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December 22, 2013

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Dragan Dragojlovic: Serbian translator of modern Chinese poet

Dragan Dragojlovic, Serbian poet and novelist, is the author of “Death’s Homeland” and translator of Chinese poet Zhao Lihong's recent collection into Serbian. His own poetry collection “Book of Love” has been translated into Chinese and recently published in October by the East China Normal University Press in Shanghai.

Q: What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

I recently read a novel by Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago titled “The Year of Ricardo Reis’ Death.” It’s dedicated to the brilliant Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. A novel with long sentences and a little unusual punctuation are the first impressions. But very fast we discover excellent style in the service of ideas, poetics and beauty. Read in one breath and the reader seems to be floating on the vast ocean of wisdom and human experience. The novel begins with the sentence: “It stops sea here and starts land.” The hero arrives by boat and lands in Lisbon, bringing a book “The God of Labyrinth,” but he doesn’t read it. His life begins to move through the Labyrinth of past and present life.

Q: What’s your ideal reading experience?

From schools days until today a good book always has given me a great pleasure. Among them are books from ancient Greece and Rome to the classics of the 19th and 20th centuries. I also add classical Chinese poetry. These were books that I wanted to read again, all or in part. For me, a good book is the one whose pages I want to turn long years after I read it for the first time.

Q: Do you have a favorite classic work of world literature?

“War and Peace,” a book for all times. ... Unfortunately, I don’t know Chinese literature well because not many novels and works were translated into Serbian. I am sure there are many excellent works, in addition to classical Chinese poetry.

Q: Who are the best writers working today?

I wouldn’t dare say. If I were to single out winners of the Nobel Prize, I would not make a mistake, but ... I am sure that in every country there are very good poets and authors. Western publishers and media often produce bestselling writers more for commercial reasons than the quality of their works.

Q: Are there any surprising books on your bookshelves?

I have many books and some could surprise, like some old or rare books. But the book in my hands perhaps might surprise you more —  Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan’s “Frogs.” I seldom have a chance to read Chinese authors in Serbian.

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood literary figure?

There are many famous heroes in the world’s childhood literature, but I want to mention a short story “Aska and Wolf” by our Nobel Prize winner, Ivo Andric (1892-1975). Aska was a nice and disobedient lamb. When this lamb separated from its mother and herd, it met a dangerous old wolf. At that moment it started to dance without stop, which bewitched wolves throughout the forest. It was the lamb’s dance for life and it survived. A very nice and instructive story for children.

Q: If you could meet any writer, dead or living, who would it be?

I would like to see Homer, Aristotle, Sophocles, Confucius, Shakespeare, ... to know more about their time and life, their dilemmas, illusions, aspirations, failures ... I have met many authors but I dare say it’s better to read their books than meet them personally. Physically, every author is only a man like every other man, but in their works you can discover the force of human spirit, the beauty of words, the width of a human soul, the energy of life which every single man needs.


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