Translate These Books!

Will Firth, a translator from Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Macedonian, has posted “10 Books by Women We’d Like to See Translated: Balkan Edition.” I love this sort of thing, and the books sound interesting; two that particularly struck my fancy:

CROATIA
Hodler en Mostar (Hodler in Mostar), Spomenka Štimec (Edistudio, 2006)

This historical novel is partly about the Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler but rather more about his model of many years’ standing, Jeanne Charles Cerani. After the two part ways, Jeanne marries a Bosnian soldier wounded in WWI, who later joins the Yugoslav diplomatic service. A collection of Hodler’s paintings follows Jeanne and her husband on their many postings and finally ends up in Mostar. A union of two quite different worlds.

MONTENEGRO
Gospođa Black (Mrs Black), Olja Knežević (Vijesti, 2015)

Written as a first-person report, the author’s second “London novel” is about a woman from Montenegro who marries a somewhat older Englishman and grafts herself into British society. Just when she feels she has comfortably adapted, ghosts of the past catch up with her. An interesting look at the problems of women in society amplified by the jarring contrast of a wealthy, stable country and a country from the underbelly of Europe.

Here‘s a post from last year on a similar topic, and I will renew “my decade-old lament at the absence of a translation of Abdelrahman Munif’s historical novel Ard Al-Sawad.”

Comments

  1. Hi,

    Many thanks for your feedback. I think it would be great to get these two books translated and published in English. Do any prospective publishers come to mind? That’s always the hard bit, I find, along with finding a source of funding for the translation (many publishers in the English-speaking world don’t have a budget for that.)

    Best wishes,

    Will

  2. Just a few comments on the first book on the list on the linked site:

    The novel Hotel Zagorje, by Ivana Simić Bodrožić – about her experience as a child-refugee – is also interesting from a linguistic standpoint: as they came from a completely different part of Croatia, they were almost unable to understand the local dialect spoken in Kumrovec, where they were temporary housed, in a hotel. So they mocked the locals, and locals mocked them.

    You can see it on the linked excerpt, they call the locals “Piggies”:

    “We couldn’t understand a word of what those Piggies were saying; to us it sounded like a mixture of Shiptar and Slovenian”

    Shiptar = a (mostly derogatory) name for an Albanian

    It’s interesting that Kumrovec, a small village on the border of Croatia and Slovenia is also the birthplace of the famous late Yugoslav president-for-life Josip Broz, better known under his nom de guerre: Tito 🙂

    It’s also interesting that during the war – as far as I can remember – many people thought that refugees from Vukovar were Serbs, since their dialect is very close to dialects in Northern Serbia. It’s also interesting that local Serbs in the Vukovar area speak another dialect, more similar to dialects in Bosnia.

    It’s also interesting that the writer later married a Serb from Croatia (and was promptly declared a “traitor” by some right-wing people).

    So, it would be worth translating…

  3. I think it would be great to get these two books translated and published in English. Do any prospective publishers come to mind?

    Yes, it would, and no, if I knew anything about prospective publishers I might be publishing translations myself! At any rate, thanks for doing the post; I very much enjoyed it.

    Daniel N.: A very informative comment, thanks!

    So, it would be worth translating…

    …but very hard to translate!

  4. gwenllian says:

    I don’t get Piggies. What’s the original expression?

    It’s also interesting that during the war – as far as I can remember – many people thought that refugees from Vukovar were Serbs, since their dialect is very close to dialects in Northern Serbia.

    I haven’t really heard of people being surprised by the dialect (people from Eastern Slavonia and Baranja have always been quite well known for their dialect), but I definitely know of examples of people mocking it and even disapproving of it. Not just back in the ’90s. Unsurprisingly, lots of people have some really dumb opinions about this topic, e.g. wondering, dead serious, how they can still speak like that after everything, would it really be that hard to make an effort to sound more Croatian, etc. So many Croatians have nothing but venom, or at least a serious lack of understanding, to offer dialects not their own at the best of times. Add nationalism, and the opinions hit rock bottom.

    It’s also interesting that local Serbs in the Vukovar area speak another dialect, more similar to dialects in Bosnia.

    I think in Croatia there are few cases of Croat and Serb populations living in the same area speaking the same dialect. Not sure how it is in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    It’s interesting that Kumrovec, a small village on the border of Croatia and Slovenia is also the birthplace of the famous late Yugoslav president-for-life Josip Broz, better known under his nom de guerre: Tito

    This reminds me… A popular theory has it that the Tito we knew was a foreign operative, the real Kumrovec locksmith having died all those years back in Russia. The evidence? He didn’t quite sound like a native Serbo-Croatian speaker!

  5. David Marjanović says:

    A popular theory has it that the Tito we knew was a foreign operative, the real Kumrovec locksmith having died all those years back in Russia. The evidence? He didn’t quite sound like a native Serbo-Croatian speaker!

    Didn’t he palatalize too much?

    (And didn’t Stalin have the entire Yugoslav Communist Party liquidated?)

  6. Bernardo Verda says:

    Does it need clarification, that while Spomenka Štimec is Croatian,
    Hodler en Mostar, is actually written in Esperanto?

    (Apparently, she also knows German and French, but prefers to write in Esperanto.
    Ombro sur interna pejzaĝo (Shadow Upon an Internal Landscape), also in Esperanto, is sometimes mentioned as her best known and most important work.)

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