May you live in interesting times!

Happy New Year, dear readers.

We face interesting challenges in the United States, and if there were ever a time when the arts were essential, now is that time. Literature, theater, visual art, music, dance, film and video, improvisation . . . As well, scientific inquiry, education, philosophy, journalism. All of these pursuits have in common the search for understanding — understanding of fact and also understanding of each other and ourselves.

But let’s not let our natural inquisitiveness lead us to question the validity of the principles upon which the United States was founded: Equality, liberty, and justice for all.



From the British Library collection of public domain images on Flickr:

First time grant applicants: Start now.

A few notes about the application process for the NEA literature in translation fellowship, especially for first-time applicants, as I was right up until last night at 10 pm.

Believe people when they tell you to get an early start! The variety of information required makes it hard to get everything together — plus polish your translation sample — in a short period of time. I gave myself almost three weeks, from just before Thanksgiving for a December 6th deadline; I was starting with a descriptive essay and a sample translation left over from a PEN/Heim application, and I still felt like I was cutting it close (well, I didn’t just feel like it, I was).

It doesn’t matter what part of the application you start working on, but you need to read the guidelines and get a sense of the scope of materials you need. You might even want to take a look now. Especially if you do not have an ongoing relationship with your author or if you are dealing with a rights-holder that/who is not as invested as you are, you’ll need extra time to get the rights statement and compile an author biography and resume. It can be like pulling teeth even with the best relationships. And if you have never written a grant or have never written a grant involving this author, you need extra time. You are basically writing a monograph or term paper about the author and the text you are proposing. Also read the project review criteria, it’s a good anchor for when you are wondering what to include and omit from your application.

Register at to see what the site is like, click around. And go back again within 60 days of the grant deadline to make sure you can still log on. They make you change your password every 60 days, and you don’t want to be fooling around with changing a password at 11 pm before a midnight cut-off. I logged on the day before I intended to submit just to make sure I still could.

Before you get started, view or download the list of recent awards in the grant program you are applying for. It’s a spreadsheet with year of grant, grantee name, city/state, start and end dates, amount, project description (one sentence) and additional description (longer). There are a few things you can do with this information:

  1. See if there’s anyone you know on the list and send a quick e-mail asking if it would be OK to contact them with questions as you put your application together. You might not need their assistance later, but it’s always easier to ask when you don’t need something urgently. Don’t forget to congratulate them on their award and ask them how the project is going if the grant was recent.
  2. You can’t sort the entries by language (unless you add a column and extract that information yourself), but you can use the ‘find’ function to see the awards given for translations from your language and country of origin. If you do this before you’ve got your heart set on a project, you will have time to shift gears if your project looks too much like a recent or past award (same author, same corpus of work, same historical period). You want to be sure when you say “this is the first X to be translated into English” that someone hasn’t beat you to it. Also, go back to the review criteria to see how the awarded projects addressed those criteria in their descriptions.
  3. Most important for me was reading the project descriptions. When I wrote my description, I was focusing only on the plot of the play — it did not occur to me to include information about awards, context, social relevance… But after reading past descriptions, I had a better sense of what I needed to include for a more compelling and complete short description. By the way, from trial and error I can tell you that the form has a 1,000 character limit. The way I write, that’s about 165 words.
  4. If you do find a grant related to what you are working on, now you have a potential source of information for writing your own grant. Perhaps the awarded translator has published about her project — those articles can provide a starting point for your own research, either background or references you can follow up on. You might have a completely different take on the work, and it would be good to be aware that you are contradicting the views of a past award-winner.

Once you start preparing your files, even if you don’t have any questions, read the FAQ for the application. I realized from a few that I was thinking about things the wrong way. For instance, I listed a bunch of publications on the eligibility page (Attachment 3), but I read in the FAQ, “please don’t” — include only as many publications as will establish eligibility, whether that is one book at 120 pages or 10 journal articles at 2 pages each.

Another mundane piece of advice — pay attention to file sizes. This year’s instructions limited any one attachment to 2MB. If you’re working from a scanned original document, like book pages, where you don’t have access to the original itself and can’t scan it again at lower resolution, you might have to figure out how to reduce the file size of what you do have. There is an option under the Document tab in Adobe Acrobat called “reduce file size” — you can run it repeatedly, but make sure you’re not creating an illegible original. And need I say you should make a copy to work with?

