly lucky to have been shown around the medieval castle where she lived by the present owner. Landscape also inspires my own poems and fed into the second half of the book.


Did Isabella’s 1500s language and style create any particular difficulties? How have you tackled them in the translation?

Isabella’s poems were written according to the convention of the times. The originals are ten Petrarchan sonnets with tight rhymes and three canzoni, long poems with a complex syllabic and rhyming structure. The main challenge is always to find the balance between preserving fidelity to the original form and register and accessibility for the contemporary reader and to some extent this is subjective. My aim was to write as close to the original form as possible without losing the emotional expressiveness and the musicality which the Italian language brings with it. From my first clumsy attempts to the present it involved much re-writing over a period of years, reading aloud to hear how each poem sounds and receiving feedback from other poets.


You have also co-translated the work of Rocco Scotellaro for Smokestack Books.  As a translator, did you approach a man’s and now a woman’s voice differently? If so, how? 

I don’t approach them differently but I respond to each of them with my own sensibility as a woman poet myself and this may inform the translation – it isn’t a technical matter.


How do your own poems in the book intermingle with and complete Isabella’s story?

My poems start with my attempt to find Isabella, my travels down to Tricarico in Basilicata where Scotellaro lived. He died in the middle of the twentieth century and is very much alive in the memory of Tricarico’s present inhabitants. Isabella was buried in an unmarked grave and we don’t even know what she looked like. My poems are mainly in the second half of the book. They aren’t narrative in the sense of telling the story of her life but are more an imaginative attempt to get close to her using a variety of voices, including my own, hers and her mother’s. I don’t attempt to describe her death directly, for example, but instead imagine her brothers killing a young boar.


How does Isabella’s poetry fit within that of her period and Italian literature in general?

The history of poetry has been written from a man’s perspective until relatively recently and many fine women poets remain to be discovered and translated. In Italy during the Renaissance there were several great women poets. One of the best known was Vittoria Colonna, who exchanged sonnets with Michelangelo, but there were many others who now hold their rightful places in the history of Italian literature But whereas they were all engaged with the vital cultural centres in towns and courts, Isabella lived in the poor southern countryside, an area riven with plague, wars and brigands, and although aware of literary developments was unable to participate in the cultural life of the country or achieve the fame she sought in her lifetime. It has taken a while for her name to become known, even in her own country. In the nineteenth century, the great Italian poet, Leopardi, is said to have been influenced by her poems in the way he wrote about his own landscape around Recanati and in the early twentieth century, she was ‘rediscovered’ by the philosopher and intellectual, Benedetto Croce. She now holds her place in the canon of Italian poetry and has even had a women’s film festival set up in her name!   


How is Isabella’s work relevant to us today?

Her subjects are universal: love, loss and spiritual longing.


Do you have any favourite verses from the book?

It’s hard to choose but I love this sonnet although the language isn’t typical of the others. Written in a rhetorical style as much influenced by Dante as Petrarch, it expresses her desperation and even appears to presage her own fate:

    Here once again, O hell-like wasted valley,
O alpine river, shattered heaps of stone,
spirits stripped bare of all goodness or pity,
you will hear the voice of my endless pain.
   Every cave will hear me, every hill,
wherever I stay or my footsteps lead me,
for Fortune, who never rests or holds still,
hourly steps up my hurt, each hour an eternity. 
   And as I cry out through the nights and days,
you, wild beasts, rocks, infernal ruins,
untamed forests and solitary caves,
  even you, hawk owls who presage ill,
come howl with me in your loud, broken voices
for what is to come, my saddest fate of all.

Are there other poetry books in translation from Italian that you’d like to recommend? Are there any books not yet translated into English that you hope will become available soon to English-speaking readers?

I would like to see many more collections of poems by Italian women translated into English. I have been commissioned by Smokestack Books to translate poems by Laura Fusco – entirely different from Isabella - a poet writing about contemporary issues, the plight of migrants on the move, in a free incantatory style. Worth looking out for following its publication in March next year!


We kindly thank poet and translator Caroline Maldonado
for her contribution to this blog. 


The translator Caroline Maldonado will be reading from Isabella’s poems and her own written in response to the young woman’s life and tragic fate Saturday 1st June at the Poetry Café in London.


More about the translator:

Caroline Maldonado is a poet and translator, living in the UK and Italy. Her work has appeared in many poetry journals and in anthologies, most recently Poems for Grenfell Tower (Onslaught Press 2018).  Her poetry publications include Your call keeps us awake, co-translations with Allen Prowle of poems by the Italian poet, Rocco Scotellaro (Smokestack Books 2013), What they say in Avenale (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2014), Isabella (Smokestack Books 2019) which includes translations of poems by Renaissance poet, Isabella Morra, and Maldonado’s own poems and forthcoming Liminal, poems by Laura Fusco translated from Italian (Smokestack Books 2020).

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Posted on May 22, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

“You were the hidden motive, the one for whom one got out of bed in the morning, the one from the past who was at the same time someone from the future. Something like hope, an attractive reward for the foreseeable future, that possibility that something could happen and at the same time fear of just that.”

