There has been no extensive study of the percentages of different types of literatures translated into Macedonian so far. Research conducted by Anastasija Gjurčinova and Sonja Stojmenska-Elzeser in 1992 only covers the period from 1945 to 1990. This research shows that the most translated literatures into Macedonian during this period are first Russian, then French, American, English, followed by German. According to this logic – if anyone’s personal taste and preferences can count as logic – the fact that only two Russian authors are featured – just as many as Japanese – is surprising. Perhaps the high status that Akutagawa’s short story collection Rashomon enjoyed in Macedonia somewhat explains this. The inclusion of American writers is maybe less surprising, keeping in mind the prevalence of the short story form in 20th century American literature, as well as the fact that out of the three American writers, two are women – Flannery O’Connor and Lucia Berlin. The editor’s gender-balanced approach in his selection of participating authors (5 + 5) is incompletely reflected in the presence of short stories written by women: three out of ten. Which does not surprise given the dominant maleness of the literary canon.
This issue – the male literary canon – brings me to our literary tradition, which would have been left out from the world map had it not been for Olivera Kjorveziroska. This completely unpremeditated decision by Kjorveziroska – a true, profound and comprehensive aficionado of Macedonian – proves extremely important, as this is the tradition without which not one of us would have been able to be a writer.
Before I completely stray away from the topic of gender, I would like to address Nikola Gelevski’s strange choice of short story, “La Intrusa” by Borges. In his essay, Gelevski claims that there are several reasons for his choice: it was through Borges that he came up with the idea of such an anthology, Borges is unquestionably one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century, and finally, the story, he believes, is exceptional due to its elements of psychological thriller, mystery and melodrama, due to its strong characters and the idiom of the local color of Buenos Aires. Yet, he does not fail to mention Borges’s problematic relationship with his female characters, accounting for it with his politically conservative values, but also with the fact that literature has “long been seen as male territory”. Nevertheless, this is a story where two brothers (the “strong” characters) fall in love with a woman (a character with no character) and end up sharing her. When they realize that she had “planted the seed of discord” between them, they decide to murder her. After disposing of her now useless body, they embrace and nearly shed tears. Unlike Gelevski, I see nothing but backwardness and the recognizable presentation of femicide as something romantic, thus I cannot understand Gelevski’s view that the importance of Borges’s work is that it suggests “a bridge between prejudices”.
In the essays featured in this anthology, Gelevski’s belongs to the approach taken by half of the writers: Ivan Šopov, Kalina Maleska, Vladimir Martinovsky and myself. These essays are impersonal: although they justify their subjective decision, they attempt to prove the importance of the short story through its various interpretations, or its role within a wider historical and literary context. I would like to mention Kalina Maleska’s essay – written in her recognizably lucid, articulate, gentle style – on Jack London’s “Minions of Midas”, as it succeeds in doing precisely what criticism aims to do: enlighten, open new perspectives of interpretation, unveil a yet undiscovered world. The remaining essays in the anthology are more writerly than scholarly, bearing a confessional note, almost making them short stories in their own right. Here we have Duracovski’s essay and his unforgettable images of the snow and the lake in his take on Joyce’s “The Dead”; the powerful personal history relating Lidija Dimkovska and her devil with Tsvetaeva’s devil, as well as the skillful lyrical parallels between Magdalena Horvat and Lucia Berlin. On the other hand, I place Olivera Kjorverziroska’s essay in a separate category, because in spite of its fleeting intimate details, its approach is scholarly: it is a profound reading of “The Dance of the Elders – Kuze Kuzman’s Final Dance”, a reading characteristic of a passionate and detailed connoisseur of Petre M. Andreevski’s opus. Additionally, her stylistic brilliance seems to complement Andreevski’s “offering of words” (the title of Kjorveziroska’s essay). She discloses that she aimed at writing an essay with the equal number of words as Andreevski’s short story – 2,890. Finally, Gelevski’s decision to include the extraordinarily picturesque short story by Liljana Dirjan “The Rooster” instead of the essay she never managed to write, is quite moving.
As I already pointed out, the significance of this anthology is also due to the diversity of translations it offers, making room for both criticism and praise. Hence, Magdalena Horvat and Viktor Šikov’s translations stand out, with Šikov’s lexical decisions resembling the translation style of Ognen Čemerski. The young translators Marija Angelovska and Borislav Jarčevski are responsible for Jack London’s short story – these are translators with a bright future ahead of them, whose perhaps lack of experience is sometimes reflected in incongruities in the register. Unfortunately, perhaps the most problematic of all is the longest short story in the collection – “The Dead” – translated by Tome Momirovski. In spite of Nikola Gelevski’s corrections, this translation is still literal and incoherent, as well as devoid of the stylistic subtleties characteristic of Joyce.
Nevertheless, it is precisely this diversity – in the stories, in the essays, in the quality of the translations – that renders this collection unique and of utmost importance in the scant, ill-conceived, limited selection of literature in Macedonian. I salute Nikola Gelevski’s idea and encourage a similar future project – hopefully in the genre of poetry.
Translated by the author