Thursday, 26 May 2016

Dalmatian Elves #FaeVisions

Guest post by Urša Vidic

There are some popular Dalmatian songs being sung today that are about elves, even if people think that vila is just another word to describe a woman. They are usually sung by four to twelve men, in the klapa tradition, but these modern versions are sometimes rather reminiscent of gospels or of sweetly sentimental songs. One of them, Vilo Moja, goes something like this: “Almost every time when we look at one another, you don’t greet me back, as if we don’t know each other. You are my dream, but it would be easier if you were a stranger to me, if I did not know you.”

And in another one, Projdi Vilo, the man asks the elfin being to come to him, with her body, down the chain from his heart, to take the seed from his thirst and conceive the child of his blood. So, they both speak of a great yearning to be closer to such a being; this could come from a recognition of the fact that the elves can shine through people, that they are a part of us. Then, there is also a yearning for fae realms, for far-off lands that promise an air of freedom.

A myth that is quite present also on the coast of the Adriatic Sea is the story of a woman standing by the sea and longing to see the interesting world beyond the horizon. In its most popular version, written by a Romantic poet, this beautiful Vida sails away with a moor that comes from a place straight ahead from where the Adriatic opens towards the Mediterranean. It is interesting that another Slovenian poem, about a fish that carries the entire world on its back, associates it with this land and names it Faronika, probably because the word “pharaoh” is something so mysterious that it must come from a land beyond the horizon, the home of mythical creatures and of this fish, their mother. But the Romantic version of the beautiful Vida’s ballad from the 19th century mentions also very worldly problems, even if the main reason for the journey across the sea was her longing for something more in life.

Other women of that time simply had to leave Slovenia for economic reasons and by the beginning of WWII, there were around 7000 Slovenian alexandrinkas in Egypt. This is how they were called then and they had very interesting stories to tell. But such stories can be also disappointing, because they lack the magical element of their gazing into the sea. Therefore, one can find even theoretic fantasies more pleasing when they say that the elves are an ancient civilization of this planet, that they are a consciousness helping nature shape the world. And when we as people stare into the sea, we find this ocean of nature’s consciousness inside us, but at the same time, we still yearn for it, for the lost ability to be completely immersed in it—and for the future possibility to be able to find it a way that has never been there before.

Suggestions for further reading:

Urša Vidic’s “Mimikrija” (both in the original Slovenian and translated as “Mimicry”) can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

#FaeVisions Giveaway

To celebrate the release of the Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology of horrors and wonders, we’re going to give you a chance to win a copy just by sharing your dreams or fears of the Mediterranean on social media.

The rules:

Post on Twitter or Facebook, before midnight on May 31st, 2016, using the #FaeVisions hashtag in either case, some text or image that evokes your dream or fear about the Mediterranean. The post may be beautiful or terrible, may be personal or universal, may be autobiographical or fictional. A dream or nightmare, a holiday photograph, a news item. There’s lots to say about the Mediterranean—and you can say it in as few words (or images) as you like! (You do not need to reply or tag us in the post, just include "#FaeVisions" in the text; we’ll follow the hashtag and spot it that way.)

The Prizes:

For every ten people who post a Mediterranean vision on the hashtag between now and the end of the month, we'll give away one copy of the e-book of Fae Visions (in the format of your choice) to a randomly selected poster.

If 20 people take part before the deadline, we will also give a copy of the trade paperback of Fae Visions to one randomly selected poster.

If 50 people take part before the deadline, we will give two copies of the paperback to randomly selected posters.

If 100 people take part, we will give three copies of the paperback to randomly selected posters, one of whom will also receive any one other anthology of their choice.

For example, if 100 people were to enter the giveaway, the prizes would include:
  • 1 x Fae Visions paperback + any other anthology
  • 2 x Fae Visions paperback
  • 10 x Fae Visions e-book
Small print: this is a fun giveaway not a contest or a raffle: entrants will not be judged, no purchase or other expenditure is required to enter, no cash alternative will be offered and no correspondence will be entered into. Authors and editors of the anthology may join the fun, but will not be eligible for prizes.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Interview with Mattia Ravasi #FaeVisions

The Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology contains 24 stories and poems (originally written in 9 languages) showcases the horrors and wonders of the sea. Among them is an atmospheric tale of inhuman terror by Mattia Ravasi, “The Miracle Town,” set in a village just outside Venice and featuring metamorphosis and fitting in—perhaps a dark twist on Italian hospitality. We asked Mattia a few questions about his work.

