Recommendation for translation: A NOVEL WITH THE COLOUR OF SAFFRON (Arundhati Roy: “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness“, Knopf, London 2017)
“If you like you can change every inch of me.
I’m just a story.”(259)
In the autumn of 1997, the novel “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy, an author completely unfamiliar to me at the time, came to me from the Frankfurt Book Fair. The book was published by the London publishing house Flamingo, which was the first edition outside of India where the novel had been published for the first time in the previous year, 1996. On the back, there was a wide sticker that said 23.00 DM. It was and still is a small, modest book that can be nicely placed on the palm; thick, but very light, printed on yellowish voluminous paper. The novel had just received the prestigious Booker Prize for that year, and soon it was a topic of discussion everywhere. Less than two years later, in the spring of 1999, I was supposed to proofread the Macedonian translation made by Katica Garovska as an official task in “Detska radost”, where I worked. The translation was more than good; the book was more than captivating, so my first reading was pure fascination. The translator and I did together what was supposed to be done in the next several readings. Katica Garovska and I met then, over the endless pages of the bewildering text of Arundhati Roy, printed to be corercted. When we finished the book, just before it was sent for printing, both her and I had an overwhelming need to write something about the emotional, literary and linguistic closeness to this rare text, different from anything either of us had read before. The first edition by “Detska radost” of “The God of Small Things” from 1999 has two extensive pieces of afterword: “Lightness of the Imagination and Heaviness of the Family History” by the translator and “TeewskciS. EkiLdlosesor no a ezeerb” by the proofreader. My text was published as an afterword in most of the following editions in Macedonian by the publishing house Tri (of course, with Katica Garovska’s translation), and it was also published in my book of essays „Отвораат ли сништата работа“.
Twenty years later, in 2017, the world announced that Arundhati Roy had a new, second novel – “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”. It was a great excitement that connected Katica and me again with all others that passionately loved “The God of Small Things”. There were quite a lot of us. Before the beginning of the official sale, the novel could be bought in English and German, the translation rights for German were purchased while it had been a manuscript, before the novel was printed („Das Ministerium des äußersten Glücks“). Almost at the same time, the world could read Arundhati Roy in two languages. The fastest in our region were the Bosnians, they published Danko Ješić’s translation just a few months later on Buybook, Farah Library – „Ministarstvo potpune sreće“. The young Macedonian writer Petar Andonovski was in Podgorica in that period, and with personal effort, he managed to bring the Saraevo translation to Skopje at the end of the fall 2017. We felt utterly excited in a completely anachronous way. We organized the supply of book, as if it wasn’t the 21st century, as if it wasn’t 2017, but according to the retro-manner of the early 1990ies (or earlier), when finding books was a serious project. Petar Andonovski proved a gentleman and gave me the book so that I read it first. I had such great expectations in encountering Arundhati Roy’s writing again that I read the novel too quickly without it touching me. It seems I was not ready for a new, another novel by Roy, but I wanted to encounter “The God of Small Things” again… Somewhat later, I received from my childhood friend Biljana Jakimovska the Serbian translation by Maja Trifunović „Ministarstvo neizmerne sreće“ published by “Laguna”. As a New Year’s present, I received this same novel, this same edition from my former colleague at the literature studies, Marica Milošević, who now lives in Paraćin. I was touched by the fact that many of my close ones who do not know each other know that Roy is the writer of my life. I do not say the woman writer because it seems to me that if I use the same gender as mine I would abate the passion that I feel for her writing. It is one thing for me to say as a woman: the man/writer of my life, and it is another: the woman/writer of my life.
1. „Отвораат ли сништата работа“, Детска радост, Скопје 1999. All footnotes are written by the author O. Kj. Unless otherwise stated.
2. Translator’s note: In Macedonian, ‘woman writer’ is one word – писателка – in which the female gender of the writer is signified with a suffix (писател-writer, писателка-woman writer).