I’m very excited to report that my first translation of a story from Slovenian to English (with the help of my dear friend Matevz, of course!) was published in the Montreal Review today!
Co-translation, something which I’d never done before coming to Slovenia, truly seems to me to be the most accurate and artistic way to approach translation, if you have two people who are willing to sit together and not mind that they’re not being paid much, or anything at all. Truly, you do it for the love of a story.
Ideally, you have a native speaker of the target and of the source languages, so that they can reference each other. It would have been impossible for me to figure out the meanings of the words in a long, complicated story on my own, despite my best efforts. I have translated some stories from Slovenian to English solo, but it takes hours and hours to translate a single page, as I look up words I don’t know, tics of dialect, and then, of course, have to try to figure out the cultural references. It helps that I can send them along for someone to proof-read before I go too far with them (thanks, Mom!), but without the generous aid of my co-translators Matevz, Jaka, Aleksandra, and Nina, I would never have been able to complete my Fulbright project and translate the dozen stories I’d proposed. Thank you, all!
The best part about co-translating, to me, is being able to debate things. Sure, there is a phrase that you can render in English just fine from Slovenian (or any other language), but the native speaker can say: “Hey, that doesn’t sound quite right, even though it perfectly conveys the meaning you want it to…” Especially if that native speaker is a writer, the debates can go on and on. And if that native speaker is me, well, I can truly torture my co-translators with trying to find the exact right phrase which, I swore, was in my head somewhere, I swore it existed… but, oh, right, sometimes it was in my head… just in Spanish. Oops. Eventually, we worked things out, and my co-translators prevented me from straying from the original meaning too much when I proposed things that sounded better in the context of the story but twisted the meaning of the original phrases too much. In literary translation, it’s a constant balance between absolute accuracy and artistry.
In short, this story is the first of several that will be appearing in literary journals and magazines over the next few months. I know that at least one other story has been pre-accepted for publication in December, and I’m looking forward to hearing back soon on other submissions!