Image says "Ooligan's Translated Titles" and features the covers of the four books.

A Blast from the Past: A Look at Ooligan’s Prior Translated Titles in Preparation for The French Sci-Fi Project

We are so excited for Ooligan’s first translated anthology, the French Sci-Fi Project, to publish next Spring. In preparation for this exciting project, we thought it would be nice to spotlight some of the past translated titles that Ooligan has published. The following books were translated from Croatian and published by Ooligan Press within the period of 2001-2008.

  • The Survival League by Gordon NuhanovićIn The Survival League, Gordon Nuhanović delves past Croatia’s post-war politics and focuses on its people struggling to heal old wounds and create new lives. Through Nuhanović’s natural storytelling voice, we hear the stories of survivors, not only of war, but of life and its challenges. The Survival League’s humanity is universal, but a brief history of Croatia and an author’s note about the origin of each story create a firm cultural context for the English-speaking world. The book is not only an ironic glimpse into the limits of human endurance but also a lesson in modern Croatian culture.
  • Zagreb, Exit South by Edo PopovićThis book tells a story of hope by offering stories of multiple, diverse characters living in post-war Croatia. Zagreb, Exit South is a deep, melancholy book about the resignation of the forty-year-old and about people who have given up on life—who can only exist on the street or in bars because they fear and dread going home to their high-rise caverns in New Zagreb where the rules of an allegedly organized world reign. But Popovic’s characters have no patience with the lies of this world. They have no patience because they have neither homes nor a homeland: they have lost all their illusions.
  • American Scream: Palindrome Apocalypse by Dubravka Oraić TolićWhat is America? For renowned Croatian poet Dubravka Oraic Tolic, it is “what is born from our dreams without our knowing.” As Columbus’ dream of reaching India was interrupted by the discovery of a new land, we too discover unexpected lands in pursuit of our dreams. These new lands are the reality of our hopeful voyages. “American Scream” explores the tension between a nation’s dream of freedom and the outworking of that dream. “Palindrome Apocalypse” explores the history of the twentieth century, beginning with the October Revolution of 1917 and ending with the bombing of Zagreb in 1991—a shadow of apocalypse. Here the exceptional poem is presented side-by-side with the Croatian so the reader can appreciate the amazing palindromic verse.
  • Do Angels Cry?: Tales of the War by Matko MarušićIn 1991, war broke out in Croatia. Matko Marušić’s short stories offer a human perspective on the war that is not told in history books. Each story illuminates the love and dedication the Croatian people have for their country, and their struggle to find purpose and meaning in the midst of tragedy. Matko Marušić’s other writings include a novel–a collection of short stories for children–and two additional collections of short stories for adults. Do Angels Cry? Tales of the War was originally published in Croatia and Great Britain in 1996. A preface, written by Dr. Stanimir Vuk-Pavlovic, has been added for the American edition.

What’s going on with the French Sci-Fi Project?

The French Sci-Fi team just finished up working on our fundraising campaign. Thanks to everyone who donated, we were able to raise $1,965 to cover the cost of rights and translation fees! We are so grateful for your support! Now that we are done working on campaign promotion, we have been getting back into working on marketing. We are currently finishing up our marketing plan, and starting the branding brief. This step in the process is all about creating the book’s cohesive branding that we will use to market the book going forward. Some fun things moving forward include beginning the cover design and editorial processes starting next term. Stay tuned for more exciting updates soon!

International Books: Translating For The English Audience

When you’re translating a book into another language, how do you keep it from getting . . . lost in translation?

I asked two translators about their process as well as some of the challenges they face while working with literary translations.

Ági Bori specializes in Hungarian translation and Aishwarya Marathe is one of the student translators working on the upcoming French translation project: Continuum: French Science Fiction Short Stories at Ooligan Press.

Q: In your own words, what does a literary translator do?

Aishwarya: Typically you translate from the source language or langue de départ (the language that a text is originally written in) into the target language or langue d’arrivée (your native or L1 language), which for me would be from French to English. Translating an English science fiction story into French would certainly pose its own set of challenges.

Ági: Generally speaking, translators often are working with a text in order to translate it into the English language. But in my opinion, translators are heroes of the literary world in that they try to present underrepresented works to the English speaking audience.

Q: Whenever you’re translating a text, what kind of goals do you aim for in the translation process?

Ági: I try to figure out the style and voice of the author, and I also consider the rhythm, syntax, and the pace of their writing style. Then, I try to mimic that without making it sound like it’s a translation. Translators have a lot of freedom, but at the same time, it’s important not to abuse that freedom. The goal is keeping the original style to the best of your ability, and still reflecting it in another language so that it comes across as the author intended.

Aishwarya: The big idea in my head when I translate is to guard the original French meaning and tone, while at the same time making it appropriate to an English reader. I want the same framework of meaning to be conveyed to the reader.

Q: How closely do you stick to the original text?

Ági: In the beginning I was very much sticking to the text. Now I give myself a lot more space and a lot more freedom. A sentence could, for example, not look like the original at all. It might not even have the same words in it, but it has the same meaning.