Mattia Ravasi is a postgraduate literature student with a penchant for contemporary American fiction. He works as a freelance writer and translator, and reviews books on the YouTube channel The Bookchemist. He has lived in Monza, Birmingham and Venice, and he dreams of becoming the greatest writer of all times.

“The Miracle Town” is a creepy story that in some ways turns Lovecraft's xenophobia on its head. Where did the story come from?
Part of it came from my sheer obsession with the man. I first read his story Dagon when I was 15, and I am still in the process of recovering from the shock of it.

That said, I wanted to take the Lovecraft canon and work on its roughest edges. As you said, Lovecraft's xenophobia is a quintessential feature of his production—I re-read The Call of Cthulhu this very morning and, gee, was he a racist sometime. I don't quite think he was as terrible as some people think… but he was still pretty terrible in so many ways. I feel that, as a Lovecraft fan, it's part of my duty to try and pull a difficult trick, which is to give a modern spin to the genre he invented without distorting it. “Miracle Town” is a very small attempt at it.

I guess my role-model on this front is another Lovecraft-geek, Michael Chabon. In his novel The Final Solution, he takes the Sherlock Holmes canon and works on some of its most outdated sides, like the fact that Holmes can be quite a ruthless warmongering motherfucker from time to time. (Can I say motherfucker on the TFF blog? I hope I can.)

Yeah, you can say motherfucker!

Do you feel a particular connection with the Mediterranean Sea itself?
Some Italians tend to be very parochial, and I'll put myself in that category. I have to confess that I feel much more Milanese than Italian; the fact that I'm not technically from Milan is besides the point. I don't say that out of arrogance or contempt (I love my country, I really do!), it's just that it's a very diverse country, and it's hard to feel 100% at home everywhere in it. So I'd probably lie if I told you I feel I got salt in my veins, to quote one of my favorite stories in the Fae anthology.

That said, I've spent most of my summers bathing in that sea, and I feel there's something quite unique in the way it is shared by so many different cultures. As you guys said, they called it Mare Nostrum but really, it's one of the least "ours" seas in the world. I think I can feel that kind of connection through literature: I read The House by the Medlar Tree by my main man Giovanni Verga, or an historical novel with an Ancient-Greece setting, or I watch a good adaptation of Othello—and I think, yeah, that's my sea!

Who is, in your opinion, the greatest contemporary American author of all time?
I'll keep this super brief otherwise I'll go on forever. Thomas Pynchon. He writes like no other writer in history; he does with the novel whatever he very well pleases and always ends up writing masterpieces; he takes the idea of breaking genre boundaries and pushes it to unparalleled heights; he mixes gripping narratives and serious stuff and love and disgust with the touch of a master. To me, he's very much up there with Dante for the sheer level of "how the fuck did he do this?" you find in his fiction.

If by contemporary you mean "young," hands down it's Michael Chabon. Funny and heartbreaking and compelling and clever in everything he writes; and another master of mixing genres freely. His last novel Telegraph Avenue is written as well as any Pynchon's book.

How does translating compare to writing in your own language, and to original writing in another language?
Oh, they're quite different processes, but they require the same kind of mental trick. The most common mistake translators (and non-native writers) do is that they take what they want to say and "simply" change that into a foreign language, maybe not word-by-word, but almost. Whereas what you're supposed to do is to squeeze the juice out of what you want to say, forget about the way you'd say it in your native tongue, and distill a foreign sentence out of that.

It's a terribly difficult process and even pros sometimes can't manage it. And of course, writing is incredibly harder than translating, because on top of anything else you have to be a good writer. One of my professors once told me he doesn't believe it is possible to write fiction in any language but your native; writing is a matter of tapping into your innermost sources, and those fuckers are coded in your native tongue. I hope I'll manage to prove him wrong.

