PEN gave me 500 words or so to write on this topic, which I have now written many thousands of words on in this blog, so I took a slightly different tack, beginning this way:
I have been drawn since first becoming a reader to the sense of adventure that the opening pages of a long novel inevitably evoke. It is the closest equivalent I know to setting off on an actual journey. And in the last pages, if the book is good, you are tired but also elated and you want it to continue, because now you know this story, these characters, their lives, memories, and experiences. I was drawn to translation as a way of intensifying this experience, allowing greater access than a mere reader, but also, and this is crucial, giving responsibility for encouraging others to feel what I felt while reading. Miljenko Jergović’s Rod is a massive adventure with a wide scope, a novel that traces the intersections of lives, countries, and regions, from the early twentieth century to the present day. The theme of mixture is a central feature and one of the most attractive aspects of the book, an idea that is still contested in many parts of the world. Jergović’s embrace of this mixture as his heritage along with his fundamental doubt in political structures that attempt to offer ideologies of purity—ethnic, religious, or otherwise—make his an absolutely contemporary voice. At the same time, he is a writer’s writer, reflecting carefully on his work as he goes, with formal innovations and inventions.
The rest is at the PEN site.
In a series of shocking and unprecedented revelations, anonymous sources on Russia have unearthed a complex plot to influence not only the U.S. presidential election but also key senate and house races as well. The alleged plot involved hundreds of proxy voters in neighboring states to those where their illegal votes would have been cast. The individuals in question were deeply embedded–one might say surgically implanted before birth–in local communities throughout the country, posing as ordinary citizens in a wide variety of professions and occupations, from farmers and truck drivers to university economics and political science professors. These individuals, however, were allegedly only one prong of a multi-pronged attack on American governmental sovereignty and democratic culture, whose sole and single-minded aim was clearly, as one of our sources has put it, “to keep that Clinton b— out of the oval office.” The scheme, which like most things Russian, is wrapped in mystery, purportedly also involved a host of proxy servers run through dummy corporations–none of which can be traced to Clinton’s adversary–selling products and services whose names seem to lack vowels in all the places where any normal language would have them, a fact that might be explained by the possibility that the attackers were acting in collaboration with Polish and Bosnian elements.
One election-night commentator contacted for comment responded by using the word he had used almost all night long as the election results rolled in, calling it an “interesting” idea. We can be confident that what he really meant in both cases was “this is such bullshit.”