WITmonth Q&As: Susan Curtis on Bosnia and Croatia

Throughout August, Literalab will be asking writers, translators and publishers to comment on both the women writers from their own language they most appreciate having been translated into English as well as those they would most like to see make the leap.


Susan Curtis

Susan Curtis

Susan Curtis is the founder of Istros Books, a novelist, and sometime translator of Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian into English.

Can you name one or two women writers that you are particularly grateful that they have been translated from your own languages/countries into English?

As a publisher, I can say that I am very proud and pleased to have published the translation of Alma Lazarevska’s work. The book Death in the Museum of Modern Art was published in Bosnia just after the war, and has therefore taken 20 years to get into English translation. However, this shocking length of time had nothing to do with the quality of the work or the importance of the book, but simply with the lack of interest in translations and their perceived un-commericablity.




I first came across Lazarevska’s work in the early 2000s when I was translating a number of stories from a collection of ex-Yugoslavian writers. I fell in love with the understated tenderness of her prose, which contains both the fundamentals of true feelings while also treading the knife edge between disappointment and hurt. Her writing is both soft and hard at the same time, and her stories from the war are about every day episodes which play out against a background of omnipresent horror. Although her work had been championed by a number of translators and experts on the region (Celia Hawkesworth, Cynthia Simmons) it has taken until now for it to come to an English-speaking audience. I hope that now that she has arrived, we will allow her to occupy the special place she deserves.

The second name which I would like to mention is that of Olja Savičević, whose novel, Farewell Cowboy will be published in spring next year. Like Lazarevska’s collection, it has been translated by one of the heroes of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian translation, the great Celia Hawkesworth. Olja is mostly known in Croatia as a poet, and this comes out in the beauty of her phrasing. There are such beautifully formed passages in this book, which is rather at odds with the harsh, post-communist environment which is portrayed in the story. The plot itself is a page-turner: a suicide, a beautiful gigolo, a young woman looking for the secret that changed her life….but this all rests upon the most wonderful prose and imagery. I believe that Olja is not just one of the best female writers in Croatia at this moment, but one of its top writers, full stop.


Interestingly, this book was also adapted into a play by the author and a very well-known Croatian director. You can have a look at here


Can you name one or two women writers from your own languages/countries yet to be translated into English that you would especially like to see reaching English-language readers?


From Croatia I have to mention Ivana Simić Bodrožić, also a poet and one of the few people to have the courage to write about the subject of the 1990s war with honesty and integrity.

Ed note: Simić Bodrožić is currently participating in the Lit Link festival in Croatia. You can read her bio below:

Ivana Simić Bodrožić, born in 1982 in Vukovar, attained a Master’s degree in Philosophy and

Croatian Language. She is the author of two poetry collections (Goran and Kvirin awards for

young poets), a novel and a short story collection. The novel Hotel Zagorje (2010) about

growing up during war and refugee life, was awarded (Kiklop for best prose work; Kočić

Pen/Banja Luka-BiH; Josip and Ivan Kozarac prize), translated into German, French and

Slovenian, and published in Serbia. She’s writing a script for a film based on the same work

along with award-winning Bosnian-Herzegovinian director Jasmila Žbanić. Her book of

poetry was translated into Spanish. She lives in Zagreb as an independent writer.


Read more WITmonth Q&As:

WITmonth Q&As: Megan Berkobien on Spanish+Catalan

WITmonth Q&As: Natasha Perova on Russia

WITmonth Q&As: Bogdan Suceava on Romania



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  1. WITmonth Q&As: Ágnes Orzóy on Hungary | literalab - 01/09/2014

    […] WITmonth Q&As: Susan Curtis on Bosnia and Croatia […]

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