A Translator Has to Make a Decision Every Step of the Way

The first translator of the Trojica AIR 2023 residency program was Tünde Mészáros from Hungary. She has been translating the short stories collection Jednorožce (Unicorns) by Barbora Hrínová.


Below is an excerpt from the interview Michal Kríž did with Mészáros for Štiavnické noviny.

How did you come to translate Slovak literature into Hungarian?

T. M.:

It was a winding road, of which I would mention only the beginning and the penultimate stop. I grew up in Bratislava in a Hungarian family, so I actually received both languages as a gift. After various stops, I was stuck with professional translations, especially from English, and I felt more and more unfulfilled with the job. So I plucked up the courage and begged the literary magazine Kalligram to let me translate a short story from Slovak into Hungarian.

Which works have been the most challenging for you to translate so far and how have they been received at home in Hungary?

T. M.:

The most challenging to translate are texts of lesser quality. Luckily there haven’t been too many; the good ones prevailed. Good texts are each challenging in a different way. Sometimes it’s about the facts, other times about word play, or different rhythms of the languages – in fact, a translator has to make a decision every step of the way of their work  and sometimes the process is very difficult.

When it comes to feedback, I am most pleased when I see/hear readers who are amateurs so to speak praise a book by saying something along the lines of “Before, I would never think of reading Slovak literature, but from now on, I am sure to pay more attention to it.”

What are you translating here at the TROJICA AIR residency?

T. M.:

This time it’s the short stories collection Jednorožce. Alongside other qualities, I was motivated to choose it because of its subject matter of still marginalized groups in society. In the country where I currently live, the atmosphere is not exactly brimming with tolerance as a result of the expropriation of the media by the state and the subsequent political manipulation. A book is a drop in the sea but that drop could fall in the right spot. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

This is your fourth time at the translation residency in Banská Štiavnica, right? How does the city affect you and what are the working conditions created by TROJICA AIR?

T. M.:

Banská Štiavnica won me forever with its atmosphere, scenery, openness and friendliness of its inhabitants.

To live and create for a month under the Old Castle is not only extremely efficient in terms of work thanks to the excellent conditions of the Trinity Air residency, but also enriching, for example, because of the aforementioned bonuses. It's as if someone unexpectedly served you chestnut puree with whipped cream at the end of lunch.

And I hope I get to enjoy that puree a few more times.

The Slovak Literary Centre and the Town of Banská Štiavnica offer eleven residencies for translators each year. In 2023, the project was again financially supported by the LITA Fund. Kristína Soboň is the graphic designer of the concept, Palo and Janka Bálik are authors of the Trojica Air logotype.