Meeting the greats

Kasia Trojanowska | 9 January 2019

Day two was what we’d all been preparing for – a conference with Kazakh officials, authors and the media. It started with a quiet breakfast, but soon enough the delegates began arriving the hotel lobby was quickly filled with the buzz of journalists and camera crews.

I tiptoed past them to the conference room, where my colleagues were being interviewed already; one of our hosts said that it would be my turn in the next couple of hours – I got excited at the news, I’d never been interviewed before! At 10am we were all invited to take our seats (but which ones were ours?! All the name cards were in Cyrillic!).

The conference started and the director of the Bureau opened the conference with a speech. Over the next several hours, every team got to speak about the project, the challenges they’d been facing and the importance of the work not only for the Kazakhs, but also for the partners and the world literature at large.

Author representatives were also given the floor and we heard from several poets and poetesses, as well as prose writers. By the time lunch break was announced, we’d all felt a sense of having a common goal, of responsibility larger than the shared commitment to our partners – we’d been trusted with a national treasure.

Lunch was followed by a rare chance to interview the authors whose works we have translated and will soon begin editing. They gave their time generously and were happy to talk us through what lay in their poetry. The translators reassured them that we are all absolutely dedicated to conveying the intricacies of their words and ideas into English, and that the poems are coming along beautifully.

It was a day of making connections across cultures and languages that culminated in a sumptuous dinner hosted by our Kazakh partners. We were treated to the best in Kazakh hospitality, a four-course meal served to the accompaniment of a live ensemble of musicians from the presidential orchestra. Enraptured, we listened to their performance, at once lyrical and playful, and always virtuoso. It was a wonderful note on which to end the day.

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