How did you learn Serbian?
I am from New York My mother was Irish and my father was from the former Yugoslavia, so I had a smattering of the language when I came to Belgrade on a post-graduate scholarship. I came for a year and stayed for over twenty.
What are the joys and frustrations of this Slavic language, and can you give us one of your favourite expressions?
I am not a Slavist and my knowledge of romance languages was of little help when it came to Slavic grammar and declensions. I basically picked up the language as I went along, One of my favourite expressions is; “ponudjen k’o počašćen “– there is no English equivalent that I know of but it means that the very gesture of receiving an offer of something is as good as receiving the thing itself.
Is this your first literary translation, and if not, what do you think your past experience has brought to the text?
I have translated over fifteen novels as well as selections of short stories from Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian and French. One of the joys of translation is that it is a constant learning experience. It often entails researching the historical and/or political context of the story. And it teaches you about language, not least your own – what you can do with it and how far you can stretch it.
How would you describe this work to readers just about to experience it in the English language? Are there themes that particularly interest you, or things you would like to highlight?
The House of Remembering and Forgetting is a semi-autobiographical novel, situated in Serbia, it shifts between World War II and the present day. Like all good literature, its theme – evil, here in the form of the Holocaust – is universal; how does one cope with it, fight it, survive it.
How much contact with the author did you have during the process of translation and how would you describe the author/translator relationship?
It is always a great boon for a translator, and the translation itself, if the author can be consulted, especially when it comes to context or unfamiliar references. In this instance, Filip David was always accessible if I needed him.
Can you tell us something about your experience with Serbian literature in general and are there any common features?
I would say that the notion of fate as opposed to free will is a running thread in the world of Slavic literature in general…
How did you feel knowing that this book would be published as part of a series? (Have you read the other two books?)
The House of Remembering and Forgetting is a moving story that raises important questions about choice and fate, issues that are as relevant today as ever. I am therefore delighted that it has been included in the world series because it merits a broader international reading audience.
I have only managed to read Dana Todorovic’s quirky The Tragic Fate of Moritz Toth and enjoyed it immensely.
Christina Pribićević-Zorić was interviewed
by Susan Curtis-Kojaković
Written by Filip David
Translated by Christina Pribićević-Zorić
With a foreword by Dejan Djokić
Published by Istros Books/Peter Owen
as part of their World Series Serbia
Christina Pribićević-Zorić translated over 35 works of fiction and non-fiction from Serbian/Croatian and French into English, including The Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić, African Rhapsody, Short Stories of the Contemporary (Francophone) African Experience, Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipović, Tales of Old Sarajevo by Isak Samokovlija, Frida’s Bed by Slavenka Drakulić and The Stranger Next Door, an Anthology from the Other Europe. She was awarded the Serbian P.E.N. Award for Translation, the Djuro Daničić Award for Translation and the Outstanding Achievement Award, Radio Yugoslavia.