Some odds and ends I had questions about but didn’t see instructions for on the site. I called the day of the deadline and expected some finger-wagging, but the person who answered didn’t sound frazzled or lecture me at all.

  1. Each section of the narrative (Attachment 2) needs a header with the section number. I only found out when I called to ask if headers were a good idea. As I understand it, that means a header with the file name on the left (in my case GordonNarrative) and the section number and page number (e.g., Section1: Translator’s resume, p. 1 of 3) on the right. What that means to me is that if you don’t know how to work with section breaks in Word, you are better off keeping all your sections as separate documents, then you can create PDFs from each one and compile them into one PDF document at the end.
  2. For sections that do not pertain to you, it’s OK to either skip them or to include a blank page with, for instance, “2. Information about collaboration: N/A, this project is not a collaboration,” at the top of the page. I called to ask about this and the person who helped me suggested including a sentence of explanation, so this was my solution (instead of just “N/A”). I included the blank pages for sections 2 (collaboration) and 5 (retranslation), but not for 9 (flawed translation if your project is a retranslation), which comes at the very end.
  3. It’s fine, and even preferred, to insert your original text in landscape orientation if that’s how the scan was done. No one wants to have to read sideways on a computer monitor, and the cardinal rule of grant applications is “don’t annoy the reviewers.”
  4. Because the Library of Congress entry for the book I was using to establish eligibility does not list me as the translator (that’s another blog post!), I asked if I should attach the copyright page of the book itself. I was told that I didn’t have to but that I could. In other words, I wouldn’t get dinged for providing more information than strictly necessary (the guy read my mind!) I went ahead and attached it, with a short explanation.
  5. It is not necessary to change the name of the PDF application form itself. I added “_Gordon” at the end anyway. I did not have a problem with the submission process, so I guess it’s OK to do it.

I grumbled the whole way through the application process. Wouldn’t my time be better spent translating? But (and this is another piece of advice), after giving my draft description to someone else to read and critique (do this, possibly multiple people and multiple times, and definitely not at the last minute!), I realized how important it is to be able to talk about your work and get other people excited about it. Unless we are translating purely for our own enjoyment, without wishing to share our work or the author’s work with others, we are not done when the translation is done. In fact, it seems to me that translating is the easy part. Then we have to find a publisher or reviewer, or place the book in bookstores, or sell copies of the book; or for me, find someone to direct the play or produce the play or publish the play, not to mention attend a performance of the play! We can translate something in, say, six months to a year, but we will be promoting that thing for, potentially, the rest of our lives. We better have something to say about it.

So I say start early, and build in time to think, because only after starting do you realize (1) how much you care about the work, (2) how much you want to say about it because you care so much, and (3) how hard it is to edit your own writing to fit into the two-page limit. At least that was my experience.

For more advice, see this summary of a meeting of DC-Area Literary Translators:, in which Katherine Young, winner of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) translation fellowship, Lara Vergnaud, recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant and a 2015 French Voices Grant, and Tanya Paperny, recipient of translation fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and Ledig House, discussed their respective awards and gave advice on applying.



“Danica Mae” and other poems, by Jim Pascual Augustin

“Meat” by Ilija Đurović, translated by Paula Gordon

Five poems by Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska, translated by Karen Kovacik


Lunch Ticket is a literary and art journal from the MFA community at Antioch University Los Angeles. They host The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multi-Lingual Texts. The Gabo Prize is funded by writers, translators, and Antioch University Los Angeles MFA Alumni Allie Marini and Jennifer McCharen, who launched the prize to support the work of peer translators. [quoted from the website]

The works will appear in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of the journal and are not available on the website yet, but you can be sure I’ll post a link here when they are! I’ll have more to say about the story and the author and the translation process then.

Congratulations to Jim Pascual Augustin and Karen Kovacik!

War from a tween’s perspective

One day after the Facebook post that was heard around the region, I saw another post about what war was like—this time from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl. In this piece we experience the days and weeks immediately preceding the siege, the down-to-the-wire relocation, and then the years of day-to-day survival in a city without electricity, central heating, communication, freedom of movement, access to food. I thought Lejla’s post would be the beginning of a series of responses (in fact, I hoped it would be), but that does not seem to have happened. It is understandable, though. Based on the first-person accounts of war that I have read and from meeting some of the people who wrote them, it takes an extraordinarily strong person to go back ‘there’ and relive the experiences and select those events and details that can be put into words—and then to do just that.

