In an interview with Ooligan Press, Ms. Buŝić discussed her experiences translating The Survival League and Zagreb, Exit South and her role in bringing the books to the United States.
Q: How did you first discover the writing of Edo Popović and Gordan Nuhanović and how did you become the translator?
A: At the time, I was working on a prison literature project, the translations into Croatian of two American writers who had either published while incarcerated or after their release. Edo Popović and Gordan Nuhanović were both working as journalists covering the project, and that’s how I met both of them. I knew they were award-winning writers, but I didn’t read their work until after we actually started collaborating on the prison project.
Q: Along with being the translator, you were the impetus for bringing the books to Ooligan Press. Can you tell us how that came about and why these books were chosen?
A: I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, and while I was home for Christmas one year, I read about Ooligan Press in the daily newspaper, The Oregonian. I contacted the director, Dennis Stovall, and proposed a joint project between Croatia and Ooligan. And that’s how it all began. Dennis was a wonderful collaborator and the entire Ooligan team was incredible, enthusiastic, and full of great ideas. As for choosing the books, it was sheer chance. To Nuhanović and Popović, I also added another writer, a poet and literary theorist, Dubravka Oraić Tolić, whose work I had read and highly respected.
Q: What were your biggest challenges while translating The Survival League and Zagreb, Exit South? Was there anything about the writing of Popović and Nuhanović that you found particularly difficult to translate into English?
A: Popović’s writing style was not that difficult for me to translate, since it was basically the language I spoke transplanted to Croatia—the urban vocabulary of the 60s, actually— although the action of Edo’s book takes place in the 90s. But I had to be sure I captured the spirit of the text, the specific irony and rootlessness of the post-war generation he writes about. With Gordan, I had a little more trouble because his style is so quirky. He gives a little information, creates an image, and then you have to try to figure out exactly what has happened and why, which gives his writing a texture I find very compelling. Not that it’s inaccessible; it’s not, it’s just incredibly layered.
Q: When translating the books, did you lean toward making the text as close to standard American English as possible or did you try to leave echoes of the Croatian language?
A: I don’t think it’s possible to leave echoes of the Croatian language; after all, the translation is in the English language. What a translator does try to do, though, is duplicate in English the rhythm, sounds, and structure of the Croatian text. It’s never totally on the mark, but some translations come very close to the original text, and some can even be better, though that’s hard for some people to accept. Nabokov, for example, was renowned for his translations as well as for his own writing. Translators have to be artists too, and some, like Nabokov, are considered by others to be greater artists than the authors they’ve translated.
Q: Why should Americans read more translated literature?
A: Because otherwise, they will be insulated from the wonders of a world unknown to them. Though I would suggest that a reader shop around until he finds a translation that really speaks to him, assuming it’s a book that has been widely translated already. Many authors have been neglected because of horrible translations.