Svetlana Komogorova - Komata on the Art of Translation

When did you start translating?
In high school. After 7th grade, I was wandering whether to go to an art school or to study English properly. Finally, I chose the English Language School in Plovdiv. I wanted to be able to translate John Lennon's lyrics.

What was the first literary work you translated?
Do song lyrics count here? If they do, that should be In the Attics of My Life by Grateful Dead. When I started translating fiction, my first published translations were of some children's stories, I can't quite remember neither the titles nor the authors. But my first translation that got noticed was of Truckers by Terry Pratchett.

What are the most common difficulties in your work as a translator?
Boring texts. Nothing is more difficult than translating something which bores you to death. At the beginning of my career, I had to translate some Jacky Collins... Well that was the hardest thing to do, because I absolutely hated it. But I am lucky to like almost 80 per cent of what I translate. That is a pretty good percentage, I would say.

Could you tell us something about the influence an author, an editor or a publisher can exert over your translation?
If I love the author, the author exerts an influence on my whole personality, on my thinking, so this is reflected in my work, too, for sure. And that was the case with Gregory David Roberts. As for editors, I am a difficult person to work with, because I tend to be very hard-headed. I prefer to work for small independent publishers, they are easier to talk to.

What makes a good translation?
You have to be on the same wave length as the author - and it all miraculously works out. With me, at least. And you should know your own language properly and have a respect for it - because for the other things, dictionaries, reference books and Google exist. And last but not least, you should be brave enough and should not allow yourself to be intimidated by the text, but at the same time, you should not lose your respect for the author.

What were your greatest challenges with the translation (s) which won the award (“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts)?
Well, that's over 900 pages we are talking about. I was simply short for time. But I was fascinated by the book, so I managed somehow. Also, my husband Boyan Stankov (who is also a translator) helped me enormously, because he read after me and edited the text. Also, he happens to be a bit of an arms expert and that was of a great help in translating the part about the war in Afghanistan. I don't know a thing about arms.

Do you consider yourself as a co-author?
For sure. I like translators who have their own distinctive style, and Krastan Dyankov was one.

Does translating inspire you to write yourself?
Yes. But I don't write fiction, I write poetry. Two of my poems were inspired by “Shantaram”.