Many thanks to Lejla for allowing me to translate and publish her post. I also thank Adela, a friend and colleague from my Sarajevo Film Festival days and one of those kids from Lejla’s building on Koševsko Brdo, for introducing me to Lejla and commenting on my translation. 


What is war? (from the perspective of a 12-year-old kid from Sarajevo)

War is something that sneaks into your home one morning, and Dad turns on the television and the radio (in 1992 we didn’t have the Internet or websites) and turns up the volume, little by little, until both are going full blast. Then he dials the phone (in 1992 there were no cell phones), calling friends, family, acquaintances and strangers—even he has no idea who he’s calling, the main thing is that he’s doing something. When he’s not calling, he’s pacing from window to window. He picks up the television remote and curses because the sound doesn’t go any higher than 100. He goes to the radio and turns the knob that is already turned up to the max, and then he starts scanning through frequencies, and at maximum volume the radio shrieks, crackles, roars, thumps your brain. That’s not enough for him, so he goes down to the basement and brings up some old-time radio, plugs it in and turns it on, raps it a few times, and when he hears that specific sound produced by the overlapping of two different stations, he turns up the sound. And he’s still not satisfied, so he gets his little transistor radio from the knapsack where he keeps his fishing gear, extends the antenna as if he’s trying to receive a signal from Mars, and turns up the volume. Then he comes in to my room, where I’m trying to watch MTV. He curses MTV and switches to the news. I get ready to go out because I really can’t take the assault on my eardrums any longer. He screams, “Where are you going? Don’t you dare move!” I protest. While we’re fighting, a neighbor walks in our front door and says quietly: “War.”

Every day shells fall in Sarajevo. Vogošća is quiet. Every day Mom goes to work in Sarajevo. Every day Dad calls friends and family and old neighbors from Koševsko Brdo and tells them to come stay with us in Vogošća. Everyone says the same thing: “Oh, this will be over soon.” Every day the same, but the days are passing.

Dad readies the basement. He brings beds down there, buys food, cans, stacks them in the basement. He prepares as if he knows what’s needed, as if he has already lived through a war. But he hasn’t. None of this makes any sense to my sister and me.

Beginning of April. Everything is the same with one exception: One evening our next-door neighbor Nešo brings over a Kalashnikov rifle and a few hand grenades, then puts Dad and another neighbor in charge of guarding our apartment building and all the tenants. From whom, from what, no one has any idea. Anyway, the three of them cover the building’s front doors and windows with newspapers (Oslobođenje, AS), stack sandbags, make barricades.

On 19 April 1992, tanks—personnel carriers—enter Vogošća. Mom is at work. Someone rings the doorbell and I answer it before Dad can yell “Stop!” Nešo is at the door. He speaks to Dad quickly and quietly. He gives Dad something wrapped in a child’s sweatshirt and tells us to leave right away.

Dad is starting to act crazy. This is not my father, I think, watching him throw things willy-nilly into a suitcase. Mom, who has returned from work, says we shouldn’t waste time straightening up, we should go immediately.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“I have no idea,” he answers.

No, this is definitely not my father, I think. In my child’s naiveté, I pack my favorite book and two Barbie dolls into a small cardboard suitcase bought in Hungary at the end of the 1980s. My sister, who had just started first grade that year, tries to fit her Barbie doll and her first-grade reader into her even smaller suitcase.

I still think my father is crazy an hour later, as he floors it and speeds like a madman through Vogošća. We encounter the first barricade at TAS—Tvornica Automobila Sarajevo, the VW manufacturing plant. They want to know where we’re headed.

“To my brother-in-law’s for coffee,” my father answers.

The man in the camouflage uniform holding a gun looks at us, looks at Dad’s papers, looks at our cardboard suitcases, and looks at us again. “OK, be back by evening,” he says, returning Dad’s papers.

Dad resumes speeding through Hotonj and up Kobilja Glava until he hits another barricade in Bare. Again men in camouflage uniforms with guns. They also want to know where we’re headed. They get the same answer. They behave the same as the first ones, like they don’t really believe what they’re hearing. “How is it there,” they ask, and all sorts of other things, but finally they let us pass.

Dad resumes driving, not saying anything, lighting cigarette after cigarette. We arrive at my uncle’s place and get out of the car, but Dad doesn’t move from the driver’s seat. Mom looks at him and he tells her, his voice shaking, “Just one more cigarette. You all go in…”

What I didn’t know was that Nešo had given Dad a handgun, and that Dad was not sure, if the soldiers didn’t let us past the barricades, who he would shoot—them, or us.

