In the past twenty years, the Croatian literary scene has been dominated by the phenomenon dubbed “reality fiction,” a literature that reflected, in equal parts, the interests of the reading public and the desire of writers to expose to light the brutal realities of the transitional and post-transitional period—a time marked by widespread corruption, nepotism, and other threats to the newly acquired democratic values but also by a willingness to emancipate a host of diverse voices that the preceding era had either muffled significantly or altogether suppressed. Regardless of its variety of approaches and literary methods, reality fiction attempted an unabashed exorcism of the demons of the past, both personal and collective. And while in its early days, corresponding to the democratic upheaval of the 90s and the early 2000s, it had a fresh, new voice, today it represents the mainstream and the older generation, increasingly failing to address the concerns of a younger audience raised with different social and cultural references in a genuinely new technological environment.Continue Reading >>>
When it comes to Czech literature, American readers know Kafka and maybe Čapek. Underpass hopes to broaden that image with this special issue (and ongoing publication) of contemporary Czech literature in English translation.
This Czech language launch features excerpts from four modern Czech novels with vastly different subject matter and styles. In Out as You Please, we race with a young college teacher through the frenetic days leading to the Velvet Divorce of 1989—bouncing between rock shows and protests. Modern European youth grasp for meaning and purpose in Any Beach but This (Slabost pro každou jinou pláž). Bizom, or Service and Mission (Bizom aneb Služba a mise) invites us to play with the inane stereotypes of society through the games invented by a middle-aged Prague intellectual. In The She-Leapard (Levhartice), we stalk the streets of London as a 42-year-old Czech woman, exploring a renewed visibility to men by having as much sex as possible.Continue Reading >>>
English readers can now sneak off to Croatia while they wait in line for coffee or lounge around on a park bench. Underpass.co has relaunched with a new streamlined, mobile-friendly design, and a focus on Slavic translations.
International stories are what Underpass has always been about and our new design brings those stories to the forefront. The site features the latest stories and special editions on the home page, with the full collection available from the Stories page. Author and (soon translator!) bios and interviews can still be found in the Author’s section. Much of the content from the Underpass Blog has been relocated to News & Features. The site will continue to publish articles from Underpass editors, author news, and occasional features. A proper blog with consistent content and a typical blog format may relaunch in the future. For now, check out the Resources Page where there is a list of translated literature organizations, literature journals, and blogs that cover the international publishing community.Continue Reading >>>
Literary translators wear many hats. They are often teachers, writers, editors, publishers, and marketers. Jennifer Croft, translator extraordinaire, is no different. Translating from Polish, Ukranian, and Spanish, she is also founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review, bilingual journal for emerging and established writers from the Americas.Continue Reading >>>
Literature’s path to English usually begins with an inspired and dedicated translator who is so moved by a piece they want to share it with the world. In the follow interview with Underpass, Christopher Merrill, translator and director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, shares what has motivated him to translate and to support international writers and cross-cultural collaboration at IWP.Continue Reading >>>
What does it take to be a successful and accomplished literary translator? First and foremost, love for languages, both the source language as well as the target language. From Underpass’ interview with Carol Apollonio, Japanese and Russian literary translator, it’s clear she has this love in spades. Apollonio has turned her skills with Russian and Japanese into a way of life, not just a career. Alongside her literary translations and her day job as a Russian literature professor at Duke University, she teaches Russian language in the Summer Intensive Language Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. As if her schedule wasn’t busy enough, Apollonio has taken her passion for Russian one step further, helming the North American Dostoevsky Society (NADS). We were lucky enough to ask her a few questions about her thoughts on translation, political interpreting, and the continuing dynamism of Dostoevsky.Continue Reading >>>
How many English translations of French literature were published last year? Who is publishing Romanian poetry in English? Where can English speakers read the work of new voices from Ukraine or the Congo? Are US companies publishing more or fewer translations than five years ago?
Amazon doesn’t know the answers. Google couldn’t tell you either. In fact, no one knew until the people at Open Letter, a nonprofit literary translation press at University of Rochester, began cataloging the information and publishing it in 2008. Thanks to the Open Letter’s 3% Translation Database, literary and publishing communities have access to eight years of accurate industry data to tell them who is publishing what, from where, and by whom That wealth of data is already helping to identify trends and changes in the landscape of literature in translation.
