#5

croatia

Today, the translator Will Firth gives his subjective take on literature and translation in Croatia… 

The contemporary literary scene in Croatia

Croatia has a population of slightly over 4 million people. Most spoken and written communication is carried out in the Croatian or western variant of Serbo-Croat (also the main language of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro). There are minority languages such as Italian, Hungarian and Romani (Gypsy). Croatian has a variety of dialects, and a small amount of literature is written in these.

As in many other countries, the culture of reading is changing. Print-runs of novels are often in the low hundreds, even when written by highly regarded authors. Domestic best-sellers occasionally break through this barrier, but generally the market is small. The collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s led to a fragmentation of the book market, and the consequences are still being felt today. Since ready-to-print computer files can easily be sent over the Internet, it is not uncommon for books to be published in parallel by publishers in several post-Yugoslav countries, since postage costs and tariffs would otherwise render many book projects unviable. An increasing amount of literature is available online through various web magazines and blogs.

Government funding of literary projects is an important factor for the survival of publishers and magazines, and for the livelihood of writers. Very few writers in Croatia (or the wider region) can make a living from writing fiction or poetry. Almost all of them work at least part-time as journalists, teachers, librarians, etc.

A small number of Croatian writers have gained international recognition in recent decades, including Slavenka Drakulić and Dubravka Ugrešić (as of the 1990s), and the younger Robert Perišić and Olja Savičević.

As could be expected given the upheaval in this part of the world throughout much of the 20th and 21st century, social issues and questions of identity figure strongly with many Croatian writers. Older and more conservative/right-wing writers are sometimes preoccupied with national identity, whereas younger authors tend to have a more diversified approach, looking at subcultural themes, gender/sexuality, social problems, economic migration, etc. There is a lot of sensitive, experimental and generally eye-opening literature to be discovered.

A lot more literature is translated into Croatian than is translated out of it.

Must-read classics from Croatia available in English

Sarajevo Marlboro (1997) by Miljenko Jergović (translated by Stela Tomašević, Penguin UK), a collection of powerful short stories dealing mostly with the war in Bosnia (1992-95), with many elements of the absurd, and anchored in the humour and richness of life in a multicultural society. 

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed (1992), a thoughtful and elegantly written set of essays by the journalist Slavenka Drakulić (English by the author herself). It offers a feminist look at politics, relationships, self-realisation and self-censorship, with a special Eastern European edge.

The Bridge on the Drina (original published in 1945) by Ivo Andrić, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. The Bridge on the Drina is an epic tale of Bosnian history, centring on the construction by the Ottomans of a majestic bridge over the Drina river. (Ivo Andrić was born to Croatian parents in Bosnia. He grew up there, identified as a Yugoslav for most of his life, and referred to his language as Serbo-Croat. Attempts have been made by pro-Serbian and pro-Croatian lobbies, especially since the collapse of Yugoslavia, to proclaim Andrić a Serb or a Croat respectively, but the reality is more complex.)

Best new books from Croatia available in English

Farewell, Cowboy by Olja Savičević (2015, translated by Celia Hawkesworth) is billed by the publisher (Istros Books) as “a tough yet poetic novel by one of Croatia’s best known writers. The story is rich in local colour and sentiment, following the main character, Dada, who returns to her home town on the Adriatic coast in order to unravel the mystery of her brother Daniel’s death.”

Our Man in Iraq by Robert Perišić (2012 Istros Books; 2013 Black Balloon Publishing, translated by Will Firth) is a witty take on the absurdities of the modern media seen through the eyes of the main (anti)hero who tries to reconcile his youthful rebelliousness with the pressures of adult life in Zagreb. Our Man in Iraq was the best-selling Croatian novel of 2008 and also received the respected literary award of the daily newspaper Jutarnji list.

Trieste by Daša Drndić (2013 MacLehose, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać) is a sensitive, powerfully written documentary novel: an old woman sifts through photographs and newspaper clippings, reflecting on the experiences of her Catholicized Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of northern Italy.

Publishing houses that publish contemporary fiction

Fraktura is the leading publisher for fiction and a wide range of non-fiction. Its titles regularly top the best-seller lists and are shortlisted for Croatian literary prizes. Fraktura won the Bookseller International Adult Trade Publisher Award at the London Book Fair in 2015.

