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This interview is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

In Conversation with Francis R. Jones
Necessary Humility
Tara Bergin
Francis Jones is recognised as one of Europe's foremost translators, having twice won the European Poetry Translation Prize for his translations of Ivan V. Lalić, as well as other prestigious translation awards. Currently a senior lecturer at Newcastle University, Jones's research focuses on poetry translation, especially translation processes and strategies, and how translators work together within a social-political context. In the interview below, Francis Jones discusses issues of nationalism in Serbian and Bosnian poetry, and the role of the 'co-translator' in contemporary poetic translation.

TARA BERGIN: You have said that you started translating poetry in 1970, when you became very taken with two poets, one Serbian, one Bosnian. Who were the poets?

FRANCES JONES: The Serbian was Ivan V. Lalić, whose books The Works of Love and The Passionate Measure I have translated and published with Anvil. The Bosnian was Mak Dizdar. My translations of Mak Dizdar's Stone Sleeper have just been published, also by Anvil.

Did you ever have to take sides between Serbia and Bosnia?

I think especially during the wars of the 90s it was very hard. You are dealing with emotional stuff yourself, it's very, very distressing. There's almost a three-way tension. On the one hand there's the question of which side you take in a vicious conflict. Bearing in mind the fact that staying neutral means taking a side, and if you see that it's weaker against stronger, or aggressor against victim... ...

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