Can you think of a word in your dialect that is untranslatable?
As much as I like my homeplace, I have never learned how to speak its dialect; Milan and most of Lombardy constitute one of those corners of Italy where dialect is disappearing fast. There's this word though, "bauscia," that has pretty much slipped into common Italian, and that crystallizes all the bad stereotypes people associate with the city of Milan. An approximate translation would be "posh," but the word implies a level of arrogance and fleshy-ness that are inevitably lost in translation.

If events would bring you to join a motley crew of pirates, what would be your sea-name?
Beachin’ James “Sharkfin” Marsh. I would fight with a sword made from the nose of a gigantic white marlin; but mostly I would cook shrimp gumbo for the crew.

Do you remember the name of the protagonist of the very first story you wrote?
I was eight and the story was a rip-off of a LoneWolf Game Book called The Jungle of Horrors. The main characters were two friend of mine and I, but I'm not sure who of the three was the real protagonist, and who were the sidekicks. So it's either Luca, Roberto or Mattia (but it's probably me, let's be honest).

What are you working on next?
I am currently going through the third or fourth major editing review of a novel I wrote last year called The Page Turner. It's a fantasy novel with an attitude, both very canonical and very non-. It's good; at the very least it's seaworthy. I'm looking for an agent to represent it, and I'm in no particular hurry. It might take me fifteen years, but I'll get it out there.

Thank you, Mattia!

Mattia Ravasi’s story “The Miracle Town” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Nymphs and Naiads #FaeVisions

Guest Post by Jenny Blackford

Nymphs were the fae of ancient Greece—tall, beautiful supernatural women who were the embodiment of springs and rivers, trees and pools, mountains and caves. They were seriously powerful, more or less immortal, and permanently fixed at the age just between girlhood and marriage. Any spring or pool or river, even within a town, could safely be assumed to be inhabited by its own nymph or nymphs who were worthy of worship. So could trees and groves, hills and mountains. And the Greeks sensibly left offerings for the nymphs in all of these places. There were names for all the different types of nymphs—a naiad was a water nymph, an oreiad was a mountain nymph, etc.—but they could safely be referred to en masse as nymphs.

The word nymph (in ancient Greek, numphē) simply means “a girl of marriageable age”, but nymphs were not merely tall, beautiful, and female. Like all fae, and supernatural beings generally, they could also be dangerous.

Their presence could simply influence one to inspired speech—as Socrates said the nymphs of the nearby stream inspired him in the Phaedrus. Sometimes they healed the sick, though in folk belief they also were responsible for stealing away healthy babies and leaving changelings in their place. A man who saw a nymph could become nympholeptos: “taken by the nymphs” or “possessed by the nymphs,” never the same again—perhaps not so different from our “off with the fairies.” And there were folktales of fairyland-type exploits, where the nymphs tricked people into spending days or weeks with them that turn out to be years and centuries.

The most famous story of a person taken by the nymphs was Hylas, the beautiful young man beloved by Herakles. It happened while Hylas and Herakles were sailing towards Colchis with Jason and the Argonauts. According to Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica, Hylas went looking for water one evening, and the naiad of the spring fell in love with him. He bent over the spring, she put one arm around his neck, ready to kiss him, and pulled him in with her right hand. Herakles searched and raged, but Hylas was never seen again.

Other versions of the story involve multiple naiads, and those were clearly what John William Waterhouse had in mind in his wonderful painting Hylas and the Nymphs. I’ve owned a print of it for decades, and it hangs over my bath.

Why, I wondered, should only men fall in love with nymphs? The narrator of my poem is a woman “taken by a nymph.”

Jenny Blackford’s poem “Liquid Pleasure” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Interview with Álvaro Mielgo Gallego #FaeVisions

Our new anthology, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, contains 24 stories and poems of horror and wonder of the sea in 9 languages. Among them is “Ya duerme el mutado” by Álvaro Mielgo Gallego, a trippy nightmare of sunstroke and religious

Álvaro Mielgo Gallego has contributed comics, dérives and poetry to DIY-aesthetics and psychogeographical publications. He founded the short-lived Sadwrn, a multilingual zine on situationism, poetry and weird fiction. He currently lives in Madrid, where he produces many notebooks of gibberish every year, writes murder mystery games and secret RPGs.