Sandorf is a relatively young and very dynamic publishing house with an eye for exciting young writers from Croatia and throughout the Serbo-Croat-speaking region.

Ljevak is a fairly large and established publishing house that does not shy away from experimental and left-leaning writers despite the reactionary zeitgeist prevailing in Croatia.

Literary magazines for contemporary fiction

There are not many literary magazines in Croatia. The most noteworthy, Zarez (The Comma), is currently only being published digitally since its finances were axed by the right-wing government in early 2016. There is also Književna republika (The Literary Republic), a magazine put out by the Croatian Writers Society (HDP), and its sibling publication Relations, which consists of translations into English or German.

There are two noteworthy Web-based magazines: Critical Mass / Kritična masa, (with a section in English), and Booksa, (also with a section in English).

And finally, new books or authors from Croatia that absolutely have to be translated into English

Dark Mother Earth (Črna mati zemla, 2013) by Kristian Novak, a novel – partly written in dialect – about a young writer suffering from amnesia and a writer’s block who returns to his native village near the Hungarian border. He has no trouble finding words there, and by immersing himself in his traumatising past, with much humour and tragedy, he manages to recreate his adult self.

Hacked Kiti (Hakirana Kiti, 2013) by Andrea Pisac, the story of a young Eastern European woman working on her anthropology PhD thesis in London and fighting with insomnia and relationship troubles. Her professional “outsider” approach allows her to dissect her own and others’ identities. But her computer has been hacked and she herself becomes an object of scrutiny and fascination for a clique of gonzo IT specialists with their own agendas. The multiple layers of the story provide an enjoyable and surprising read.

Journey to Russia (Izlet u Rusiju, 1926) by the Croatian classical modernist Miroslav Krleža. I include this work here because 2017 will be the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. In this literary travelogue we relive the 1924 visit to the Soviet Union of an enthusiastic young communist who does not hesitate, however, to describe the harsh sides of the “workers’ state” in poignant and lyrical language. In one striking chapter, Krleža philosophises about the sense of smell and its significance, and goes on to describe his first olfactory impressions of Moscow.

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Will Firth was born in 1965 in Newcastle, Australia. He studied German and Slavic languages in Canberra, Zagreb, and Moscow. Since 1991 he has lived in Berlin, Germany, where he works as a translator of literature and the humanities (from Russian, Macedonian, and all variants of Serbo-Croat). His best-received translations of recent years have been Robert Perišić’s Our Man in Iraq, Andrej Nikolaidis’s Till Kingdom Come, and Faruk Šehić’s Quiet Flows the Una.

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#4

estonia

On to Estonia, thanks to translator Adam Cullen. 

The contemporary literary scene in Estonia

To understand the Estonian literary scene, you have to take into account the country’s tiny but tenacious population – 1.3 million, just over 900,000 of which speak Estonian (a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish) natively. The second largest linguistic community in Estonia is Russian, partly as a result of the Soviet occupation, although original literature is also published in the Võro dialect and the Seto language. Though literature faces the same challenges here as it does elsewhere in the world, Estonians generally have a ravenous appetite for culture, and authors provide quite the feast.

Prose (both of the longer and shorter persuasions), poetry, theater, and all kinds of odd in-between phenomena are published and consumed in high volume. Alas, being a small and sometimes unjustly overlooked nation means adequate funding can be difficult to acquire, and writers rarely have the opportunity to focus exclusively on their art. Luckily, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia provides modest support to translators of Estonian literature into foreign languages in the form of grants – publishers then only have to worry about buying rights from the author and processing/printing/marketing the translation itself. Estonian literature only makes up a minuscule fraction of foreign-language works translated into English, but it is a growing fraction that will definitely see a significant boost when the county co-hosts the 2018 London Book Fair.

Must-read classics from Estonia available in English

Firstly, Truth and Justice Vol. I by A. H. Tammsaare. The first in a pentalogy written by one of Estonia’s most revered classic writers, it is a timeless look at the social struggles faced by mankind. Although a satisfying translation is still lacking (something I swear I’ll get to one of these days), there are a couple of versions available (one done by a non-native speaker during the Soviet occupation, the other, more recent, in a curious format).

Secondly, The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic, translated by Christopher Mosley). I have to mention here that if I’d had the opportunity to translate the novel myself, then the English-language title would have simply been The Man Who Spoke Snake. In any case, the novel itself is a masterpiece written by one of Estonia’s sharpest and most humorous contemporary social critics. It addresses the shift from the rural to the urban, from tradition to modernity, and the plight of those caught in-between.

