Carolina Schutti. Photo © Simon Rainer
We need to look after our language, as we look after the flowers planted in our precious gardens.
The program, supported by European Union, “Creative Europe” aims to promote and popularize the translation of Modern Europian literature. Publishing house “Klio” is part of the project by implementing campaign “Get closer to literary Europe”, which shows Georgian readers The modern tendencies of European literature.
In terms of this Project it was recently translated and published a novel by the young Austrian writer Carolina Schutti “Once I must have trodden soft grass” (Einmal muss ich über weiches Gras gelaufen sein), translated from German by Ketevan Nikoladze. The work received the EU Literary Prize in 2015.
– In 2015 you have received the European literature prize, it was quite a time after that achievement, probably, from present perspective it is much easier for you to talk about the influence of that achievement on your life. What has this victory changed in your life?
– Without this award, my books would never have received the international attention I am now enjoying. There are 16 translations so far, with two more to follow in 2022. Of course, this was and is also associated with invitations to the respective countries. I am happy that I was able to get to know Europe from a completely different perspective than is possible for most people.
– The book, “Once I must have trodden soft grass” was your first novel, which has received the European prize. Georgian readers became familiar with your style especially after reading that book. What is your own suggestion, where to start, when reader is eager to get in insights of your literature?
– This novel is actually one of my most important books to date. But I can also recommend the short novella “Eulen fliegen lautlos” (“Owls fly silently”) because, like the novel, it deals with a theme of universal validity: speechlessness and isolation, but also the glimmers of hope that are so important for human beings, are themes that appear in almost all my works.
– Your novel is about woman, who does not know much about her own nature and roots, she lost her parents, her mother has passed away and father did not take the responsibility to raise her, does this story has any resemblance with your own biography?
– Well, partly it does. My mother is Polish with Belarusian roots, she comes from the conflict-ridden and historically (and linguistically) “troubled” area around Bialystok. She came to Innsbruck in a roundabout way as a young woman in the 70s. My father is the child of Polish displaced persons, he grew up in a refugee camp in Hanover, came (also in a roundabout way) to Innsbruck, where he met my mother. I am “accidentally Austrian”, if you want to put it that way. Until I was five years old, Polish was my mother tongue. Then I was forced to speak German and forgot Polish. I don’t understand a word anymore – unfortunately.
– Language and identity is crucial topic for Georgian culture and therefore for Georgian literature. For us, language is at the heart of selfhood. What is your opinion about the Globalization and it`s threats for the modern languages?
– I think that globalization is part of our modern life. We travel as tourists, leave our countries to study, to work somewhere else – and many are forced to leave their homes as refugees. Language is a part of home that we take with us. It shapes our thoughts and actions and makes up an enormous part of our identity. I think it is very important, on the one hand, to master a „lingua franca“, because good communication is the only way to a good, just and peaceful life. On the other hand, one must care for one’s mother tongue like a precious plant in the garden. In this I absolutely include dialects, minority languages or even languages that are dying out. No single language is inferior just because it is spoken by a few people!
– Many German and Austrian writer states, that there is fundamental difference between German and Austrian literatures, do you agree with this statement?
– Yes, I agree with this opinion. On the one hand, the Austrian language differs from German mainly in sound, but also in certain words or grammatical peculiarities; on the other hand, Austrian literature is in a different tradition. There is more courage to play with language, to experiment with words and forms. Of course, this does not apply to all literature – and there are of course also very “Austrian” books by authors from Germany 😉
– It can be said, that in some cases, Globalization boosts the human-solitude, this issue is quite actual in your novel, alongside with solitude you talk about fear, the feeling, which never leaves your characters. Can we consider that, these two, constructs the main plot in your novel?
– I see it the same way. People who lose their roots usually suffer from loneliness – even if they have many friends and a new family. I myself always have the feeling that I don’t quite belong, even though I was born in Innsbruck! I simply miss the grandmothers, the uncles and aunts, the stories and the graves that connect me to this place (which I love more than anything, though).
– We know that you also have musical education. How did music influence your literature?
– Music is very important for my writing. I often write “with my ears”: Language has so many different words and so many possible combinations that I often make choices based on sound. In addition, my knowledge of musical forms helps me to apply certain principles to literature. This concerns, for example, the frequency of repetitions, which I like to work with, or compositional techniques such as the fugue, the rondo, etc.
– In one of the Interview, you have mentioned, that you always try give musical sounds to your phrases. How do you consider, is it possible to keep that sounds, when we talk about the translation?
– I believe that translation is always a re-creation of the work. My translators should adopt the softness of the sound, but in details they have to find different solutions for each language. In cases of doubt, I personally always prefer to deviate from the original in favor of poetry and sound in the target language.
– I have also found, in your interviews, that you are a big fan of Mountaineering, for many, going up to the hill, is the process of finding more and more about oneself. What is your passion and interest in this hobby?
– First of all, I must say that I could not live without mountains. Two weeks in a big city and I go crazy 😉 If you live in a small town surrounded by mountains, like I do, you just have to climb to the tops to get a sense of the size of the world and see the horizon. Apart from that, mountaineering connects me with the earth. I don’t mean this in an esoteric way at all, but literally: there is no substitute for the feeling of my hands on the warm rock. Add to that the seemingly endless freedom, that independence from technology, that peace. I also love the feeling of being surrounded by something big, unimaginably old – and I am grateful for every single moment I get to spend in the mountains.
– I think, Georgia would surprise you in that matter. There are plenty of sites, which attract mountaineers from all around the world. Have you ever heard about the Georgia before?
– Of course!!! I instantly fell in love with the landscape and the culture when I first saw a documentary about this wonderful country a couple of years ago. I can’t wait to meet the Georgian people, listen to the music, get to know the literature, visit the old monasteries and the mountains, of course. Not to forget the Georgian food that must be incredibly good!
– Wish you all the success. With wait of your new book and Hope of your personal visit in our country.
– I really do hope that soon it will be possible! Stay healthy&happy!
*** We offer an exclusive interview with the writer, where she talks about her way, novel, and Georgia
More information on project activities can be found on our website: https://klio.ge/project_eu/.