TFF: “Ya duerme el mutado” is a dreamy, feverish microfiction in which passion (in both the carnal and religious senses) spills over onto the page. Where did the story come from?
Álvaro Mielgo Gallego: I'd say it was Arthur Machen's fault. Months before The Future Fire's call for submissions for the anthology appeared on the net, I had been reading his long poem "Eleusinia" about the Eleusinian Mysteries, rescued from oblivion by the Friends of Arthur Machen society. That lead to more specific reading on the topic of the Mysteries in Ancient Greece, which in turn suggested the idea of "What if the consequences of a religious sacrament weren't only spiritual but also physical?"

For those who don't know him, Machen was a master of what we call nowadays weird fiction. In some of his tales (like "The Great God Pan") the characters suffer body and mind transformations related to wicked sexuality and ultimate sin. These subjects seemed very fitting for the reverse background of a trendy Neopaganism and a waning Catholicism in Catalonia.

The ending might be very loosely reminiscent of Borges' "El evangelio según Marcos," unfortunately without its terrific build-up for length's sake.

Do you feel a strong connection to the Mediterranean Sea itself?
I was born in Castille, a never-ending high plateau of wheat fields and wastelands. When I was little, the Mediterranean was a crowded, boiling place full of tacky tourists and a general ugliness. To be honest, that is still the picture you get when visiting most of the Eastern Spanish coast, and it'll probably get worse with time due to overbuilding. So it took me quite some travelling and reading to realize the enormous cultural and historical repository the Mediterranean Sea is, and to open my eyes to its dazzling beauty. It was a slow revelation. Now it feels unnatural not to drop by every couple of years.

You've been involved with another multilingual publication, Sadwrn. What do you think is the particular value of such projects?
Multilingual publications whet our appetite for new sounds, new concepts, new spellings or even alphabets. They also show us our ignorance (always humbling), and all the doors to wonders that are closed for us. They have a levelling power: you speak fairly well one or two languages, and there they are, only two among many, just as important as any of the others. The risk of alienating the readers is high, but it's absolutely worth it because of the way these projects reflect the multilingual nature of the world, something we tend to forget. They present to us meaning in a raw state, without translations. While reading Fae Visions of the Mediterranean we are reminded how multicultural the Mediterranean territories were and still are, a vast expanse where monolingualism rarely happened.

Sadwrn attempted this as well, although in a less focused way: it contained poetry, short fiction, interviews on diverse topics and experimental texts in English, Spanish, Welsh and Portuguese. I think it wanted to reflect, using a printed medium, on how the Internet has expanded our cultural menu.

All stories in this anthology have a strong connection to their location. What do you think is the influence of space and place on our memories and feelings?
From the point of view of the rambler, each place we go through and inhabit has its own personality and particular flavour. The relationship between place, feeling and memory is reciprocal: different spaces leave a strong imprint on us, but we also project on them feeling and memory. I'm thinking of Rousseau's "Rêveries", and the way he casts his own musings on the landscape around him. This creates an interplay of the imagination that is actually quite important in the way we relate to the world.

I hope that, by telling stories set around the Mediterranean, we're actively rebuilding a part of this net of meaningful imagined reality for some of the readers, at least in its most monstrous aspect.

Have you ever dreamt a fully fledged story?
Dreams usually don't offer straightforward narratives with a clear three-part structure, and I'm glad they don't because it's the only space nowadays where we can be in touch with the superreal. They always divert and take unexpected turns before you can grasp them. Maybe the main strand of a story is over, but you don't notice it because a new one has opened up. Once I was being chased by bald vampires in a soggy maze made out of cardboard boxes (like a kilometre-wide kids' fort) on a beach, probably in Valencia. Luckily enough that thread gave way to the problem of not having any oranges left, but I couldn't tell between the two until I woke up and analysed the whole dream.

Some other times they tease you with amazing stories you'll never get to enjoy, like when I was walking the streets of a colonial French city by the sea in North Africa, with its Haussmann-style boulevards and blue-roofed buildings. At every crossroads you found colossal, gleaming statues of Egyptian gods in basalt or marble. The dream ended quite suddenly, so all I could do was imagine how exactly the Egyptian religion had spread that far west and survived until the 19th century.