We didn’t return home that evening; we didn’t return home for the next few years. Vogošća was soon cut off from Sarajevo by force. You couldn’t get from here to there or cross from there to here. You couldn’t, but some people still got across, secretly, through the forest, for the first few days. Our neighbor Nešo, who stayed on the other side in Vogošća, escorted these people up to the barricades manned on our side by the Bosnian Army Green Berets. Some of the soldiers were men he’d grown up with, worked with, gotten to know. They would all joke around, smoke a few cigarettes, and then Nešo would return to Vogošća. That is, until one day his people killed him because they found out what he was doing.

His? Ours? Theirs? Yours? Who’s who?

A few months with my mother’s brother in a one-bedroom apartment. Two families: four adults, three children and one baby. No electricity. No water. Shells are falling. They’re aiming over our heads at the telecommunications tower at the peak of Hum Brdo. No glass left in the window frames. We walk hunched over, or crawl, so as not to be seen through the windows. Less and less food. The baby, my cousin, doesn’t even cry, as if she knows there’s no sense in crying.

In the summer of 1992 we move to an apartment on Koševsko Brdo, the apartment of a journalist who went over their side. Theirs? Ours? Once in a while people in uniforms come in and ransack the apartment, taking away everything of value. They say they are from our side and that it is evidence against the other side, proof that they had been preparing this for a long time.

Them? Us?

In December 1992, Dad is wounded by a shell. Severely. Operations. Fixators. Operations. Clinical death. Operations. Crutches. Invalid. He can’t go to work, so everything falls on Mom’s shoulders. She goes to work hungry. As snipers shoot over her head, she rolls discarded tires up Gorica Street to our apartment to be used as fuel, so she can make us lunch, so we can warm up a little. She sews by candlelight, making jackets out of sleeping bags in exchange for a few kilograms of flour. Money in Sarajevo is worthless. When the candles are gone, she sews from memory. And from memory I call up pictures and play out scenes from books.

In spring 1993, we kids from Koševsko Brdo go out for water. We carry five-liter jugs (two or three tied together with rope). We walk a few kilometers to the train station or we wait for the cistern-truck that comes after nightfall, and we are careful not to spill a single drop. We go to school, we try to live as if there were no war—we play hide-and-seek, badminton, chess, cards. We fall in love, we fight. And at every opportunity snipers aim at us, sometimes hitting, but most of the time missing on purpose. After every shell that slams down near us but doesn’t hit us, we laugh hysterically. When we hear that someone close to us has been killed, we don’t cry. We live in convulsions.

The year 1993 is the most difficult year of the war because all food reserves have been eaten. A kilogram of sugar costs 80 DEM, a liter of oil 35 DEM, a chocolate bar 15 DEM, one egg 10 DEM. But there’s no money. ‘Bread’ made of rice from a pressure cooker, ‘pâté’ made of yeast, ‘Eurocrem’ from powdered milk and cocoa from a past life, ‘butter pastry’ from humanitarian aid canned beef, ‘cheese pie’ from rice and primrose petals (to provide the color of egg), ‘salad’ from dandelion greens, ‘vegetable stew’ from rice… All the families in the building cook on a wood-burning stove installed in the foyer of the third floor; using just two logs, everyone can cook their main meal and bake a loaf of bran bread.

We’re happy when we get a lunch packet—Chicken à la King, powdered drink mix (which we kids take outside, share with our friends, licking powder from our palms), cookies, powdered milk, herring in sauce, peanut butter, dried fruit, one deciliter of oil per person… We read books in semidarkness, by candlelight or the open flame of a gas torch. We read a lot of books, we live other people’s lives while the people around us are dying. Water restrictions. Gas restrictions. Life restrictions.

By winter 1994 we are living in a city of death. We are hungry, thirsty, freezing. We live without summer vacation, without winter vacation, without a past, without a future. Everything they taught us before the war has been negated during the war. Lost in the present. We don’t expect to survive until tomorrow, to laugh hysterically after the next shell lands. We become tired and worn out. Shells fall instead of rain. The sun means nothing. We don’t even see the blue sky. Snow or heat, it’s all the same to us. We haven’t been down to the basement, to the bomb shelter, for ages. We don’t run when they shoot from Poljine, we just stand aside for a moment and then continue what we were doing. Why run when there’s no escape? Still, we go through the motions of a normal life: we go to school, we study, we try to keep up with the world while we get farther and farther away from ourselves. We slowly go crazy, each in his or her own way… No one says “oh, this will be over soon” anymore.