From Clementine’s last letter to Nightingale


Our selected translated book of the month in April was Olja Savičević’s Singer in the Night, translated by Celia Hawkesworth and published by Istros Books – a novel about life, love, and their true, deeper meanings. This is also a novel about the past, in which the present intertwines with history, and particularly that of former Yugoslavia. The translator Celia Hawkesworth has answered our questions to tell us more about the process of translating this text, the work of a talented Croatian writer who skilfully plays with memory and language.

If you’re interested in exploring the process and challenges of translation from lesser-known languages, join us on 6th and 7th June at the Impossible Territory panel series as part of the UCL Festival of Culture and at the event Remembering and Forgetting: The Bosnian War Through The Literary Lens at The Yunus Emre Enstitüsü. You can find more information on this event series here.


The translator Celia Hawkesworth


What was your journey to becoming a translator?

It was quite random: when I first went to Belgrade, on a 10-month British Council scholarship after graduating in 1964, writers and publishers were keen to have their work available in the wider world by being translated into the 'larger' European languages. To start with the simple fact that I was a native speaker and was just beginning to learn Serbo-Croat was enough for them. The fact that I had no experience of translating seemed immaterial. It was quite nerve-racking initially. Later, when I was appointed to teach Serbo-Croat at the School of Slavonic & East European Studies in London University, I began to feel more comfortable as I worked my way more deeply into the language and culture. I translated increasing numbers of works as my teaching career progressed and have continued since I retired.

In particular, what was your journey to becoming a translator from so-called 'smaller' languages, Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian?

From the point of view of getting work published, it was possibly more difficult as, when I started out, Yugoslavia was relatively unknown, even as a holiday destination and publishers were reluctant to take on such an unknown quantity, unless there was an obvious political dimension to it. But, there were certainly fewer already established translators than was the case with the more familiar 'larger' languages.

Is it different to translate from such languages rather than from more well-known languages such as Spanish or French, and if so, how? What specific challenges does translation from less well-known languages and cultures entail?

There is often a bit more cultural explaining to be done in the course of the translation as so much is unfamiliar. This is particularly the case with works written and set in Bosnia, with references to Turkish/Ottoman culture and its survivals in local customs and language.

Singer in the Night is a reflection on life, and also on history. Were there any passages in the original text that you thought would not be easily comprehensible to your readers including less well-known or presumably unknown references to the local history and society? If so, how did you handle them?

Some that were not essential to moving the narrative on were omitted as too obscure, for others I tried to include some minimal explanation in the text so as not to hold the reader up.

From your point of view as a translator, how would you describe the author's style and language?

One of the features of Olja Savičević 's style that gives her works their special flavour and charm in the original is the frequent use of the Split dialect. This represents a huge obstacle for the translator, which I had to try to overcome in her earlier work, Farewell, Cowboy as its use was an essential feature of the dialogue between certain characters. Singer in the Night contains a delightful mixture of styles and language, which have to be rendered differently, so challenging the translator.

This is the second book by Savičević that you translate for Istros Books. Is it a different experience to translate a book by an author you already know? 

It is, and a particular pleasure, although the way she plays with styles and registers, referencing works of European literature and contemporary culture, means that the tone of this book is very different from the earlier one.

Do you have any favourite passages or quotes from Singer in the Night

I particularly like the passages about the wild twin girls, Billy Goat and Arrow, but also the last, slightly mysterious letter that Clementine writes to Nightingale.

How does Savičević fit within Croatian literature?

She is a popular, successful writer, particularly valued for her versatility and lightness of touch in dealing with serious issues.

What is the current state of Croatian - and also Bosnian and Serbian - literature in English translation?

It is greatly helped by having a dedicated publisher in Suzi Curtis and Istros. While over the years the British reading public has become readier to consider reading translations, translated works of fiction still struggle to be noticed in the mass of books published in English every day.


We kindly thank the translator Celia Hawkesworth for her contribution to this blog.


Celia Hawkesworth taught Serbian and Croatian language and literature at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, from 1971 to 2002. Since retiring, with interruptions, she has been working as a freelance translator. She began translating fiction in the 1960s, and to date has published some 40 titles. She received the Dereta Book of the Year award for her translation of Ivo Andrić’s The Damned Yard and other Stories (1992); was short-listed and ‘highly commended’ for the Weidenfeld Prize for Literary Translation for Dubravka Ugrešić’s The Museum of Unconditional Surrender (1998); and awarded the Heldt Prize for the best translation by a woman in Slavic studies 1999 for Dubravka Ugrešić’s The Culture of Lies. Recently she has been translating works by Daša Drndić: Leica Format (2014), and Belladonna (2017), runner-up in the new European Bank of Reconstruction and Development foreign fiction prize (2018), short-listed for the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize and winner of the Warwick Women in Translation Prize 2018. With Susan Curtis she translated Drndić's Doppelgänger (Istros Books, 2018), short-listed for the Republic of Consciousness prize  2019. Her translation of Omer Pasha Latas (2018), has been short-listed for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2019.