If you were a mermaid, would you try to save the shipwrecked sailors or to drag them down to your coraly kingdom?
Oh, I'd definitely drag them down. I live for that moment when desire, wonder and terror are blended in their eyes. I'm sure they're not personally to blame for the recent bleaching of my coraly kingdom, but I can't help it. Also, I've developed a taste for playing xylophone-based mambo music and believe me, fishbones just lack calcium.

What are you working on next?
I'm writing RPGs and LARPs at the moment, they're incredibly fun, collaborative and rewarding. They bring so many surprises every time.

On the literary side, I have two short tales brewing, but I still don't know when they will hatch, or even how to talk about them. One of them will feature the underground world of Madrid's web of tunnels and a nocturnal marriage; the other is at a much more embryonic stage.

Thank you, Álvaro!

Álvaro Mielgo Gallego’s “Ya duerme el mutado” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Friday, 20 May 2016

#FaeVisions blog carnival

You can't have missed the fact that this month we're blogging (here or elsewhere) every day about the Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology, 24 stories and poems of horror and wonder of the sea in 9 languages (all translated or glossed in English, of course). The authors, poets, translators and artist involved in this lovely little volume have all been very enthusiastic and generous in helping to promote the anthology through blog posts, interviews, reviews, images, video and social media.

The main posts and events so far are listed here (posts not on this blog are in bold):

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Interview with Lyndsay E. Gilbert #FaeVisions

The latest Publishing volume, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, is an anthology of horrors and wonders of the sea containing 24 stories and poems. One such short story, Lyndsay E. Gilbert’s “The Strangest Sort of Siren,” is one of the darkest pieces, populated by monsters and rulers of the underworld, featuring betrayal and abuse and a naval passage to hell. We asked Lyndsay a few questions about her work.

Lyndsay E. Gilbert is an English teacher from Northern Ireland, where she lives near an ancient castle by the sea surrounded by many pets. She loves lyrical prose, myth, magic, fairy tales and folklore. She writes poetry, short stories and YA novels. You can find her blog at

TFF: “The Strangest Sort of Siren” is a very dark, unromanticised twist on Greek mythology—channelling tragedy but not confined by canon. What did the story mean for you?
Lyndsay E. Gilbert: I have always had a deep interest in the story of Hades and Persephone. I wrote this story as a further exploration of a poem I wrote on the topic this year called Persephone Grown. I keep contemplating how Persephone is never given much of a choice, six months with her abductor followed by six months with her mother. She never gets to grow up. She is never given any agency beyond the eating of the fruit in the underworld which is usually seen as an accident. I wanted to hear her voice.

This led next to wondering about the handmaidens who were with Persephone on the day she was taken. Persephone’s mother Demeter was said to have cursed them, transforming them to wicked Sirens. When I started to write on the blank page a handmaiden, held apart from her sisters, appeared immediately and she had a story all her own to tell.

What is your connection with the Mediterranean Sea?
When I saw the call for submissions to the anthology I questioned if I really had a claim on the Mediterranean. Enough to allow myself to enter. (I’m very tough on myself apparently!)

I am from Ireland. We are rich in our own mythology and folklore. It was this folklore that led me to explore other lore from other parts of the world, and I fell in love with the amount of lore coming from the Mediterranean. It molded my imagination as a girl in the same way that fairytales did (and Brian Froud’s Labyrinth let’s be honest—another alluring retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth when you think about it!)

In the end I decided the lore of the Mediterranean was as much a part of my creative self as that of the Ulster warrior Cuchulain!

In your story, sunken ships go to the underworld. Was that simply needed by the plot or do you like to think there is some truth in that?
This is a brilliant question! I think there must be some truth in that considering the amount of ghost ships said to still be sailing the oceans. I was writing “The Strangest Sort of Siren” by the seat of my pants and the idea just presented itself really naturally. In order to be a ghost, a ship must first have a soul. People name a ship and put their lives in its care. So if a ship’s soul goes to the underworld, perhaps someday it too can forget its past and be reborn.