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During our first year, we have been excited to create a short-cut to Croatia through the stories of many new and well-established, award-winning writers. We want to keep traveling and pack a special spring 2017 edition with great literature in translation from all Slavic languages. Underpass is issuing a special call for submissions. We’re open to submissions of short stories, narrative nonfiction, and excerpts from longer work that have been translated from any Slavic language into English. We’re particularly interested in great writing that provides English-speaking readers a window into new countries, neighborhoods, cultures, perspectives.Continue Reading >>>
Action Books' slogan "In an emergency, break forms" hooked me before I even browsed the catalog—and the catalog delivered with a powerful collection focusing on poetry and translations that push boundaries and give international authors center stage. Action Books is a small press based out of Notre Dame, Indiana and it’s the first in our series of Publisher Spotlights.
The press publishes three to five books a year with a list that features translations from Latin America, Korea, and Scandinavia, as well as bilingual editions and English books. Underpass caught up with co-founder, editor, and author Johannes Göransson to learn a little more about the press.Continue Reading >>>
While Underpass focuses primarily on literature, we’re always excited to share the news about the work of our contributors and their translators. Julienne Bušić, who translated a story on Underpass by Gordan Nuhanvić, recently served as the English language editor of In the Eye of the Storm: The Political, Diplomatic and Military Struggle for Croatian Independence. The book, just released in English translation, was a 2015 bestseller from the leading Croatian daily, Večernji List.Continue Reading >>>
At Underpass, we know we picked great writers for our launch, and we have been excited to see them stacking up honors since we began last fall. Here’s just a few that we’ve heard about:
Zoran Malkoč was awarded the T-portal Award for Novel of the Year, one of Croatia’s most prestigious literary awards! The novel, Roki Raketa/Rocky Rocket was published by Profil in 2014. The book has been called a romantic fairy tale about two writers and a magical dog. The T-portal award come with a cash prize of $50,000 kuna (about $7,000 US)!
Read Malkoč’s short story When I was Nina Pila, Dead, Yet in My Prime on Underpass.Continue Reading >>>
Underpass authors have been busy, busy, writing (and publishing!) new books. Here are just a few we have heard about.
Great travel writing opens doors to two cultures: the writer’s and the unchartered lands they explore. Underpass featured author Gordon Nuhanović’s new book of travel stories is sure, then, to reveal as much about Central Asia and as it does about the writer’s homeland of Croatia. The new book, a collection Nuhanović’s travel essays called Picnic in Stepa, was recently released by the Croatian publisher Profil. A bit of a sequel to Šale su ostale kod kuće/All Jokes Aside, the new book takes readers along for the ride through Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Nuhanović is well known in Croatia for his sense of self-irony and this book will make readers laugh and reflect on ridiculousness of travelers’ preconceptions.
While the first book is only available in Croatian, one of the stories, “Authentic Moldova,” was published in McSweeney’s Quarterly, along with stories from five other Croatian writers.
Read Nuhanović’s story “The First and Last Punker” on Underpass.
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It’s June 6th--Russian Language Day! If you let it slip from your calendar, not to worry! Underpass has you covered. While it might seem like Russian and English are completely separate languages, you probably use words with Slavic origins every day. Don’t believe us? Check out this list of everyday English words with Slavic origins. All information was gathered from the Online Etymology Dictionary. Здоровья!*Continue Reading >>>
With arts funding in the United States in a perpetual state of crisis, the concept of publicly funded literature sounds like a fantasy.
“You mean, the Croatian government just gives money to writers and publishers each year?” I asked the literati I met in Zagreb.
“Of course,” they said and, further, most people thought the government should be spending a lot more.
In the United States, writers beg for fellowships, small grants, or prizes from nonprofit arts organizations or regional arts councils, and fully expect they won’t get a dime. Competition is stiff and unless your writing fits into certain niches, chances to compete are few. A very, very select number might receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, which funds all arts activities with a budget of about $148 million, an amount that has decreased by 11% since 2010. Most European countries fund the arts at significantly higher rates per capita. It’s been reported that Germany spends about 40 times the amount America spends on the arts.Continue Reading >>>
Noir is always dimly lit and pierced with shadows and it’s easy to mistake heroes for villains. The gray characters follow their own moral codes as they navigate the danger and dread lurking around every corner. All cities have a dark side, and Akashic Books just revealed Zagreb’s in Zagreb Noir, the latest addition to the Brooklyn-based publisher’s popular International Noir series.Continue Reading >>>
Translating literature is a bit like using silk to recreate a wool dress. Even the best translation can only be a reflection. Two award-winning literary translators featured on Underpass, Ellen Elias-Bursać and Sibelan Forrester, talked to us about what they do and why translating from small languages, such as Croatian, is so valuable.
