‘Balkan Translation Collider’ Project Concludes Its Program

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The goal of the Balkan Translation Collider was to raise awareness of the Balkans’ literature in the wider context of Europe and beyond.

Participants in an event of the Creative Europe-supported Balkan Translation Collider program, which concluded on December 31, 2023. Image: Next Page

By Jarosław Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows

Looking for ‘a Continuous Presence’ for Balkan Literature
As a melting pot of cultures, languages, and identities, the Balkans offer a rich literary experience. And yet many of the region’s authors are yet to be discovered by broad international audiences.

The Balkan Translation Collider has been a three-year project devised to bolster cross-border literary networks and foster creative collaboration within the Western Balkans as well as among other parts of Europe.

The initiative was kicked off in January 2021 by the Bulgaria-based Next Page Foundation, which formed partnerships with the Serbian literary organization ARGH; Albania’s literary organization Poeteka; Croatian literary agency and publishing house Sandorf; North Macedonia’s Goten Publishing; and Montenegro’s Municipality of Podgorica. The project was completed on December 31, and its organizers say it successfully facilitated the widening of its partners’ professional networks, spurring numerous collaborations.

Data-driven research supporting literary translations from Western Balkan languages into other European languages was the project’s main focus, according to the collider’s organizers.

In its self-descriptive text, the program said, “Six national reports were conducted in North Macedonia; Serbia; Albania; Kosovo; Montenegro; and Bosnia and Herzegovina by local teams of specialists—bibliographers, literary scholars, translators, book activists, and cultural policy makers.

“Besides determining the state of literary translations, the studies also identify trends and examples of international success in literary translation, analyze, and produce policy recommendations to address the current needs of the sector.”

As part of the initiative, a special event was hosted at last October’s Frankfurter Buchmesse, enabling experts and the project team to present the collider’s outcomes and products. This took place during a panel discussion in Frankfurt entitled More Than One Pathway? Contemporary Balkan Literatures in Translation.

Other activities hosted by the collider included the International Academy on Literary Management and Translation Promotion, which hosted book industry professionals from the Balkans and the European Union. During its two sessions, held in North Macedonia in 2022 and Albania in 2023, the academy attracted more than 30 participants as well as 20 speakers from the Western Balkans and EU countries.

Those involved included the Serbian writer and publisher Vladislav Bajac; Todorche Tasevski, the director of the Struga Poetry Evenings festival in North Macedonia; Dea Vidović, the director of the Kultura Nova Foundation in Croatia; and Robert Alagjozovski, a writer, translator, researcher, literary critic, and the national coordinator for culture of the North Macedonian government, among others.

In addition to this, the initiative allowed six book professionals from Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania to undertake 10 one-week internship placements with various European literary organizations in Germany, Croatia, and Slovenia. This allowed the participants to develop their industry ties and launch new partnerships, according to data from the Next Page Foundation.

Aida Čengić

Aida Čengić from the Next Page Foundation tells Publishing Perspectives that taking part in the project allowed her to learn about the latest trends in translation and contemporary literature scenes of the six countries.

“People forget easily,” Čengić says, “how deep and dramatic changes took place in the 1990s in the region. I’m not only thinking about the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the wars that ensued, but also the political and economic tectonic changes during the transition from socialism and contractual economy to capitalism and market economy.

“Markets have shrunk. [With regard to the] former Yugoslavia and the newly-independent states, the population’s buying power has decreased, and well-established channels of communication and infrastructure have disappeared. All these circumstances hit the publishing industry hard.”

Čengić says that the promotion of the region’s literature lacks state funds, and is mostly done by the region’s publishing houses.

“My impression is that contemporary literature from the Western Balkans,” she says, “doesn’t have a significant continuous presence on the European literary scene. Sure, the classics are always there. Some contemporary writers are present in the background, too.

“It’s up to us, people from the Balkans, to change that situation. We need to think more strategically; use our advantages such as cultural diversity, a relatively big diaspora in Europe; and create new ways of promoting literatures and languages of the region.”

The Balkan Translations Collider was co-funded by the EU’s Creative Europe program.

More from Publishing Perspectives on translation issues and programs is here, more on Europe and publishing is here, and more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.

About the Author

Jaroslaw Adamowski

Jaroslaw Adamowski is a freelance writer based in Warsaw, Poland. He has written for the Guardian, the Independent, the Jerusalem Post, and the Prague Post.

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