Thirdly, I’ll gladly plug one of my own translations that was published just this September – The Brother by Rein Raud (Open Letter Books). A spaghetti western (!), it is poetic and brief but also engrossing, mysterious, and of surprising depth.

Best new books from Estonia available in English

Again, given the fact that there are only about five translators of Estonian literature into English in the entire world and we have very human limits, the complete list itself is quite short. I believe that Meelis Friedenthal’s The Bees will be released in English (translated by Matthew Hyde) in the near future, and is worth a read when it is. I’d recommend The Brother again, as well as my translation of Mihkel Mutt’s The Cavemen Chronicle (Dalkey Archive Press). The latter is a fascinating (and extremely ironical) first-person perspective of Estonia’s community of artists and intellectuals throughout a period of radical shifts that spans the late Soviet occupation through the first years of re-independence.

Publishing houses that publish contemporary fiction

Varrak is by far the largest publisher and encompasses most big-name authors and titles in Estonia. Tuum and Verb are two other well-known names, although in terms of original prose, the list fragments into dozens of tiny publishers after that. These publishers are primarily called to life by and for a handful of authors, or a specific literary genre. I’d also mention Näo Kirik (mostly poetry, but also essays and nonfiction), Päike ja Pilv (children’s literature), and Härra Tee & Proua Kohv (poetry and children’s literature).

Literary magazines for contemporary fiction

Looming (Creation), which is a monthly publication of the Estonian Writers’ Union, is actually Europe’s oldest literary magazine, having been published uninterrupted since 1923! Loomingu Raamatukogu (Creation’s Library) publishes mostly translated literature, but also original short Estonian-language works and excerpts. A newcomer to the stage is Värske Rõhk (Fresh Stress), which is composed by a very young team and publishes (slightly rougher) prose, poetry, art, reviews, etc. penned by similarly young and generally unknown authors. I have to slightly violate the “up to three” rule here and mention the Estonian Literary Magazine, which is published biannually in English by the Estonian Institute. The magazine (which is available for free in e-format, and in print at book fairs and Estonian embassies) contains articles that illuminate the trends and developments in contemporary Estonian literature, samples of prose and poetry in English translation, and reviews of newly published works that might interest foreign publishers.

And finally, new books or authors from Estonia that absolutely have to be translated into English

In no intentional order, I’d highlight firstly Paavo Matsin’s The Gogol Disco, which won the 2016 EU Prize for Literature. It’s a wonderfully bizarre and fast-paced read. A softer and somewhat darker recommendation would be Jan Kaus’ I Am Alive (nominated for the 2015 Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s Prize for Literature). Thirdly, a title that is still on my ever-growing ‘To read’ pile is Meelis Friedenthal’s The Language of Angels. Friedenthal likewise won the EU Prize for Literature with his novel The Bees, and is a skilled tightrope walker who teeters on the line between real and unreal.

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Adam Cullen (1986) is a translator of Estonian prose, poetry, and plays into English. He has translated works by Tõnu Õnnepalu, Mihkel Mutt, Indrek Hargla, and Rein Raud, among others. Two of his translations – Õnnepalu’s Radio (Dalkey Archive Press, 2014) and Mutt’s The Cavemen Chronicle (Dalkey Archive Press, 2015) – were nominated for the Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s Annual Prize for Literary Translation. His translated poetry has appeared in Words Without Borders (October 2015) and in print on multiple occasions, including the collection Six Estonian Poets (Arc Publications, 2015). Cullen is a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union and on the board of its Translators’ Section. Originally from Minneapolis, MN, he currently resides in Tallinn.

#3

azerbaijan

The week begins with a look at literature in and from Azerbaijan, thanks to the lovely Shahla Naghiyeva.

The contemporary literary scene in Azerbaijan

Although some fiction is published, poetry holds a special place in the contemporary literary scene of Azerbaijan. Nowadays, along with the continuing development of a national literature based on traditional oral lyric forms, such as Ashiq and Mugham poetry, poems are also written in the spirit of modernism and postmodernism. There is now no remarkable gap between written and spoken languages in literature. Writers today seem to support bringing the norms of written and oral language closer together.

