Examples of Work
Here is a short extract from a recent translation project: ‘Arra’ by Maria Turtschaninoff. This is a young adults’ fantasy novel with strong themes of feminism, magic and nature, written in a beautifully poetic Swedish. Read more about Maria Turtschaninoff’s novels here.
It was later in summer when wild strawberries were growing in the long grass in a glade near the stream. While she stuffed herself with the sweet red berries the song spread through her body. The earth song was slow and complicated and there was a lot she didn’t understand. It was about worms and roots and spades, about seeds and rotting leaves. Many years later she came to understand other parts, about the pain of mountains springing up, about eroding water, about stone and lava and pressing ice. The earth song was so long that it took several days to sing, but Arra learned it eventually. She’d sit on a stump and stamp her feet in time with the rhythm and feel her stamps spread through the soil and become a part of the song. This feeling made her very happy.
As time went by, Arra came to understand more and more songs. The trees had their own, and so did the wind, and the rain. Every day she discovered a new verse or poem. Time never dragged and she never felt lonely, there was always some melody she could hum along to inside her head. There was so much to learn and discover. In winter the snow’s song sounded completely different from the rain’s, but the music was still on the same theme. She learned how the streamwater and the rainwater were kin, where winds were born and how mountains formed. She was sure that everyone heard these things. No one told her she was unique. No one told her anything at all.
Here is a short extract from my translation of 'The Unknown Price of Freedom' by award-winning journalist Anna-Lena Lauren. The book is at once a political analysis and a personal account of travels through Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. Read more about Anna-Lena Lauren's books here.
Zjamal Esenkanova sets down a bundle of firewood on the porch; kindling to set fire to the coal. It is evening and time to light the fire in the house. She keeps the house cold during the day, even though it is autumn and icy winds from Tian Shan Mountain chill to the bone. It is about saving fuel. There is no central heating here in the village.
Coal is expensive. Electricity is expensive. Life is a struggle for survival.
Several hundred meters from Zjamal’s fenced, whitewashed house spans an azure blue lake – one of the world’s biggest mountain lakes, Issyk Kul. Pointed mountain crests covered in snow glimmer on the other side of the field.
Between the mountain and the lake, Zjamal lives with her grandchildren Arlen and Azim, in vast expanses of moorland where horses, cows and sheep roam free. The sky is high and majestic, the air is harsh and crisp. You can see clearly for miles. The landscape does not feel overly hospitable but neither is it off-putting; it is beautiful in its gruff unpretentious way. People from Issyk Kul are well-known in Kyrgyzstan for being independent and strong, especially the women. They have grown up in an environment which produces the tastiest apricots, apples and pears in Kyrgyzstan, but a good harvest requires a lot of work. Everyone here is used to hard physical labour.
In these parts there could be fantastic opportunities to develop a thriving small scale tourist industry, if it was not for the fact that Kyrgyzstan is one of the most destitute amongst the former Soviet countries, with the second lowest GDP per capita after Tajikistan.
“Sure we have democracy. But it doesn’t make life easier. In Kyrgyzstan people think that democracy means the right to storm parliament whenever they’re unhappy with the government, but that’s not what people’s choice means,” says Zjamal Esenkanova.
She gives an interview in passing; she doesn’t really have time. It is evening, she has to light the fire and prepare dinner for Arlen and Azim. Their mother, who is a single parent, works in a nearby mental hospital. Without their grandmother the children would have nowhere to go.
Being over sixty years old and having grown up in the Soviet Union, Zjamal Esenkanova has a very matter-of-fact outlook on democracy and her country. For nearly twenty years she has been a local councillor in the little village of Tosor on the south bank of Issyk Kul. Now she is thinking of giving it up.
“It’s time for someone else to take over. I’ve already been there too long. Besides, I’m not especially popular with the decision makers because I always say what I think.”
Zjamal speaks a modulated and concise Russian without the slightest hint of an accent. Her appearance – a stocky figure in a gaudy multi-coloured headscarf, woollen cardigan, woollen skirt, black leather jacket and warm, practical winter boots – makes me think of a mixture of my own late grandmother and a Harley Davidson motorcyclist.
Here is a short extract from ‘The Game of Master and Huntress’ by Alex Lesley. It is an erotic autobiography detailing the scandalous affairs of one of Russia’s most renowned experts in the art of seduction.
I had a long-term lover whom I loved very much and saw on a regular basis. I was madly in love with her. Every time we met was a new delight. She surrendered herself so artfully in our love-making and reached such blissful highs that she became the only woman on earth that I desired.
One night, I asked her out to a restaurant called The Island. She looked dazzling in a beautiful pale blue dress with pieces of fur sewn in. We liked dressing up and going out to up-market places. We always went to my house afterwards and made love for hours. Sometimes she would spend the night or stay for the entire weekend. I considered her my girlfriend and she called me her beloved.
The dining area in the restaurant was surrounded by water so that each table looked like an island of its own. I wanted every moment we spent together to be unforgettable. But that day she gave me a shock that changed my life forever.
We were sitting and talking with our arms around one another and everything was as usual, until he appeared. The man who changed my life. As he walked passed our table he saw my darling and said:
“You didn’t ask for my permission to do this today! Get on your knees!”
I didn’t understand and wondered whether to intervene.
“You don’t need to do this, don’t punish me like this, not with him!” she replied, and then I knew I must intervene. I stood up.
“What’s going on here?” I said.
He turned his back to me slightly and told her:
“Get on your knees and stay there for five minutes or consider yourself dumped!”
And with that he left. I turned around to look at my beloved. She was on her knees, weeping.