CULTURE

Katerina Schina – Toni Morrison

Katerina Schina, a journalist and translator, says translation for her means «a genuine desire to familiarize myself with a book, and then to introduce it to others.» She has translated four novels by Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison for Nefeli and is working on the most recent, «Love.» «I haven’t met Morrison,» Schina says, «but it is as if I know her. I can feel her presence behind the lines.» How did you «meet» her? I had read «The Song of Solomon» and «Beloved.» When she won the Nobel I was asked to translate «Jazz.» It was my first major translation, a dive into the deep end. Not so much because the text was impenetrable, but because her manner of writing often led me into error. Morrison unfolds the story through continuous flashbacks, association and interior monologues. The tone and style are quite difficult. It’s rather like a jazz piece where the band gives the theme, which is usually played by all the instruments at once, and then each one performs a variation. Morrison gives us the theme and then, one by one, the narrators’ voices unfold their stories. There is also a musical correspondence with the style: In jazz very small sections are repeated, and in Morrison there are refrains. Knowing about music probably helped me deal with that. That means that it suits your idiosyncrasy. Does that make for a good translation? In «No Passion Spent,» Steiner says there are translations that betray the text, but there are others that, in spite of the problems, successfully reflect the original text in the target language. I think I’ve achieved that, without always avoiding slips or mistakes. It does suit my idiosyncrasy, though her extremely woman-centered world annoys me sometimes, with its outright feminism. But the way she presents it is sincere and faithful, introducing us to an interesting side of the female experience, especially at this time of being black and a woman in male-dominated American society. After such detailed work, what can you tell us, less diligent readers of Morrison, about her? I think she has endeavored to become the historian of the blacks, especially in «Paradise.» She does it in a very fine, understated way, trying to talk about things that used not to be mentioned in white America. This element makes her both a political writer and very important, elements which the Nobel acknowledged.