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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

‘Orwell could have been writing about Zimbabwe’: Petina Gappah on translating Animal Farm into Shona

nullThe Book of MemoryAn Elegy for EasterlyZimbabwean author Petina Gappah was interviewed by Literary Hub recently.

Gappah’s 2009 short story collection, An Elegy for Easterly, won the Guardian First Book Award. The Switzerland-based author was in South Africa last year, as a guest of the Open Book Festival, to talk about her new novel, The Book of Memory.

She chatted to Literary Hub about her relationship with Zimbabwe, being an outsider, and translating George Orwell’s Animal Farm into Shona.

Read the interview:

JP: Memory writes in English, the language of her education, but wishes she could write in her family’s language, Shona. Is that also true for you?

PG: It’s my biggest regret. The colloquialisms, the idioms the veins of a language, not just the surface—that’s what I don’t have. In a way I feel something was lost in me, and over the years I’ve tried to get it back.

One thing I love is translation. I’ve been doing a project with some friends to translate Animal Farm into Shona. It’s finished, and we’re going to try and get a Zimbabwean publisher to put it out. It’s really eerie to read it in Shona, because you can see just how much Orwell could have been writing about Zimbabwe: this wonderful, ideal revolution that is then poisoned, and the people who are supposed to be the leaders become the replacement oppressors.

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