Fall 1995 and the end of the war. It is a strange feeling to go outside in the morning and… silence. No shells. No awful feeling that someone is watching you. Silence. Everything is destroyed. Buildings in ruins, windows without glass, apartments without people. And birds are singing. Maybe they were singing the whole time, but the shelling was louder than their song.

And, just like that, life goes on. Like nothing happened. Like all of us were only dreaming. Having nightmares. And, finally we woke up and it took us a little time to realize… to realize what? That all of it was pointless. Because people learned nothing from it, because they will always find some idiotic reason to justify doing it all over again…

So that is war (in a watered-down version because the full version requires much more space). And now, 21 years later, there are some people who want to do it all over again.

 Translated by Paula Gordon
Image of map is a screen shot of the siege of Sarajevo map, showing siege lines and
shelling targets as of July 1995. Image © and CARTO

About the author, Lejla Balagić Pavlović
I was born in Sarajevo in 1979. After finishing high school in Sarajevo, I studied comparative literature and pedagogy, graduating in 2006. I worked for five years at BH Radio 1 on the drama program, adapting and dramatizing literary works for radio. I have two children, a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

I spent the war in Sarajevo and live there today, in a very confused post-war period. I was raised with different rules, rules that are unknown in modern BiH society.

Literature is my first love. I adore books and have a strong need to write. I write a blog at I have three unpublished manuscripts, one unpublished collection of short stories, and a collection of war stories in progress. The inspiration for writing is inexhaustible because its source is always alive—inspiration is in and around me.

Translator’s notes
Brdo mean hill; Koševsko Brdo and Hum Brdo are place names taken from the hills surrounding Sarajevo.

DEM is short for Deutsche Mark, that is, German mark, which during the war was the predominant hard currency and the standard upon which prices were pegged.

The types of food are in scare quotes because the dishes were similar in name only. Instead I could have written “so-called bread, mock Eurocrem, fake salad…” For more on wartime recipes, see “A Sarajevo Wartime Cookbook, With Recipes Bitter And Sweet,” by Daisy Sindelar, April 6, 2012.

An online exhibition of the siege of Sarajevo, with a map (from which the featured image was taken) and various statistics, can be viewed at the website Sarajevo pod opsadom (Sarajevo under Siege), available in a few languages.

“According to data from the Union of Civilian Victims of War of the Sarajevo Canton, during the siege of the town, which lasted 1,425 days, an average of 329 shells fell every day, killing 11,541 people, of which 1,601 were children.” Translation of a quote from this Slobodna Evropa article.

There are many more resources I could post here, but I narrowed it down to these to reinforce that this story, for all its specificity, is by no means the exception. It is the story of an entire city of kids who grew up in Sarajevo during the war. And I am not forgetting those children in other cities, towns, and villages who experienced the war differently, who were separated from or lost their parents, who were driven from their homes into the forests or to different parts of the country or to different countries altogether. Some of them are beginning to tell their stories, too.


War for beginners

I used to rely on an RSS reader to stay on top of world events. Now I use Facebook. I know I am not getting the whole story there, but I am definitely getting a sense of how my friends think, what they’re concerned about, and what is going on in their parts of the world. So when I ran across a shared post from Bosnia with the title “Rat za početnike” [War for beginners], I took notice. Here was a series of images, fragments, memories, from someone who had lived through and fought in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia as a young man, and who has no desire to be led into such an experience again. As a sign that he is not alone in his thinking, his status post received thousands of shares and reactions on Facebook and was picked up by major news outlets in the region in less than 24 hours.

I felt like this post needed to be shared even more widely, and so I asked the author for permission to translate it and post it on my blog. I don’t know Eldin personally and we are not friends on Facebook, but he immediately responded to my request and to a few questions I asked while translating (typical translator requests for clarification). I read in one article that he was 20 when the war ended, and I can see from his FB page that he lives in Sarajevo.

Links to articles about the post and a bit of backround follow the translation.


Eldin Kurbašić
Facebook, 1 September 2016

WITH THE FLAMES OF WAR being fanned by patriots and flag-wavers of all stripes, from all latitudes and longitudes, carrying all colors of political party cards and property deeds, calling us to arms, calling us to take sides . . . It’s time to share some knowledge—knowledge of a strictly empirical nature, not to be found in any textbook.