If they have personal funds to pay for publication, for most writers there are few problems having their works printed. However, writers here don’t receive any royalties from publishers and they do have problems selling their books. Readership for contemporary Azerbaijani writers is problematic. Readers are often unwilling to read traditional printed books; they mostly seek shorter format electronic media for information on fields in which they are interested.

As a result, contemporary writers have difficulty finding publishers willing to offer satisfactory compensation for publishing their works.

Despite challenges with changing technology and a somewhat unenthusiastic readership, literature is, at least officially, prized and recognized as an important part of national culture. It is noteworthy that the Azerbaijan Government pays special attention to the translation of samples of world literature into our language. The National Translation Centre was created to produce direct translations from world literature into Azerbaijani. In compliance with the order of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, from 12 January 2004 and from 27 December 2004 works of renowned Azerbaijani and world literature were published in large print and over 9 million books were distributed to libraries. Special measures were taken to meet the reading needs of a younger generation. A 150-volume ‘World literature library’ composed of works by writers of Azerbaijani and world literature was published. It was hoped these orders of the President would positively impact on the development and prosperity of the art of translation in our country. However, these books were not distributed for the retail market, which deprived bibliophiles of the possibility to enrich their personal libraries in the Latin alphabet (the official alphabet of the Azerbaijani language has changed four times in the past century, from Arabic, to Latin, to Cyrillic, and back to a new Latin alphabet in the 1990s — another challenge to readership).

Must-read classics from Azerbaijan available in English

The Modern Azerbaijani Anthology of Poetry, April 2015

The Book of Dede Gorgud, March-April 2010

Telescope by Elchin Efendiyev (a play), translated by Amita Joshi, May 2015

Best new books from Azerbaijan available in English

Little new literature is available in English or through retail outlets outside Azerbaijan. However (forgive the self-promotion), for the last eight years, my American colleague and I have been translating works by both well-regarded traditional and contemporary Azerbaijani women poets. Volumes published through grants from UNESCO and through the Azerbaijan University of Languages are available through myself and my colleague. We are hoping to publish a complete anthology of traditional and contemporary poetry by women through a recognized US publisher in a few years, making this wonderful poetry more accessible to readers of English.

The Incomplete Manuscript by Kamal Abdullayev, translated from Azerbaijani by Anne Thompson, 2013

BUTA: Contemporary Azerbaijani Women’s Literature in English. Edited by Shahla Naghiyeva and Alison Mandaville, Baku: 2016

Anthology of Poetry by Women in Azerbaijan. Edited by Shahla Naghiyeva and Alison Mandaville, Baku: 2015

Publishing houses that publish contemporary fiction

Qanun (Ganun)

Şərq-Qərb (Sharg-Garb)

Azərnəşr (Azarnashr)

Literary magazines for contemporary fiction

Ulduz  (Star)

Azərbaycan (Azerbaijan)

Xəzər (Khazar)

And finally, new books or authors from Azerbaijan that absolutely have to be translated into English

The Photo (Şəkil) by Sharif Aghayar

Ideal (İdeal) by Isa Huseynov (Mughanna)

The Mill (Dəyirman) Movlud Suleymanli

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Shahla Naghieva was a Fulbright scholar with East Carolina University in  2003-2004 and with George Mason University in 2010, where she did research on poetry translation from Azerbaijani into English and delivered talks on Azerbaijani literature and culture. Her poetry translations and articles on poetry translation have been published in a number of magazines. Her four pieces of poetry translation done collaboratively with the American poet Peter Mackuk were published in Tar River Poetry magazine of the East Carolina University, USA, and her collaborative translation of Azerbaijani poet Natavan’s work was published in Shadows and Echoes of Pacific Lutheran University. She is the director of ‘Sonmaz Mashal,’ Cultural Relations Public Union. As the project director she closely participates in the implementation of projects under the sponsorship of BP and UNESCO. The creation of a website of the bibliographical database of translation works from and into Azerbaijani (www.translit.az), expansion of the ‘Treasury of Azerbaijani language’ project sponsored by Council of State Support for NGOs, ‘Women, Literature, Society’ project sponsored by Open Society Institute-Assistance Foundation, and many others. 

She is Associate professor at the Azerbaijan University of Languages. She teaches American, British literature and Poetry Translation classes at the university.

#2

switzerland

We’re now heading to Switzerland with writer and translator, Michelle Bailat-Jones.

