Uzbek author Hamid Ismailov, his English translator Shelley Fairweather-Vega and I talked about their two recent releases (Of Strangers & Bees and Gaia, Queen of Ants), which led us to consider the oldest story in literature, the Uzbek and Russian languages, the influence of politics on translation, the complexity of Hamid’s writing, and his absolute trust in Shelley.
"So many people only see Central Asian culture, and history, and literature through the lens of Russian culture and Soviet culture,” Shelley said. “Isn't there something more under there, that we might be missing, that's native to those regions and those people? We don't have to look at it through Russian eyes. If we can look at it more directly, through their own languages and cultures, won't we learn a lot more?"
We concluded that ultimately there is never only one version of a book, whether in the original or translation, because readers also make of a work what they will.
Hamid reflected: "Every reader recreates the book in his own sort of version, in a way. [...] It is so gratifying to meet readers and get their stereoscopic view of your book."
These two spectacular books help us see through the eyes of another, offer a glimpse into a part of the world and a form of storytelling that may be wholly unfamiliar to many of us. I encourage you read them, ponder and share your own interpretation!
Shelley Fairweather-Vega is a professional Russian to English translator and an enthusiastic Uzbek to English translator in Seattle, Washington. She loves solving puzzles (including those not related to translation) and is especially interested in examining the puzzling intersections between culture and politics. Shelley runs FairVega Translations and its sister company, FairVega Russian Library Services, which helps public libraries build and improve their Russian-language collections. She’s currently the president of the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society and a co-founder of the Northwest Literary Translators. Visit her online at http://www.fairvega.com/.
Hamid Ismailov was born into a deeply religious Uzbek family of Mullahs and Khodjas living in Kyrgyzstan, many of whom had lost their lives during the Stalin era persecution. Yet he had received an exemplary Soviet education, graduating with distinction from both his secondary school and military college, as well as attaining university degrees in a number of disciplines. Though he could have become a high-flying Soviet or post-Soviet apparatchik, instead his fate led him to become a dissident writer and poet residing in the West. He was the BBC World Service first Writer in Residence. Critics have compared his books to the best of Russian classics, Sufi parables and works of Western post-modernism. While his writing reflects all of these and many other strands, it is his unique intercultural experience that excites and draws the reader into his world.
You can purchase the books from Intralingo's Bookshop.org affiliate store, your local bookstore, direct from the publisher or ask your librarian.
Of Strangers and Bees - https://www.tiltedaxispress.com/books#/of-strangers-and-bees/
Gaia, Queen of Ants - https://bookshop.org/books/gaia-queen-of-ants/9780815611158?aid=4438
Enjoy and thanks for listening!
Founder & Creative Director, Intralingo Inc.
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