War for beginners (from a soldier’s perspective)

(1) Your parents look out the window at a hill that has been devastated by a thousand grenades, and they know that you are on that hill somewhere, fighting. As they look they pray to God that you return alive, even at the price of your becoming an invalid for the rest of your life. Just so you’re alive.

(2) You do not have to be hit by a bullet or piece of shrapnel to be killed in action. You can also be killed by a detonation in which your organs burst from the shock wave. The first symptoms are loss of consciousness and vomiting of blood.

(3) You return from the battlefield and are assigned the duty of visiting the wife and mother of your friend, and his two-year-old daughter, to tell them that their husband, son and father was killed. You are advised to bring some sedative tablets with you to give to them right away, but they burst into tears as soon as they see you and your two comrades at the door, because for sure you do not have a smile on your face. And then you can’t help but imagine for a moment or two how your own loved ones would react in that situation.

(4) Exchange of bodies. Well, this is a special exercise for fucking up your psyche. You turn over 120 corpses because you are looking for the body of your cousin killed in action. I won’t go into further detail.

(5) You discover that when a bullet or piece of shrapnel punctures the femoral artery, the blood spurts out in a fountain about a half-meter high. You put one palm on the guy’s wound, and with the other you pull his tongue out of his throat so he doesn’t choke in his state of shock, which sets in immediately.

(6) You have about 10 seconds to stop the whistling coming from your comrade’s lung, punctured by shrapnel (i.e., pneumothorax). If you don’t have the proper dressing, the one with the rubber membrane, then the cellophane wrapper from a box of cigarettes might help.

(7) The speed of a piece of shrapnel is about a kilometer per second; it is an irregular shape, made of multilayered metal castings; it flies an irregular path, spinning on its own axis; its temperature is about 200°C; and it rips through flesh, bone, veins and arteries in a fraction of a second.

(8) “Mouse” fever: Even if while lying in your foxhole you get used to watching rats the size of cats crossing back and forth over the plastic sheeting above your head, your kidneys certainly will not get used to the disease that frequently befalls soldiers in the trenches—hemorrhagic fever, or “mouse” fever, as it is called in Bosnian.

(9) A coniferous tree will spontaneously crack and pop at temperatures of around −17°C, usually while you are on watch.

(10) The advice from the emergency medical team to dress in multiple layers takes on a whole new dimension when you are dressed in layers and have to spend a month, sometimes more, in mud up to your knees.

(11) When you have to ignore the nutritional value of the margarine you get on a slice of bread for breakfast and instead rub it into your army boots, because in the snow it is more important for you to have dry feet in your boots than buttered bread in your stomach.

(12) You don’t carry a bayonet to slit someone’s throat, but to dig yourself a hole in the hard frozen earth on some open field (in the course of an ill-advised assault ordered by a headquarters manned by status seekers and dilettantes) with a deadline of RIGHT NOW because you are under hostile enemy fire.

(13) An enemy sniper is more annoying than the most persistent mosquito.

(14) Your weapon must ALWAYS stay dry! There’s no such thing as a waterproof guarantee, as with certain mobile phones.

(15) The rush of adrenaline when you are being held in quarantine before a military action is nonstop and about 845 times stronger than the rush of your first sexual experience.

There is plenty more, but I think this is sufficient to warn all of you hotheads who are spoiling for another war: Don’t invoke war unless you are prepared to endure all this and ten times worse—you personally and your sons, too.

Translated by Paula Gordon


News coverage: [article in Italian, with Italian translation of post] [article in English, with some background and a different English translation of Eldin’s post]


Bosnia and Herzegovina’s major political parties are established along religious and ethnic lines, and political speech can conflate party loyalty and ethnicity. And that’s not always accidental. (Maybe I should have written “ever” in place of “always.”) See Gordana Knezevic’s commentary on RFERL, “Bosnia’s Perfect Storm” (6 Sept. 2016) for a summary of recent events and statements that have contributed to the heightening of tensions in the region.

Can you answer these questions about your translation project? (FAQ)

When you have a translation project ready to go, here are some of the questions you’ll likely be asked — certainly by me, but also by other translators. In most cases, translators need to see the documents before giving you a quote, but even with the documents, we need your input to provide a translation that meets your needs.

(1) What is the language of the source document and/or what country is it from?

