Maja Novković is another resident of the TROJICA AIR program for translators in Banská Štiavnica.
Maja Novković graduated in Slavic studies at the Faculty of Arts of the University in Zagreb and she also participated in the summer school of Slovak language and culture Studia Academica Slovaca. She is a court interpreter for Slovak language. She has translated Martin Kukučín's short stories and the novella V mene otca / In the Name of the Father by Balla (Društvo hrvatsko – slovačkoga prijateljstva, 2019) into Croatian. She also translated two Slovak grammar textbooks. In Banská Štiavnica, she has been translating Peter Šulej's novel Spolu / Together (Marenčin PT, 2015). You can find an interview with her on the residency on our YouTube channel. Here are some of her answers.
How did you end up studying the Slovak language?
My initial idea was to study Czech. When I came in to enroll, however, the Czech class was already full, so I decided to take Slovak. In all those years that I have been in contact with Slovak language, I never regretted it. I started translating while I was still in school -- since the second year of university -- and I haven't stopped translating since.
Why did you decide to translate Martin Kukučín?
It was a selection of short stories and it was a school project. I was finishing my Bachelor's degree and this project was introduced by Doctor Eva Tibenská, who tried to engage her students this way. It was basically my first literary translation and it was very challenging. Kukučín was a Slovak realistic poet, so his texts were really quite difficult for a translation debut. That particular Slovak vocabulary was something I haven't encountered before, because in school, we studied standard Slovak. Many consultations were necessary, we were searching for many words in historical vocabularies, even the style was different. It took some adapting on my part and a lot of work.
What was most challenging when you were working on the novel Spolu?
When I was translating Kukučín, there were two short stories and I couldn't consult with the author. When I was translating Balla -- and the same is true for Peter -- , I was lucky to be able to solve uncertainties that could potentially be problematic for Croatian readers directly with the author. That is quite useful. The postmodern references are challenging in the novel Spolu. It contains many quotes from contemporary -- world and Slovak -- literature, so I had to find out whether all the quoted texts had been translated into Croatian. The problem was contemporary Slovak literature which either has not been translated or has not been translated well.
Another challenge I'd mention is the social context. It is different in my country than it is in Slovakia and I had to find a way of translating words and phrases like vekslák, eštebák, Husákove deti, fernet. Slovakia had Štátna bezpečnosť (State Security), in Jugoslavia, we had a similar institution, of course, but the question is whether to leave the word eštebák and to add a footnote explaining it, or wheter to use its Croatian equivalent. It was a tough decision between footnotes and Croatian equivalents. In the end, it's a combination of both. The novel reads well and footnotes would slow down the reading.