Danijela Trajkovic is a Serbian writer, literary critic and translator. Her literary works are published widely in Serbia and abroad. Her book of poetry in translation ’22Wagons’ was published this year by Istok Academia, Knjaževac, Serbia. She holds MA in English language and literature from the University of Priština, Kosovska Mitrovica. In this interview with Debasish Parashar, she talks about translation, creativity, 22 wagons, Serbian poetry and much more. Please read below the whole interview.
- How did you get into translation?
DT : My brother, Nenad Trajković, is a poet. I never meant to deal with translation, but all started because of my brother, who asked me to translate some of his poems into English. I did so. Also translated some poems by Obren Ristić, a great poet, and both of them were published in Poem (Taylor & Francis, UK 2015). Now I am so grateful to my brother for that, to Obren Ristić and to wonderful Fiona Sampson, who found my translations good and gave me the opportunity to appear in such an amazing journal like Poem.
- How do you decide which poems or poets to translate? Do you have favorite poets that you like to translate?
DT : We live in an era of post-truth, where lies often prevail over truth. And in the field of poetry, there are many who write, whose poetry will not survive the test of time. I believe in true art and true verses, and not in mannerism and falsehood. I choose poets based on their real merit and that incredible enthusiasm they have as they create. Consequently, my great wish, and this is my next future project that I am working on, is to put together a real anthology of contemporary Serbian poetry, which I will translate into English, so some of my favourite poets will be represented here. As for the poets from around the world, I have already done one small anthology ’22 Wagons’ on the basis of which the poets I appreciate can be recognized.
- Is it easier to translate poet friends than to translate poet strangers ? What kind of bonds develop between the translator and the translated work?
DT : When you translate your poet friends, maybe you do not have to go so deep into the poems, cause your friends can tell you the meaning of their metaphors, and when you translate poet strangers you are left with your skills and you actually show how much you really are meant for that job. The bond is strong between the translator and the translated work, only if it a case of appreciating what one does and that is my case.
- To what extent is creativity important in translation ?
DT : Translation is complex, especially when we have poets who write hermetic poetry. Therefore a translator must have a great ability to analyze and interpret a poem, and creativity is reflected in the fact that the translation of poetry is always an adaptation which must correspond to the authenticity of the poem and so, because of the complexity, the translator becomes a poet engaged in the creative process. Creativity is required everywhere. A serious translator has to know his mother tongue excellent, the foreign languages he translates into and from, has to be imaginative, has to have the sense of beauty, and has to be an adventurer, willing and always ready for exploring new things and sharing with the people who appreciate that.
- Do you try to stay true to the poem, in terms of denotations, connotations, tone, imagery, lines, rhythms? What are the challenges a translator faces?
DT : Yes. For me, the most important aspect is to keep the soul, the essence of the original. There were/are some translators who tried/try to make better poems in translation than the original ones. They change the original works a lot in the name of beautification, which is totally unacceptable in my opinion. There are not some great challenges a translator faces now a days. Most of the poets today do not use rhyme, which used to be a great challenge for the past generation of translators.
- Why is translation important, and how can we help to promote it?
DT : Translation is important for connecting people, bringing them together. But as there are many self-proclaimed poets today, there are also fake translators who translate from a translation, not from the original. In order to promote translation, the translator should be stimulated, or rewarded for his work. Unfortunately, we live in material times when everything is expressed through money. We are witnessing that if we are paid, we will honor and appreciate it, but if we get something for free, we have a tendency of taking it lightly.
- What is lost in translation? What is gained?
DT : If translation keeps its soul, nothing is lost, in fact gained, because it gives an opportunity to the speakers of another language to get acquainted with the original dressed in familiar clothes. There is nothing better than reading an original text, but since that is not always possible, a good translation offers a suitable replacement that can accommodate the essence of the original.
- What is your view of the Serbian poetry and its place in the world?
DT : Holding MA in English Literature, I’ve started the mission of translating as many as I can, excellent, contemporary Anglophone poets into Serbian (never mind if they are already famous or not, since I am able enough to recognize the true values a poem has or doesn’t have) and vice versa. I translate poems by contemporary Serbian poets into English. The idea of translating Serbian poets came from the fact that although Serbian literature has existed for eight centuries, many of the great Serbian poets and writers remain unknown to the Anglophone world. Rarely that Serbian poets appear somewhere in the world. Serbian poetry has its place in the top of world’s poetry and certainly deserves to be paid attention more by the world. We also need to boost cultural exchange and explore cross-cultural linkages. Perhaps it sounds strange, since India and Serbia are almost 6000 km far away each other, but when it comes to the art of poetry of these two countries, we can find similarities. In the poems of Indian and Serbian poets there are often philosophical thoughts, rather than simple features of life. There is a profound quest through which many important answers a human being can find out.
- Please tell us about your recent translation project ‘22 Wagons’.
DT : “22 Wagons“ was born out of the idea to make an anthology of Anglophone contemporary poetry which has been felt like an innovative and necessary step for the Serbian speaking people. This book is intended for English language and literature students studying in Serbia, cause those students are stuck with Romantic poets and given no chance for studying about contemporary poets, so I wanted to contribute in this way with my book. Also, the book is intended for all the lovers and connoisseurs of true poetry. So far the reviews on the book have been excellent. This time I use the opportunity to say thanks to some great Serbian poets and writers who supported me in this project like Ranko Pavlović and Obren Ristić. I am very happy when some friends and other people call me up after reading the book to tell me who are their favourite poets from the book. There are always poets whose poetry comes with a sense of freshness, which shows I could satisfy the taste of many people, but there are also some poets who cater to many people’s tastes with a sense of familiarity, which again shows the magnitude of the poetry which has been selected for ’22 Wagons’.
- Please share a few words with our readers on Advaitam Speaks Literary journal.
DT : Advaitam Speaks Literary is an International Journal of Poetry, Poetics and Visual Arts which offers people a really good selection of contemporary poetry from around the world. Advaitam Speaks Literary is a remarkable and high quality journal. I am pleased that we celebrate 2018 as a year of Serbo-Indian friendship at the level of culture and art in cooperation with this journal. The media in Serbia and the Republic of Srpska have widely covered this celebration of friendship. I hope that the Indian media will recognize the value of all this and do the same, cause I know that it is a wonderful thing for both the countries. As the translator, I have the honor to present twelve Serbian modern poets in the issues of Advaitam this year. India and Serbia have been two friendly countries and India’s incredible beauty, culture and poetry has always fascinated Serbia. I have already sent my book ’22 Wagons’ to the Embassy of India in Belgrade, with the special dedication to Mrs. Narinder Chauhan, the honourable Indian Ambassador, so that they can have ’22 Wagons’ in their library which features Debasish Parashar, a young but great Indian poet that India should be proud of as its deserving and worthy son.