(2) What kind of text is it (for example, personal correspondence, medical record, birth certificate, school transcript)?

(3) What format are the documents in (paper, scan, PDF or other electronic file) and how do you intend to send them (mail, fax, e-mail attachment)?

(4) What is the subject matter?

(5) How will the translation be used? Is it for a specific institution, application, or audience?

(6) What is the approximate volume of the material to be translated (number of words, lines, or total number of pages)?

(7) Is there any handwriting in the document? Latin alphabet or Cyrillic? Can you read it?

(8) Is the document fully legible (or a fax of a fax of a fax)? If it is difficult to decipher, do you have any preferences for handling illegible or partially illegible passages? (Normally these are indicated as “illegible” in brackets.)

(9) Are there any charts or graphics that must be reproduced in the translation? (There’s no need to describe the formatting of birth-marriage-death certificates or school transcripts.)

(10) When will the materials be available?

(11) When would you like to have the completed document(s) in hand?

(12) If these are official documents, do you require a certification of accuracy, notarized originals, or other special handling?

(13) Does the project involve ongoing or recurring assignments?

FAQ: What is a certified translation?

What is a “Translator’s Certification of Accuracy”?
In a certification of accuracy, the translator states her credentials and affiliations and declares, “The attached translation is, to the best of my knowledge, ability and belief, a true, accurate and complete translation.” (Wording may differ.) The statement is typically on the translator’s letterhead and signed and dated. In some cases, the translator will affix a seal or use an embosser to make an impression (literally and figuratively) — this could be a business stamp, an ATA certification seal, or another official-looking image to add heft to the document.

If the translation is required for official use, you can request that the certification page be notarized. This provides added assurance that the translator is who she says she is, because she must appear before a notary public, provide photo identification, and sign the certification in the notary’s presence. The notary then signs and dates the document and affixes her own stamp or embossed seal.

When you hire me for a translation, if you request a “Translator’s Certification of Accuracy,” the delivered translation will consist of multiple pages — the translation, a copy of the original, and my certification of accuracy, featuring the seal at left. Each page will be numbered, and my certification page will describe the document and state the number of attached pages with enough specificity that the certification cannot be mistakenly associated with a different document. If delivered as a PDF, the document will be secured and if delivered as a hard copy, the pages will be stapled together.

My standard service includes electronic delivery of the translated document. The electronic certification packet (translation, original, and certification page) is the next step up. Many institutions want “originals,” which requires hard-copy delivery; this is the service I am most often asked to provide.

When you hire me for a translation — with or without certification — you will receive a true, accurate, and complete translation. You can be sure that I will consult you if I have any questions and that I will promptly respond to all of your questions.

Art is an excellent training ground for practicing courage

Dragoslava Barzut is an author and human rights activist. She and three friends were attacked last September in a Belgrade bar by men screaming, “Lesbians, lesbians!” And instead of receding into silence, she gave a press conference about it, and called on the police to apprehend the perpetrators and on the courts to prosecute them under Serbia’s hate crimes statute.

I found out about it from an interview she gave to Autonomija, an online publication of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina. I brought the incident and interview to the attention of Words without Borders because they published my translation of one of Barzut’s poems last summer. Long story short, my translation of the interview went live this morning.

Many thanks to Susan Harris, Eric Becker, and Jessie Chaffee of Words without Borders for their support and assistance; to Nedim Sejdinović, editor-in-chief of Autonomija, for permission to translate and publish the article; and especially to Dragoslava Barzut for her inspiring words and actions.

“Art is an excellent training ground for practicing courage. . . . The decision not to remain silent about the violence was for me the most important decision. I wanted to turn the pain, that echoing silence, into action. And I think I succeeded. The decision not to be silent reinforced my desire to change reality, made me ready for change—painful but necessary change.”       —Dragoslava Barzut

Read the full interview in Words without Borders.

Belt, suspenders . . . and a few safety pins


This is a post about email. And fail-safes. And redundancies. And fail-safes.

I’ll put the moral of this story right up front: A freelancer who uses email as the primary method of receiving and sending work messages and files needs at least one back-up email account and built-in redundancy.

Because if you have just one email account and that email server goes down, then you cannot receive emails from your clients and potential clients during the outage. And if you have a “spare” e-mail account for emergency use only, then when you have an emergency, you won’t have anything to work with at that rarely used account (if you can even remember your password).

