In this episode of The Archive Project, we feature editor and poet John Freeman and three writers with roots in the Balkans on the theme CHANGE, through the specific lens of language and translation.
Freeman spoke with these three writers who possess links to the Bosnia and the Balkans about language and the way language changes through generations, geography, and translation. We’ll join French author and translator Jakuta Alikavazovic; Yugoslav-born writer Lana Bastašić; and Bosnian-American novelist and memoirist Aleksandar Hemon. These writers came together from all over the world — New York, Barcelona, and Paris — for an illuminating and often hilarious discussion about the transmutable borders of language.
“I’m still creating this language that I need to tell the story of myself.” – Lana Bastašić
Jakuta Alikavazovic is a French writer of Bosnian and Montenegrin origins. She was born in Paris, where she studied at the Ecole Normale Superieure and where she now lives. Her first novel, Corps Volatils (2008) won the Goncourt Prize for Best First Novel and her second and third novels, Le Londres-Luxor (2010) and La Blonde et Le Bunker (2012) won prizes in France and Italy. Her new novel, Night as it Falls (L’Avancee de la Nuit), was published by Faber in 2020. She is also the translator of Anna Burns and Ben Lerner amongst others and teaches at la Sorbonne Nouvelle.
Lana Bastašić is a Yugoslav-born writer. Her first novel Catch the Rabbit (Restless Books) won the European Union Prize in Literature in 2020 and has been translated into fifteen languages. Her last book is Milk Teeth, a collection of short stories published in Serbo-Croatian in 2020. She is one of the founders of Escola Bloom School of Literature in Barcelona. She’s based in Belgrade, but spends most of her time on the road.
Aleksandar Hemon is the author of The Question of Bruno, Nowhere Man, The Lazarus Project, Love and Obstacles, The Making of Zombie Wars, The Book of My Lives and My Parents: An Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You (memoir, May 2019). He is the winner of the 2020 Dos Passos Prize. Hemon co-wrote the script for The Matrix 4, with David Mitchell and Lana Wachowski. He is at work on How Did You Get Here?: Tales of Displacement (oral histories) forthcoming from FSG. How Did You Get Here? was the recipient of a PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History in 2017. His next novel, The World and All That It Holds will be published by FSG in 2022.
John Freeman is the editor of Freeman’s, a literary annual published by Grove Press, and executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. He has written several books of nonfiction including, How to Read a Novelist and Dictionary of the Undoing, as well as three collections of poems, Maps , The Park, and the forthcoming Wind, Trees. Between 2014 and 2020, he edited a series of anthologies on inequality, concluding with Tales of Two Planets, which focuses on the climate crisis and global inequality. His latest books are The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story and, with Tracy K. Smith, There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love, in which poets, novelists and essayists create a space to respond to catastrophes and racialized violence of 2020. Freeman’s work has been translated into more than 20 languages and appears in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Zyzzyva. He lives in London.