Do you know any Czech authors?
I have posed these questions to many English speakers, the list of which includes professionals, well-educated and well- read individuals, and a number of academics, including some specialists on Slavic languages and literatures. The response has always been the same.
While Central European literature, as a group, does not enjoy the kind of popularity in the English-speaking world that, for example, Latin American literature does, Slovak literature, as one of its members, is all but invisible.
Over the last decade or so, a handful of translators have been working to change this situation.
In the latest attempt to increase the visibility of Slovak literature to English-speaking readers, I have teamed up with my fellow Slovak translator Julia Sherwood to edit and translate an anthology of contemporary Slovak prose.
The book is due to be published (under a yet to be determined, snazzy title) in November 2016 by Slavica Publishers as part of their new series, Three String Books, with support from the Slovak Centre for Information on Literature. It will feature the best of what Slovak literature has to offer today.
The sixteen authors presented in the anthology have all been shortlisted for, and many have won, some of the most prestigious Slovak and European literary awards. They represent the Slovak literary scene across the lines of gender, age, style and subject matter. Most importantly, all of them are living authors, engaging with today’s world and carrying on conversations with other contemporary writers and readers.
Here are just a few examples of the authors and the selections you will find in the anthology: Víťo Staviarsky offers a fly-on-the-wall view of contemporary Roma life; Pavol Rankov takes a look at life in the gulags from the perspective of a mother who has had to give birth and raise her son there; Marek Vadas takes us into the heart of Africa and its many mysteries; Lukáš Luk reminisces about an idyllic past and concludes that it is impossible to return home; Ivana Dobrakovová reveals the struggles of expat life in Italy; Pavel Vilikovský ponders the meaning of art through the eyes of a mature photographer; Uršuľa Kovalyk’s heroine wanders into a night circus, which turns into a nightmare; and Zuzana Cigánová reflects on the burden of being ugly.
These, and many other exciting stories, plus illustrations and cover art by the up-and-coming Slovak artist Ivana Šáteková, await you in the anthology of contemporary Slovak prose. Look for it in print and as an e-book in November, available for purchase directly from Slavica Publishers and on amazon.com.
Magdalena Mullek translates from her native Slovak. Her translations have appeared in The Dirty Goat, Alchemy, Asymptote, Ozone Park, TWO LINES, and Words Without Borders. She was one of the translators of the Dedalus Book of Slovak Literature.