I read Ognen Čemerski’s book Holy Sail! Or about Translating and Trans-faring (Триста ветрила! Или за преведувањето и за пребродувањето, Блесок, 2015), in which he writes about his experiences, adventures, challenges and excitements when translating the novel Moby Dick, soon after its publishing. Almost from the very beginning of this reading, I wanted to write something about the book, and as the reading advanced, this feeling was becoming stronger and stronger. I also spoke with Ognen and wrote to him in November and December 2015, announcing this intention of mine. And yet, here I am, finally writing this text more than a year and a half later. I can find many reasons for this delayed writing, but there is only one truth – all this time, the pressing need to write about this book could not overcome the equally big resistance inside me; the resistance precisely towards writing about it.
The above might seem paradoxical, but it comes down to the fact that I initially wanted to write a paper in which I would praise not only the book, but also the thinking, labour and dedication that Ognen had. I wanted my paper to be a critical review, i.e. professional, objectively and (“)scholarly(“) written one. It was this wish that I had that kept on giving birth to my resistance to such a paper, because I simply could not write about this book in such a way. Holy Sail! Was not (and is not) only an expert piece that I found exciting, but also an intimate, personal writing, which touched me not only when it comes to intellectual thrill, but it also (and maybe much more) provoked a spontaneous emotional reaction inside me. Therefore, I have finally accepted as inevitable that this review that I write at times becomes overflooded by the personal. Thus, I am leaving this text that follows, just as the book that it speaks about, to shape itself as a free hybrid of the scholarly and lyrical.
Holy Sail! Is the first original book by Ognen, published when he was forty years old. The adjective original is here, of course, used conditionally, because this book of around two hundred pages, organised in six parts, concluded with a small English-Macedonian seafaring glossary of 262 units, comes after a series of translations, which Ognen would also (and rightly so) consider his original works. Holy Sail! Is also a sort of framing of the delicate and precisely embroidered canvas of Ognen’s translation heroism, as he had spent more than ten years1F researching, travelling, reading and rethinking the translation of a single, but big (both in size and in meaning) book – Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851) by the American writer Herman Melville (1819-1891).2F A decade is a period too short for humanity, but almost too long for the creative life of a translator, especially at the current technological, social and political moment in which the proliferation of instant-translations is enabled by computers and Internet, and it is directed and imposed by the big projects ordered and implemented by the political decision makers. The decade vested to Moby Dick, as opposed to these translations that have to be completed now and immediately seems at the same time a luxury and a folly. However, while with the former speed chess translation matches one damages precisely what they are supposed to promote – our beautiful, native, Macedonian language, Ognen’s slow and pleasurable translation, his long-term, uncalculated, non-commissioned, well maintained residing in the language is an especially big patriotic act. “Patriotic in the most cosmopolitan way. So, I open the language to the maximum”, as the translator himself said in the private correspondence mentioned above.