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Friday, 7 August 2015

Mima Simić - Women (Not) In Translation

Image courtesy of Word Express
Yesterday I reviewed the “genderless” work from Anne Garréta, “Sphinx”, a book which has created quite a lot of debate on social media about “LGBT literature”. I think it is probably timely that I revisit an incident which occurred back in 2011 relating another “genderless” work, Mima Simić’s short story “My Girlfriend”.

Simić graduated from the Zagreb Faculty of Philosophy with a degree in Comparative Literature and English Language and Literature, and holds a Masters in Gender Studies from the Central European University in Budapest. As well as being a writer and translator, she is a cultural, gender and film theorist and has “had numerous short stories published in Croatian and international literary magazines and similar publications such as Zarez, Vijenac, Quorum, Fantom slobode, Godine, Plima, Libra, Akt, Jutarnji list, Chroma Journal,, Studium, Literatura etc. Her stories have been included in several Croatian and international anthologies, such as Ekran stories, Queer stories, Best Croatian Stories of 2005, Na Trećem trgu – Anthology of New Short Story in BiH, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Gradske priče,and record stories and translated into English, German, Polish and Slovenian.” (Word Express) She is a member of the editorial team of Sextures, E-Journal for Sexuallities, Culture and Politics, and on the editorial board for Ekviva – the regional women’s web portal. Voted best Croatian film critic in 2008, in 2011 she was named LGBT Person of the Decade, honouring her long contribution to the struggle for LGBTIQ rights in Croatia. A five page article, title “Pride and Prejudices – Confessions of an LGBTIQ Activist” about the LGBT movement in Croatia, written by Mima Simić can be found here 

Dalkey Archive Press release a yearly collection of “Best European Fiction” and in their 2011 edition a short story by Mima Simić called “My Girlfriend” appeared. From Croatia, Simić also translates works into both English and Croatian and translated her own short story. She sent her translation to her American professor of creative writing prior to submitting it to Dalkey Archive Press.

Without having to purchase a copy of the Dalkey Archive collection, you can read the short story “My Girlfirend” here , however there is one massive difference. In the Dalkey Archive collection the “editor” changed the story, allegedly without Simić’s consent. As Simić later pointed out, “gender/sex ambiguity is one of the thematic pillars of my story, this benevolent editorial intervention (which made the narrator a man and the relationship heterosexual!!) completely changed my story, its aims and effects.” What was originally written as a genderless love-story (although Simić is proudly lesbian) has allegedly been changed by an editor to be a heterosexual love-story. Personally I find that absolutely scandalous, that “reader bias” I referred to yesterday where we naturally take the path of our own preconceptions when there is no clearly defined path, has surely bubbled to the surface here.

Simić has written a wonderfully eloquent and detailed description of her experience of having a genderless love story changed to being a heterosexual love story, which you can read at the Three Percent website

Unfortunately the thirty-two responses to Mima’s letter have since been disabled, and therefore a possible reply from Dalkey Archive themselves could have been in the responses, however as we are in “Women In Translation Month” and since I have just reviewed a “genderless” love story, I thought I was worthwhile bringing up the old news from 2011. One to ponder.

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