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The Winner of the 2019 Rathbones Folio Prize: Raymond Antrobus

Posted on May 21, 2019 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

The 33-year old spoken-word poet Raymond Antrobus is tonight, Monday, 20th May, named the winner of the £30,000 Rathbones Folio Prize, for his debut collection, The Perseverance. It is the first time the prize – which rewards the best work of literature of the year, regardless of form – has been awarded to a poet.

The Perseverance – published by the small press Penned in the Margins – ranges across history and continents to explore issues as wide-ranging as the poet’s diagnosis with deafness as a child, mixed heritage experience, masculinity, and his beloved father’s alcoholism and later decline into dementia and death. Last month, the book, which contains a fierce challenge of Ted Hughes’s description of deaf children, was given the Ted Hughes Award. It was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize, the Jhalak Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award.

Read more.

Buy the book.

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Posted on May 21, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments
Join us in London on 6th and 7th June and meet Bosnian authors
Alen Mešković and Faruk Šehić!

Inpress is excited to announce a series of events aiming celebrating translation and discussing the challenges faced by translators and publishers.




18:00-21:00 – 6TH JUNE 2019 – UCL FESTIVAL OF CULTURES

On 6th June, the Impossible Territory panel series will explore these themes from different perspectives, as part of the UCL Festival of Culture. Join us for an evening of multidisciplinary events celebrating the art of translation with special focus on the so-called ‘small’ languages of Europe, consisting of the following events:

Translating the War: Bosnian writing through English and other languages – bringing together two of the most prolific and best-known Bosnian authors, Faruk Šehić and Alen Mešković, who have written about their war and refugee experience, and experienced translators Christina Pribicevich-Zoric (from Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) and Paul Russell Garrett (from Danish). 

Translation Challenge: Hungarian Prose and Verse in English Version – an insight into what translation is, exploring the (im)possibility of translation taking as example translation from Hungarian.

Publishing TranslationIstros Books, Francis Boutle Publishers and MacLehose Press discuss how foreign books are chosen for translation, translated, edited and published, and the challenged faced by publishers of translations.

The full programme of Impossible Territory is available here.

The event is free.
UCL Festival of Cultures
18:00 – 21:00 – Masaryk Senior Common Room, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies SSEES
16 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW 





On 7th June, join us for Faruk Šehić’s Under Pressure and Alen Mešković’s Ukulele Jam’s book launch!

More information on the event and the registration link are available here.

The event is free but registration is required.
Yunus Emre Enstitüsü
18:30 – 10 Maple Street, London W1T 5HA


Under Pressure is a novel in fragments - brutal and heart-wrenching stories from the frontline by Bosnian writer Faruk Šehić. This book secured his reputation as one of the greatest writers to emerge from the region in the post-war period. A war veteran and a poet, Šehić combines beauty and horror to seduce and surprise the reader. The book was the winner of the Zoro Verlag Prize, 2004, and its publication has been funded by a super-successful Kickstarter campaign in October 2018.

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

Faruk Šehić was born in Bihać, in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Until the outbreak of war in 1992, he studied veterinary medicine in Zagreb. At that point, the then 22-year-old voluntarily joined the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which he led a unit of 130 men. After the war he studied literature and has gone on to create his own literary works. Critics have hailed Šehić as the leader of the ‘mangled generation’ of writers born in 1970s Yugoslavia, and his books have achieved cult status with readers across the whole region. His third book Under Pressure (Pod pritiskom, 2004) was awarded the Zoro Verlag Prize. His debut novel Quiet Flows the Una (Knjiga o Uni, 2011) received the Meša Selimović Prize for the best novel published in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia in 2011 and the EU Prize for Literature in 2013. His most recent books are the collection of poetry entitled My Rivers (Moje rijeke, Buybook, 2014) and Clockwork Stories (Priče sa satnim mehanizmom, Buybook 2018). His books are translated into many languages. Šehić lives in Sarajevo and works as a columnist and journalist.

Author Faruk Šehić


Ukulele Jam is the story of Miki, a Bosnian teenager, and his family, who are escaping the Balkan war. They live in a Croatian refugee camp, a former holiday resort on the Adriatic, but it’s difficult to adjust to their new circumstances. With the war rumbling in the background and his brother missing in a Serbian prison camp, Miki and his new friends pick up girls, listen to music and have campfire parties on the beach. Then war breaks out between Croats and Bosnians and friends threaten to become enemies. Miki wants to emigrate to Sweden, but his parents can’t face leaving behind their old life in Bosnia. Based on his own experiences, Alen Mešković has written a novel by turns humorous and tragic. It is lively, poetic, raw, affecting and very funny, all the while depicting a European tragedy whose consequences still resonate today.

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

Alen Mešković was born in Bosnia in 1977 and has lived in Denmark since 1994. His debut publication was the critically acclaimed poetry collection Første gang tilbage (First Time Back) in 2009. His first novel, Ukulele Jam (2011) was nominated for the literary award Weekendavisens Litteraturpris. It has been published in nine countries, including Germany, where it is also a long-running theatre production. In 2012, Alen Mešković was awarded a three-year working grant by the Danish Arts Foundation for the novel. Published in 2016, One-Man Tent, a stand-alone sequel of Ukulele Jam, is being translated into five languages.

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