The contemporary literary scene in Switzerland

Switzerland has a small but vibrant literary scene. The country publishes in German, French, Italian and Romansch, and in that order in terms of quantity of works published. I’m not an expert on the challenges for publishers here, but I do know that as a small country, it has a limited market. It’s a wealthy country, however, and that moderates the issue somewhat because books are expensive (anywhere from 18 – 35 Swiss francs for a paperback) and Swiss people will still pay for those expensive books. Still, most Swiss authors will only make it big time if they end up being published by a neighboring country of the same language. French-speaking writers in France, for example.

Must-read classics from Switzerland available in English

Before giving this list, I just want to add that there is frustratingly little Swiss literature available in English, and it’s very skewed toward male authors. This makes it difficult to pick three ‘must-read’ titles. Classic Swiss authors like Robert Walser, Friedrich Durrenmett and Max Frisch are widely available – and wonderful writers – but there are few women. These are three of my favorites:

Agota Kristof’s trilogy: The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie

Gottfried Keller: A Village Romeo and Juliet

Charles Ferdinand Ramuz: Beauty on Earth

Best new books from Switzerland available in English

Arno Camenisch’s Alp trilogy (Dalkey Archive)

With the Animals by Noelle Revaz (Dalkey Archive)

All the Roads are Open by Annemarie Schwarzenbach (Seagull Books)

Publishing houses that publish contemporary fiction

I’m only mentioning Romand publishers, for French-speaking Switzerland:

Editions Zoé

Les Editions de l’Aire

Editions Plaisir de Lire

Literary magazines for contemporary fiction

Because of the three different languages, I’d rather send readers here http://www.viceversalitterature.ch/magazine to see a list of all journals from all three languages. Browse and enjoy!

And finally, new books or authors from Switzerland that absolutely have to be translated into English

Raluca Antonescu (1976 – ) was born in Bucarest and then moved to Switzerland when she was four years old. She spent some of her childhood in the Swiss German part of the country, and then moved to Vaud (French-speaking) before settling in Geneva. She is an up-and-coming writer in Switzerland and was the recent recipient of a highly-coveted Lavigny Fellowship. Her novel The Flood is about the residents of a small residential building who are awakened when a flood pours through the house from the top floor down, damaging the building and bringing everyone together in marvelous and unexpected ways.

Clarisse Francillon (1899 – 1976) was a successful modernist writer and one of Maurice Nadeau’s discoveries. She was born in Switzerland and died in Switzerland, but aside from the war years, she lived most of her life in Paris. In her lifetime she published twenty novels and four collections of short stories. Her work is extremely interesting and much concerned with women’s lives. Her later work was marked by an experimental style. The best and honest comparison I can make of her is to call her the Mavis Gallant of Switzerland.

Pascale Kramer (1961 – ) is a Swiss author who now lives in Paris. She is the author of twelve novels, and several of her books have received prestigious literary prizes. Her style is sharp and vivid, and her focus is the psychological domestic (in the best sense of that description). Her novel L’implacable brutalité du reveil received three different prizes and would be an excellent book for translation to English as an introduction to her work.

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Michelle Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator. Her novel Fog Island Mountains won the 2013 Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction. She has translated the work of C.F. Ramuz (Beauty on Earth, Onesuch Press, 2013 and What if the Sun…, Onesuch Press, 2016), Julia Allard Daudet, Claude Cahun, Laure Mi-Hyun Croset and others. Her short fiction, translations and criticism have appeared in various journals including The Kenyon Review, Cerise Press, Two Serious Ladies, Sundog Lit, Spolia, Hayden’s Ferry Review, PANK (online), The Rumpus and The Quarterly Conversation. She also works as the Translations Editor for Necessary Fiction.

#1

mongolia

To kick off this literary adventure, translator and academic Simon Wickhamsmith kindly talked to us about literature in and from Mongolia… 

The contemporary literary scene in Mongolia

Mongolia has a vibrant literary scene, with a fascinating and challenging array of poetry and fiction. Literature, in fact, is really the default cultural form, and during the Soviet era (1921-1990), literature, both translated and Mongolian original, appeared in newspapers and magazines. Moreover, schoolchildren learnt to recite poetry until very recently as a matter of course, and people would be able to quote from the latest poems by the most famous writers. But there is no publishing scene, and the small group of literary writers which operates does so without much money and with only a very small group of devoted followers.