Recently one of my email servers went down for about 36 hours. It was a pain, but because I use what I call a cascading system of email forwarding, I could continue receiving and sending mesages. I did not have to ask anyone to send messages to me at a different address, and chances are no one even noticed.

I readily admit that I’m an email hoarder. I’m not as bad as I used to be — I no longer save messages that I receive from discussion lists (the kind that reside on a university server or on Yahoo or Google groups and can be accessed online) — but I’m still pretty bad. I justify saving all these messages by saying I have a bad memory. A more accurate reason is that I am never sure I won’t need that information at a later date, and so I find it easier to save the message than to make a quick decision.

But I’m not saving all these messages in my computer, and I am not plagued by an overflowing inbox. And I’m not out of luck when a server goes down. Because of my cascading system of email forwarding. Here’s how it works:

E-mail cascade

I also have an email account on Yahoo and another one on AOL, but the former is an artifact of my Yahoo Groups ID and the latter is a holdover from the 1990s. These two addresses are not part of the cascade, but can be useful when I need to provide an email address for a one-time donation or purchase or freebie.

One reason I like my cascading system is that each server has its own peculiarities of spam flagging and filtering and black- and white-listing. Onebox, as the gatekeeper, tends to filter out most of the junk. On the other hand, I like because it is a local company (their offices are just a ZIP code away from me) and because the online interface is not only plain and simple, but also customizable in dozens of ways. inbox black

I mean, it can’t get much plainer than this!

For instance, I use the SquirrelMail interface, but there’s also Twig and RoundCube. SquirrelMail itself allows you to choose a color scheme and set various other parameters.

I almost always check my messages online before downloading them into Outlook (my email management program) on my computer. I can do this because I set up Outlook so that it only sends and receives when I tell it to. The setting is in Options, under Advanced.

Send-Recive options

File > Advanced > Send and receive: Uncheck highlighted boxes for more control.

When I’m reading mail online, I often delete the messages after reading them (sometimes before reading them) — discussion list messages, store ads, event announcements, Twitter and LinkedIn blasts, and the occasional spam or scam message. I’d rather not bring all that into my computer, so I send it to the online trash bin. If I’m very busy, I can also move messages I want to read later to a “holding” folder online — that way they won’t clutter my computer inbox, but won’t get lost in the online trash folder either. I do this mostly on low-tech

The only thing is, sometimes doesn’t let everything through, and for that reason, I need to keep an eye on Onebox as well. The Onebox interface is more like an e-mail management program.

Onebox empty inbox

I find it a bit cumbersome when I’m checking mail from my phone (even when using the mobile app), but it’s fine on the computer. And I mentioned the spam filtering already.

A digression — I started using Onebox way back in 2000, when it was free. And included in that price was a voicemail and fax number. They’ve come a long way since then, but their basic service — email and a toll-free number for voicemail and e-fax — is still very reasonable.

Anyway, as you can see — empty inboxes. My Outlook inbox is not empty, but it has only the 293 most important emails of the past five years in it. Well, a combination of the most important and least categorizable.

And now we get to “the dump” — my Comcast address. Everything forwards to Comcast, which makes sense given that the storage quota is 10 gigabytes, the highest storage capacity of all my providers. For the most part, I let my messages accumulate there — currently 20,000 and counting. By some fluke (or perhaps it is a feature), although I have duplicate messages on Onebox and and both forward to Comcast, only one copy shows up in my Comcast inbox. Once in a while I have to go into the dump to find an old message — something I deleted accidentally or filed in a “safe place,” never to be found again. And once in a while I go there and sort messages by sender or subject line (say, all messages from a particular discussion list) and delete swaths of messages at a time.


Did you notice what’s different about Comcast? The ad. and Onebox don’t display advertising. Comcast, even though it is not free (we pay for cable television and Internet service) pushes ads at us, not to mention the splash screens you have to wade through to even get to your email inbox. Something else to like about and

But to get back to the point: with this cascading system of email forwarding, if one provider is on the fritz, I can find my messages at another — usually without having to ask my client or colleague to send again to a different address. If DCA goes out, I can backtrack to Onebox. If Onebox goes out, I can temporarily change my alias to point to If Comcast goes out, well, that means I probably have no Internet or even electricity, but when I get back online, my messages will be waiting for me in my Onebox and inboxes.

Just having a second email address is not enough — messages have to arrive at and reside in more than one place for multiple email addresses to function as a relatively fail-safe system.