Canadian Macedonian Historical Society
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Professor Christina Kramer, author, translator, linguist

SUNDAY, March 3rd, 2013


In Translating the Balkans, which was both a lecture and book launch on March 3, Professor Christina Kramer spoke about the processes and challenges of moving literary works into English. This was an opportunity to hear how a translator recasts a work of art into a new language: how the words, sounds, sentence structures, and images realign as the work of one author is re-imagined through the words of another.
Professor Kramer’s credits include Chair of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Toronto, coauthor of the 3rd edition of the textbook Macedonian: A Course for Beginning and Intermediate Students, co-translator of the novel Bai Ganyo: Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian, and translator of two of Starova's literary memoir novels My Father's Books and The Time of the Goats as well as Smilevski’s novel, Freud's Sister.
She translated Starova from the Macedonian originals, and only later and when need arose, did she compare them with the Albanian text. She described the process she went through initially. She first read the books, then just blasted out the words. Upon her second reading, she started to give more thought about the intention of the author, the nuances, the feel, and tone of the book and the intention of the author. What followed was months of polishing, always checking for the best compromise between fluency of the English text and loyalty to the original.
She gave examples which helped to explain the process, describing the agony and the ecstasy of choosing the right words and phrases that convey the meaning, tone and feeling the author intended in his/her language, and to turn it into a new English literary work it was intended. The challenges were great, but Kramer has received praise for her work:
“I do not read Macedonian, but the highest compliment I can pay the translator is that the novel feels as though it had been written in English. Apparently Smilevski who does speak English, concurs…” (Nicholas Mayer, author and screenwriter)
Professor Kramer acknowledged Martin Sokolovski in the audience, as someone whom she consulted in the Macedonian translation, along with her home-grown editors, her brother David Kramer and son Paul Franz, both professional editors. She also described being surrounded by dictionaries and various reference books she had to consult while she was translating.
Kramer read from Starova’s novel-memoir The Time of the Goats in Albanian, Macedonian and English. We were also able to contact Luan Starova on SKYPE, where he expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Historical Society for choosing to feature his books at the book launch. Both Christina Kramer and Ruki Kondaj of the Albanian Canadian Community Association (one of the two supporters of the translation – the other was Canadian Macedonian Place) who was present, spoke to Luan. We also had questions from the audience. One especially that was especially personal was the one posed by Liljana Curopova, CMHS board member who spoke to Luan to remind him of their being schoolmates in Skopje. She had a photograph of the class which included Luan Starova and Yana Branova, a member of the Historical Society.
                                               (Ruki Kondaj, Christina Kramer and Virginia Evans)
Professor Kramer also spoke about the novel, Freud’s Sister by Goce Smilevski, an intense novel based on a true story. The author spent seven years researching Freud, the times, his life and contemporaries. We were able to screen a short clip of an interview with Smilevski by a British interviewer. This gave the audience an opportunity to
hear and see him as well. Apparently, Freud’s Sister is being translated into 30 languages, and is also being considered for a film.
Goce Smilevski was born in Skopje, Macedonia in 1975 and educated at the Sts Kiril and Metodij University in Skopje, Charles University in Prague and at the Central European University in Budapest. He is the author of the novels The Planet of Inexperience, Conversation with Spinoza and Freud’s Sister. This last novel won the European Union prize for literature. He won Macedonian Novel of the Year Award in 2003 for Conversation with Spinoza. In 2006, he was also awarded the Central European Initiative Fellowship for young European authors. He has been hailed as the “newest or a rare thing—a living European novelist with a message for the future of his continent”.
Luan Starova is a novelist, poet, scholar, diplomat, and literary translator. Born in Albania in 1941 and has lived most of his life in Macedonia. He writes in both Albanian and Macedonian, has served as Macedonia’s Ambassador to France, Spain, Portugal and UNESCO and was formerly professor of French at Sts. Cyril & Methodius University in Skopje. There is very little Albanian and Macedonian literature that treats Balkan history from the unique multiethnic perspective. Starova has won numerous literary awards, including The Time of the Goats when first published in 1993, won Best Prose book (Macedonia) and the Jean Monet award in the selection for the Best European Novel (France).
Virginia Andreoff
All three books were available for sale at the event, and will be available on the Canadian Macedonian Historical Society’s website.              
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