English PEN

PEN Atlas Q&A: Aleksandar Hemon

Who are your favourite writers in translation?

When I was growing up, nearly everything I read was in translation. I read some writers writing in Serbo-Croatian but they were forced upon me by the school system and I resisted them, a knee-jerk reaction resisting the authorities who wanted us to understand how great the prescribed writers were. I admire some of them now. But when I was younger nearly everything I read was in translation and in a small place, a small literary market as Bosnia or Yugoslavia was before the war, many books were translated. Having said that, I still read a lot in translation. Danilo Kiš, whom I’d read in Serbo-Croatian, I returned to him in translation; there’s a strange shift in the angle of light, as it were, cast upon a book if read in translation as opposed to the original language. Most recently I’ve been enjoying Elena Ferrante, and not enjoying Knausgaard, but I spend a lot of time reading books in translation.

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