Literary translators are students of not only language but also literature, culture, history, and writing. “One thing I love about translating literature is that it’s the closest possible reading. You really do see how (the piece) works. It’s almost like learning the magic trick of a magician,” said Forrester, who is a professor of Russian language and literature at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and is primarily known as a Russian translator, with the South Slavic languages as her secondary focus. She has won numerous awards and fellowships and was awarded the 2006 Heldt Prize for Best Translation in Slavic/East European/Eurasian Women’s Studies for Dubravka Oraić-Tolić’s American Scream/Palindrome Apocalypse.
Elias-Bursać worked as a freelance translator much of the eighteen years she lived in Zagreb. She said she first turned to literature to restore faith in her work as a translator. As a freelance translator, she worked on a vast array of documents—from reports for building highways to training materials for the Eurovision Song Contest. “I started looking to literature because it was deliberate writing...I was desperate to work on things that had actually been written carefully and intentionally,” she said. Seeking bigger projects led her to literature and books. Elias-Bursać has gone on to translate many Croatian writers and taught at Harvard University for ten years. She has won numerous honors for translation and is largely regarded as a premiere translator of Croatian.Continue Reading >>>
Welcome to Underpass, a new online home for world writing! The just-launched website will feature fiction and narrative nonfiction from around the world. With a focus on translations into English from small and marginalized language groups, we want to be the English readers shortcut to rarely explored cultures and countries.
Our first stop is Croatia. We’re thrilled to present a diverse collection of writing from established, award-winning authors, as well as new and emerging voices. Selections range from edgy stories of soccer hooligan brawls and misfits in modern Dalmatia to war stories from the 1990s and historical fiction about life pre-WWI.
The following authors are featured in the Croatian launch: Tomica Bajsić, Boris Beck, Miroslava Buljan, Nada Crnogarac, Ksenija Kušec, Zoran Malkoč, Gordan Nuhanovic, Luka Ostojic, Sanja Pilić, Dinko Relkovic, Tomica Šćavina, Ivana Šojat Kuči, Dinko Telećan, Zoran Tomić, Vedran Volarić, Zoran Zmiric. Along with the stories, the expanded bios and interviews in the Contributors section detail each author's writing career.
Underpass will publish translated fiction and narrative nonfiction, with an on emphasis stories that give readers a strong sense of place. The Underpass Blog and our Facebook page will share news and info about international literature, as well as craft conversations and resources for authors who want to publish in English and translators looking for their next project.Continue Reading >>>
People seem a bit perplexed when we talked about starting this journal. The topic has inspired interesting conversations about the Internet and publishing, literature, travel, globalization, the art of translating, etc. To answer some of those questions, we interviewed our editor in chief, Terra Chapek.
Why are you starting Underpass?
The whole world consumes American movies, TV, books, music, but a ridiculously small amount of foreign media flows back the other way. It’s difficult to get an accurate count, but it has been estimated that less than three percent of books published in English each year are translations. Stories are one of the best ways to promote a deeper cultural understanding. It’s absurd that Americans are so uninformed about day-to-day life, the hopes, dreams, and passions of the rest of the planet. How can we understand a place or its people if we know nothing of their stories? Underpass is one small way we can help change all of that.Continue Reading >>>
Croatia? Where’s Croatia? It’s true, most Americans couldn’t find Croatia on a map or answer a single Croatian trivia question. So we’ve put together a smidgeon of background info about a country rich with natural beauty and culture and a history that’s among the oldest in Europe. Croatia sits at the crossroads of Southeast and Central Europe and the Mediterranean. The country’s five million people live on 21,851 square miles of land, making it slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia with about two and one-half times the population. About 87 percent are Roman Catholic and 90 percent identify as ethnically Croatian.
Geography and Climate
The country is shaped like a lopsided, upside-down croissant, with the longer side consisting of more than 1,100 miles of Adriatic coast, and the shorter side reaching inland toward Serbia. The regions along the coast, Dalmatia and Istria, are rocky and hilly with pristine beaches. With plains in the interior and mountains in the center, Croatia’s geography is quite diverse. Zagreb, positioned in the center, is the capital and largest city with a metropolitan area containing about 978,161 people. Split and Rijeka are the next largest with populations of around 200,000.Continue Reading >>>
Very little translated writing is published in English each year and most of it has been translated from French, German, and Spanish. While those are lovely languages, at Underpass, we want to hear from the rest of planet. We are particularly interested in writing that has been translated into English from marginalized language groups and provides English-speaking readers a window into new countries, neighborhoods, cultures, perspectives.
We will accept work that has been previously published in the original language or in English and are open to simultaneous submissions. All rights revert to authors upon publication. Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis and we plan to publish new stories each month, with occasional special issues.Continue Reading >>>