Author of the Month

You spent three years with Eva Hudecová and Mark Lencho translating ‘Danube in America’. How did that process work and what you have learned from the undertaking?

Well, to put it right, two of them were translating, I was just occasionally commenting and answering their questions.  They did an awesome job. I deeply appreciate their work and passion for it. I love translating, and that’s why I also understand how difficult and demanding the job is. They both have a deep respect for my original text and a deep love of their language of origin, and always managed to find an equivalent. Through this translation, my language was enriched, and my world as well. And I had a chance to meet two wonderful people. They are my underpaid and unsung heroes.

Michal Hvorecky talks to The Missign Slate about working with translators, writing and working in Bratislava.

How to improve the teaching of literature?

The Centre for Education Methodology, the institution in charge of developing school curricula, has asked for my views on teaching literature at secondary schools. Having visited scores of gymnasiums and other types of schools across the country over the past few years, I expressed my views openly and critically. Surprisingly enough, the Centre’s staff agreed with everything I said – changes in the way language and literature are being taught Slovakia are proceeding too slowly or not at all. Here are my suggestions on how to change this state of affairs:

1. Stop the orthodox emphasis on (mostly) outdated textbooks and instead make full use of newly developed readers that haven’t reached most schools even though their quality is high. To put it simply: read literature first and theorize later.

2. In the era of Google and Wikipedia put to rest our legendary obsession with encyclopaedic knowledge. What this has meant in practice is that the students swot up on where and when Baroque writer Hugolín Gavlovič was born and died, without ever reading a single one of his poems and discovering that his humour might actually appeal to them.


Transylvania on a slippery slope

Slovak jingoists can be very vocal when it suits them but for some reason, you don’t hear them protesting against the abolishing of Slovak tuition at universities abroad. As a result of budget cuts at the Slovak Ministry of Education, thirteen universities abroad will be losing their Slovak lectors.

In France, for example, where until recently it was possible to study Slovak language and literature to degree level at three universities, this option will not be available for much longer.

This is another absurd austerity measure, which will result primarily in a further drop in the number of literary and other translations. Their number is negligible as it is, and German translations of Slovak texts are usually done by Bohemists who are offered many more opportunities and support.

Unfortunately, the teaching of the Slovak language at primary and secondary schools in friendly foreign countries does not seem to fare much better either. At the end of April a visiting teacher of Slovak in western Romania invited me to spend some time with the Slovak minority living there.