Aishwarya: I’ve been erring on the side of not changing what’s already there. For example, in “Inside, Outside” there was a line in the story where one character is calling another character a minus, which is a French term that doesn’t quite have an English equivalent. So I chose the word that felt the closest, and who knows? Another translator may have gone a different direction, but I decided against diving into it and making something more out of it. As a translator, you don’t need to invent meaning, you’re just making sure you’re putting it through the barrier of the languages without too much change.

Q: Are there any tools you consistently rely on to help you do your job?

Ági: The thesaurus is my best friend! Even though we humans have a huge vocabulary and you can know nine out of ten words are in the back of your mind, sometimes only one is present at the time. But then you check the thesaurus and you’re like, oh, yeah, of course this would be better.

Aishwarya: A native French speaker sitting next to me the whole time would be a really nice idea! But that’s sadly not usually the case. I try to make sure that I’m not just referencing a single dictionary or source, especially when I come across words that seem to have more than one context.

Q: I’ve never considered what the workload is like for a translator. How much time does it take to translate a manuscript?

Ági: I like to calculate how much time it’s going to take, so usually it’s about one to two hours per page initially, and then maybe half an hour to go over that, and then another half an hour to go over it again. So you spend, depending on the length of the book, maybe a thousand hours translating it all.

Q: What do you consider the most important aspect of the translation process?

Ági: I think the most important thing is that you need to fall in love with the book—the text, its origin, its content—because you’ll be working on it for a long time, and if you don’t love it, it can become somewhat dry.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part?

Aishwarya: I think—beyond developing language skills from working with words at a very fine level—I think what’s rewarding is at the end, seeing the story in front of you and knowing that this text is now accessible to somebody who otherwise would have been completely closed off to it because of the language barrier.

five book covers on a starry sky background

Sci-fi in Translation

Here at Ooligan we’ve been working on our newest project, the French Sci-Fi Project, a collection of science fiction short stories translated from French, in partnership with PSU’s Language department. We’re excited to expand our horizons into the international scene with this new book and hope that we can continue to publish books in translation in the future.

But for now, if you’re interested in looking past the horizon on your bookshelf into international waters, here’s a list of five science fiction books that have been translated into English from a range of languages including Chinese, German, and Italian. In this list you’ll find mystery, aliens, challenged humanity, and international influence, giving anyone who’s just coming into science fiction a little breathing room to start their journey into the unknown.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

If you’re looking for the next science fiction world to dive into with a series, look no further than Cixin Liu’s Hugo Award winning book, The Three-Body Problem. In this first book of the trilogy, you’ll be introduced to the Chinese Cultural Revolution as the military sends signals out into the universe for signs of alien life. The reply? An alien race looking for a new home. Will they succeed in invading our planet with the help of a few of our own? Or will humanity come together to fight back against a global invasion? Pick up the whole series to find out!

The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver

As the French Sci-Fi Project inspired this list, it’s only natural that another short story collection be included, and Italo Calvino’s The Complete Cosmicomics, originally published in Italian in 1965, made the cut. Though Calvino originally published the stories in Italian, he later would publish these short stories in a literary magazine in Cuba, his native country, as well. The stories explore natural phenomena and the origins of our universe, with readers calling Calvino’s writing “nimble and often hilarious.” If you’re looking to think outside of the realms of our reality, pick up this collection!

The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke, translated by Ross Benjamin

As a winner of the Harrison Award for international achievements in science fiction, any of Jeschke’s works could be included in this list, but it was The Cusanus Game that won him the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis, a highly regarded German science fiction literary award. The novel, published in 2005, follows a biologist during the aftermath of nuclear fallout in Northern Europe. Jeschke serves up Fallout with a time traveling twist that captures readers interest until the end. Pick this book up if you’re ready to get back to the roots of the science fiction genre while keeping your feet (and the protagonist’s) firmly planted on our home planet.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

An international bestseller from Murakami, one of Japan’s most successful authors, 1Q84 is for anyone who enjoys The Matrix and has been diving too deeply into “ShiftTok” and the concept of reality shifting. The main character enters an alternate reality at the suggestion of a taxi driver. As the two main characters’ timelines overlap throughout the dystopian society, it reveals just how connected everything is. While lighter on the science fiction tropes, this book is sure to please anyone looking for a heartfelt story of human connection.

The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn: One More Last Rite for the Detective Genre by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, translated by Josh Billings

Want an Agatha Christie mystery novel with some Russian sci-fi humor? Look no further than the writings of the Strugatsky brothers and The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn. For at least three decades the brothers were the most popular science fiction writers in Russia, and the most influential Russian science fiction writers in the world. The novel reads like a Hercule Poirot mystery when the lead detective’s ski vacation is rudely interrupted by a dead body and mysterious events start happening around the chalet. This book, like the last, is for those who want a genre bend to their sci-fi, and want to be sitting on the edge of their seats to find out what happens next.

Add these five international science fiction titles to your list now, and be ready to dive into the world of French science fiction when Ooligan releases the French Sci-Fi Project in Spring 2024!