Tajik Folklorist’s Memoirs–Translation in Progress

Stories from the Land of Springs (Dushanbe, 1996) is the memoir of one of Tajikistan’s most prominent 20th-century folklorists. Rajab Amonov (1923-2002) describes his boyhood in the northern Tajikistan city of Uro Teppa. The book’s attraction lies in its both cultural and historic value. As a folklorist, Amonov details cultural practices still observable in many parts of Tajikistan. Written in the late 20th century, the account also discloses Amonov’s perspective on the changes that took place during the early years of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Amonov knew the value of story, so his descriptions are couched in engaging narratives.

A first edition was published in 1976 under a different title. Stories from Chashmasor came out in 1995, with additional chapters and some alterations to the early ones. It is provocative to speculate on Amonov’s motivation for the additions and changes. The stories also reveal the inevitable limitations of his perspective–male, academic, northern, highly influenced by Soviet ideology (as he acknowledges), but not blind to all Soviet abuses.

I am particularly interested in experimenting with domestication and foreignization. To what degree does a smooth translation disguise the unique qualities and setting of the original, and how much local and linguistic flavor can be retained without alienating target-language readers?

I want to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of professors Ruzi Ahmadov and Dil Shod Rahimov at the Rudaki Institute of Languages and Literature in Dushanbe in clarifying points of language and cutlure for me in the process of translating Stories from Tajiki.

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