CROSSING LANGUAGE BARRIERS
A World of Literature
Based in Sussex in England, Ojay Dagistan runs an online bookstore from her home. Her bookstore, 7 Pages UK, specializes in translated works: adult world fiction, children’s world fiction, and bilingual children’s books.
Dagistan studied postcolonial literature at the university and holds a master’s degree in creative writing. She was shocked to discover how much of world literature was not being published in an English translation.
“For my master’s degree, I was writing a story about an orphan in London who travels to Istanbul in search of her Turkish parents. My literacy level in Turkish was very basic at the time, so I was desperately in need of translated works,” she explains.
“It was almost impossible to find novels written by Turkish authors that had been translated into English.”
ANOTHER REASON for starting an online bookstore was to serve Dagistan’s three daughters. She is trying to raise bilingual children, which is difficult because she is the sole speaker of her mother tongue in the family.
“I couldn’t find dual-language books without having to trawl the internet for hours, so I decided to contact a local publisher, Milet, about selling their cute and colorful bilingual books online,” Dagistan says.
“It all started from the need to have access to translated works in English and dual-language books through a single bookstore.”
ELENA FERRANTE is one of Dagistan’s absolute favorite authors. Her books are more than family sagas: they offer insight into Italian society and politics, class, sex, motherhood, and being a woman.
“Translator Ann Goldstein has given the world a gift in Ferrante’s works. In her books, Ferrante offers a master class in creative writing. When you sit down to read, you fidget not with discomfort but with the truth.”
DAGISTAN HAS A BACKGROUND in teaching English for speakers of other languages. Her ultimate dream is a bricks-and-mortar bookstore specializing in translated works.
“I believe that book shopping should be an experience and a day out for book lovers. I love a coffee or a glass of wine when I am reading, so that is the vibe I would be going for,” Dagistan says.
In her bookstore, she would love to run creative writing classes for writers whose first language is not English.
“I would also hold open-mic sessions, but only for translated writers. They would read in their language first and then in English.”
THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY is becoming increasingly fast-paced: last season’s books are ancient history. Dagistan, however, does not consider books to have a shelf life or expiry date.
“The year a book was published is insignificant. That’s why I love books: they are timeless treasures,” Dagistan says.
She has translated some poetry from Turkish into English for her own pleasure, and has published a few translations on social media.
“I would love to translate more and find a Turkish writer whose work deserves to be read in English so that they can reach a wider audience. In short, my dream is to be the Ann Goldstein to an Elena Ferrante.”
DAGISTAN DESCRIBES the translation process beautifully: maintaining the tone of the piece is essential.
“The author’s voice has to remain at the core of the translation; otherwise, it would be an unauthentic story. Contained within that voice is the culture and history of the native tongue,” she explains.
“There are challenges too: some words don’t have any equivalent meaning in English, and vice versa. It falls to an expert linguist to overcome language barriers by using their intuition and creativity and by remaining true to the heart of the story.”
Based on an interview by Katie Brownfiel
New Terrain Press 2021. All rights reserved.