Which underrated English author do you think all your students should absolutely read?
I use short stories to expose my students to amazing new YA authors being published in anthologies quite a lot. The curriculum is awash with the usual white, English dead men. There’s a very real level of snobbery surrounding authors who are still alive it seems! On top of that there’s the academic snobbery surrounding spec fic. Ultimately though, if I had my way, I would unflinchingly bring stories about LGBTQA+ youth into the classroom. We need much more diversity in the curriculum instead of paper thin references to it in school bullying policies. Children of all types of sexualities, backgrounds and races deserve to be represented. So in this vein I guess I’m not suggesting any particular underrated author, I want my students to read authors and stories about people from all walks of life.

What fantastic creature from your part of the world would you most like to go to a party with?
When I first read this question I had a horrible vision of a cartoon leprechaun leaping away with my lucky charms. Terrifying! I would most like to go to a party with a Bansidhe. I think we would have a wail of a time. (I didn’t know I was going to make that pun until it happened and I apologize profusely for it—actually no I don’t, I’m still chuckling at it.)

In all seriousness though, I know a lot of people who have had actual experiences with these disturbing ghost women, and I think Bansidhes deserve to go to a party and have a bit of fun. It can’t be easy having to warn unsuspecting people of an imminent death in their family.

If you were the captain of a ship, what would you name her?
Now that I’ve written my story I might just name her Sappho’s Siren.

What famous work of art would you like to hang over your bed?
Van Gogh, Starry Night. It makes me think of the peace of night time, but also of being in the in-between, not asleep or awake, slipping into dreaming and letting the imagination shift our perspective.

Do you have any recently publications that readers could look up if they want to see more of your work?
My short story “Under the School” was published at Youth Imagination last year, and my novel Blood, Glass and Sugar is a YA urban fantasy retelling of Snow White.

What are you working on right now?
I’m always working on a jumble of things. Right now my two novel projects are the sequel to Blood, Glass and Sugar and a dystopia called The Last Age of Sorrow, where unhappiness has been outlawed. I’ve got lots of short stories on the go too.

Thank you, Lyndsay!

Lyndsay E. Gilbert’s “The Strangest Sort of Siren” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Monday, 16 May 2016

We have our own monsters #FaeVisions

Guest post by Arrate Hidalgo.

I’m from a land most people know as Spain. But my sea is not the Mediterranean Sea. I grew up 20 minutes away from the Cantabrian coast: that’s the same waters that lap around Britain, the island I currently call home. But when northern Europeans hear me complain about the London heat, they assume I come from a warm place, with palm trees, perhaps.

I am from the Basque Country. Our days are grey, wet, gently bleak. (Or they used to be: climate change is taking care of that.) Stereotypically rebellious, or perhaps just a bit out of the way, the Basques were left pretty much alone during the pre-modern invasions and settlements from the Mediterranean, aided by our uninspiring agricultural potential. That means we kept our own language and, until not that long ago, our own religion—goddess and all—and creatures such as the river-dwelling, duck-footed lamiak who would build a bridge for you overnight every now and then. Especially if you left them some food.

We have our own monsters, too. Or do we? There is a giant called Tartalo, or Torto, who lives in a cave and herds sheep, which he eats alongside the occasional human. Legend has it that he was once fooled by a young man who escaped from his lair by hiding under a sheep. Did I mention Tartalo only has one eye? Ring any bells yet? This story carries the scent of an inland sea, warmer waters, pungent flowers that open at night, sardines charred on coals nested in the sand. It’s impossible to know when the Cyclops was transplanted into a story about Tartalo. Just like with Scandinavian myths, most of what we know about pre-Christian Basque beliefs was retrieved in Christian times.

Whatever the case, the truth is that our mountains might have been a deterrent for ancient foreigners to make a life in them, but not for stories to find a way in, transforming in the process. The Mediterranean reaches further than we think, surfing inwards as well as outwards on travellers’ tongues. And right now it rushes in with stories that we refuse to hear.

The horrors of the Mediterranean are far from supernatural for the thousands who are leaving everything behind in order to reach a safe haven from a man-made hell. Thousands of lives are perishing in high sea or stranded in the very real islands of mythical Greece, unaided and ignored. Fortress Europe is allowing for families to be divided, for children to be abandoned at their peril, facing all too human dangers.