International literature is translated occasionally into Mongolian: James Joyce’s Ulysses appeared a few years ago, for instance, but the fact is that the interest in Mongolian literature is increasingly less, and so international literature is barely mentioned. People know Russian writers, of course, as a hangover from the Soviet times, and there are books such as Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem which have been issued in Mongolian, presumably because it addresses the subject of Mongolia, but American and European literature is basically unrepresented. There was a trend during the Soviet period for translating politically expedient texts from the west, and so strangely diverse writers such as Lopez de Vega, Jules Verne, Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway and Guy de Maupassant became, and to some extent (especially with the older generation) remain, popular.

Must-read classics from Mongolia available in English

Anyone hoping to get a feeling for Mongolian literature should read Mongolian short stories. Stories from the Steppe (MACP, 2012; contact onlinmuzomuzo@gmail.comfor details) is an anthology of the genre from the period just after the revolution until today. I would say that G.Mend-Ooyo’s Altan Ovoo (also MACP, 2012) would be a great way to understand Mongolian culture. He described it to me as an ‘almanac’ of Mongolian culture. It’s halfway to the distant, nostalgic past of Mongolia, and halfway a meditation on his childhood as a herder in the southwest of the country. The German-language fiction of Galsan Tschinag (Ch.Galsan in its Mongolian form) has been translated into English by Katharina Rout, and his The Blue Sky (Milkweed Editions, 2007) is a wonderful evocation of life on the Mongolian steppe.

Best new books from Mongolia available in English

There is only one book of contemporary Mongolian literature available in English from a western publisher. It’s Ts.Oidov’s The End of the Dark Era (Phoneme Media, 2016). That’s a book of poetry by one of Mongolia’s very few modernist poets. Oidov is a remarkable poet, with a visionary, mystical way of looking at the world, but whose poetry is also sensual and intellectual.

There is so much wonderful literature needing to be translated, and then published… but of course the problem is that very few publishers – Phoneme Media is a noteworthy exception – are willing to take the risk of publishing material which (most likely) only a small number of people will buy. I am working on several translations right now, but I don’t know whether any of them will be published in the west, in a way easily available to the community of readers who might want to buy them.

Publishing houses that publish contemporary fiction

The publishing world in Mongolia is really a desktop publishing business. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, the Soviet support for publishing was withdrawn and Mongolian writers have since had to produce their own books. If you have the money you can print your book and place it in the bookstores. In the last few years, a couple of professional publishers have been set up, including Nepko, which is probably now the leading publisher. But Nepko doesn’t publish literature at all, and literary publishing remains the bailiwick of individual writers.

Literary magazines for contemporary fiction

I can think of one literary magazine currently in Mongolia, GUNU, which publishes poetry and occasional short fiction. It’s not available in the west, but (again) through MACP (onlinmuzomuzo@gmail.com). It’s the brainchild of G.Mend-Ooyo, who has really done more than anyone else to promote Mongolian literature in translation throughout the world.

And finally, new books or authors from Mongolia that absolutely have to be translated into English

S.Erdene (1929-2000) is without doubt Mongolia’s premiere writer of fiction. His work covers a broad range of topics and his characterization and narrative are exquisite. His work absolutely needs to be translated and published in the west. He wrote many novellas and novels, and some of his stories are rightly still famous.

L.Ölziitögs (1972) is a short-story writer of immense talent. Her work is extremely quirky and detailed, and unlike the majority of Mongolian literature, is set largely in the urban landscape of Ulaanbaatar. Together with her husband G.Ayurzana (1970), she was one of the leading young writers on the scene in the years following the democratic revolution of 1989/90, and her knowledge of the black-humor and nihilism of Russian literature at that time feeds into much of her earlier work.

I also think the new novel by G.Mend-Ooyo (1952), Shiliin Bogd (2014), about the extraordinary adventures of Mongolia’s tricksterish Robin Hood Toroi Bandi needs translating. It has a beautiful and humorous subplot about a couple of vultures, and its description of landscape and the beauty of imaginary worlds is very striking.

I’m probably missing other jewels right now, but these are the three which came to mind.

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Simon Wickhamsmith was born in the south of England in 1968 and has been translating and studying Mongolian literature and literary history since the late 1990s. He currently teaches in the Writing and Asian Studies programs at Rutgers University. If you’d like to ask him a question about Mongolian literature, you can reach him at: swickhamsmith @ gmail.com.