Fae Visions may be an anthology of the marvellous and the strange, but in the process it has created a real space that brings people and places together. Its pages speak many languages, they reach out and gather us around them. It reminds us that the borders that keep us apart are as strong as our will to wish them gone. Of course, some will take more work to break than others. But in the meantime, we share the wonder of story, and that is no small thing.

Arrate Hidalgo is the translator of “El baile de la Hipacotora” in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Interview with Dunja Ševerdija #FaeVisions

Among the many stories and poems in 9 languages in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean is “The Scythe and the Hourglass,” translated from Vladimira Becić’s Croatian original by Dunja Ševerdija, a fascinating take on Balkan folklore and postmodern writing angst. We asked Dunja a few questions about her work.

Dunja Ševerdija is a student of English and Latin at the University of Zagreb. She is a translator from Croatian to English and vice versa. She is currently employed by British Council Croatia. This is her first published translation.

TFF: “The Scythe and the Hourglass” is a mannered, folkloric tale. How did you approach the story and go about translating it?
Dunja Ševerdija: It helped a lot that I was already familiar with Vladimira's style and this wasn't the first translation I had ever done for her. But it wasn't easy. I have never translated a text that was set in such a distant time period. The most difficult thing to achieve in the translation was the archaic feel Vladimira achieved in the original with the type of language she used. I hope that came across well. I'm still very new to the translating business, so it was difficult for me to decide whether I should read the entire story first or just translate it sentence by sentence. Since Vladimira likes to use twists at the end, I didn't want my knowledge to affect my translation. I opted for sentence by sentence in the end. I think that was a good choice.

Do you feel a strong connection to the Mediterranean Sea itself?
Yes, absolutely. Water has always been my element. I have always loved the silence and the weightlessness of floating. I almost perceive sea as a completely separate world that has its own rules. The Adriatic Sea, which is a part of the Mediterranean, has always called out to me more than any other.

How do you negotiate between the two irreconcilable extremes: the beautiful translation and the faithful translation?
Ay, there's the rub. I think that is both the challenge and the art of translating, finding that balance between faithful and beautiful. I think a translator should always translate as faithfully as possible. If it is a beautifully written text, your translation should come out beautiful as well. It's not the translator's job to make a text more beautiful than it is. That's the author's job.

Do you find you need to take different approaches for translating different genres, or fiction and nonfiction, for example?
I do believe different approaches need to be taken, but they're not necessarily extremely different from each other. Of course translating a poem and translating a short story are two different things, because each genre abides by its own rules. There are some things that are allowed in poetry that are not allowed in fiction and vice versa. But I think it's just a matter of practice and personal preference whether a translator would be able to do a good job with what s/he takes on.

Has a total stranger, say on a train, ever told you a cool story?
I often find myself in a queue at the post office with this lady who once told me how she used to send letters to her husband in the army, but, instead of writing, she would draw what she could see outside her window. She said that she got bored of simply describing it and that nothing worth writing about was happening anyway. He loved it because it was like she was sending him photographs of his hometown.

Are there any Latin authors or works that you think would make a good contribution to a speculative or dark fiction anthology?
I think Ovid's Metamorphoses would fit very nicely into one of these categories. That's probably my favourite Latin work of all time.

Which of the episodes you like in the Metamorphoses do you think would work best as a stand-alone story?
Since Metamorphoses doesn't have a unified storyline, I believe more or less any story from it could stand on its own. The best one, however, would probably be the creation of the universe with which Ovid opens. He describes it in a mixture of scientific and supernatural terms, and it is probably the most intriguing.

What is your favourite (real or literary) sea creature and why?
Sea otters. They allegedly hold paws in their sleep so they wouldn't drift away from each other during the night. I'm a sucker for adorable things like that. And although it technically lives in a lake, I have always had an inexplicable fondness for the Giant Squid from Harry Potter.

Would you use a piece of art to tell someone that you love them?
Of course I would. I have done so in the past. I'm a hopeless romantic. But I do understand that's not everyone's cup of tea.

Are you working on any other translations or fiction for publication at the moment? Or what else would you like to work on?
I'm not working on anything at the moment. I have only worked on short stories so far and I would really love to move on to translating a novel. Preferably something with dragons, but I'll take what I can get.

Thank you, Dunja!

Dunja is the translator of “The Scythe and the Hourglass” in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.