Svetlana Komogorova translating Ivanka Mogilska

Translator Note by Svetlana Komogorova

One evening, some years ago, I got a call from my friend Albena Baeva, a young and very interesting Bulgarian modern artist. She asked me to translate some short stories into English for her newest project, “Phone Call Fairytales,” an installation which included an armchair and an old dial phone, which were put at different places in the streets of Sofia. When a person sat on the armchair, the phone rang; when he or she answered it, they heard one of the 12 stories she asked some authors to write for the project. I was absolutely charmed by the idea, so I agreed without hesitation, and Albena sent me the stories. I knew some of the authors, but the stories I liked best were by a young woman by the name of Ivanka Mogilska, whose work I didn't know yet. Now she happens to be one of my favorite Bulgarian authors, as well as a friend. And I am a bit envious of those people who just sat in that armchair in the street and heard this short story of hers completely by surprise.

Music for Grandmother, Telephone and City Noise

There was a grandmother who lived in her grandson’s mobile phone. Her voice was shrill and while he listened to it, he imagined her as a little ball that jumped up and down and would burst with impatience, yearning to say more about the goats, the neighbors, this year's harvest and ... “When will you, my child, bring me a daughter-in-law, to make me happy for as long as I am alive. Look at Grandma Mita, her granddaughter just got married...”

      He concentrates on the sound of her voice: its peaks, its troughs, its fadeouts. One little jumping ball that bounced into everything she didn't understand. Like his job as a DJ. And how there could be a screen that shows the words that he writes to his mother on the other end of the world. And what was he doing at the other end of the world? It was so far away. And why does he smile when she tells him she knows what a disco is because she has been to dance parties? And she has seen the sea. How many neighbors could say the same?

      She tries to embrace everything, to understand everything, but she cannot. She loses touch with this new, cold, and quick world of buttons, cables, and women with plunging necklines. When she flies away, everything is clear to her, because then she is there: in her garden with her tomatoes, the two cats, and the goats.

      But the grandson walks the streets of Tokyo, Los Angeles, Prague, and Rome, and he carries her with him inside his phone. Her shrill voice disturbs the passers-by, that's how loud it is.

      Right now she is telling him about her uncle’s son’s cousin’s donkey. Again, the grandson isn't listening to his grandmother’s words, only to her voice. It mixes with the noise of the trams passing by on Grafa Street in Sofia and the salesmen shouting, “Warm, fresh pretzels!” And he is thinking about the music he will write: music for a telephone, city noise, and a grandmother who jumps up and down like a little ball, higher and higher towards the sky, until one day, amidst the noise of trams, planes, and advertisements, she disappears quietly into the clouds.

Музика за баба, телефон и градски шум

Имаше една баба. Живееше в мобилния телефон на внука си. Гласчето й беше пискливо и докато го слушаше, той си я представяше – малка топчица, която подскача нагоре-надолу и ще се пръсне от нетърпение, от желание да сподели още нещо за козите, съседката, тазгодишния разсад и „кога бабо, ще ми доведеш снаха, да се порадвам и аз, докато съм жива, ей тука на баба ти Мита внучка й се ожени за...”

 Съсредоточава се в звученето на самия й глас, възходите, спадовете, заглъхването. Една малка, подскачаща топка, която се блъска във всичко ново, което не разбира: професията му – ди джей; как така може да има екран, показващ думите, които пише на майка си от другия край на света и каква работа изобщо има на другия край на света? Това е толкова далече! Защо се усмихва така, като му каже, че знае какво е дискотека, защото е ходила и тя на вечеринки и е виждала морето? Колко съседки могат да се похвалят с това?

Опитва се всичко да поеме, да разбере и не може. Оттласква се от този нов, студен, бърз свят на копчета, кабели и жени с големи деколтета, и докато лети всичко й е ясно, защото тогава е в градината, при доматите, двете котки, и козите.

Внукът върви по улиците на Токио, Лос Анжелис, Прага, Рим и я носи със себе си в телефона, а малкото й пискливо гласче стряска минувачите—така силно се чува.

Точно сега тя му разказва за магарето на братовчеда на чичовия му син. Но внукът пак не слуша думите, а само бабиния глас, който се смесва с шума на трамвая, минаващ по „Графа” и виковете „Топли, пресни гевреци”. И той си мисли, че това ще е музиката, която ще напише – за телефон, градски шум и баба, която подскача като малка топка все по-високо и високо към небето и един ден, всред шума на трамваи, самолети и реклами, тихо се изгубва между облаците.

Ivanka Mogilska

Ivanka Mogilska has published four books: two novels, excerpts of which have been translated into English, French, and Hungarian; and two poetry collections, each of which has won a national award. She lives in Sofia, works as a freelance copywriter, and participates as a writer and performer in art actions and performances by Bulgarian digital artists and musicians. Her second novel, Sudden Streets, (Janet 45, 2013) will be fully translated and published in Hungary later this year.

Svetlana Komogorova

Svetlana Nikolaeva Komogorova has been working as a professional translator of the English and Russian since 1995. She was the Bulgarian nominee in 2004 and 2006 for Best Translator in the Eurocons. In 2010, her translation of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts won the Krastan Dyankov Special Award. Komogorova also works in film translation and has been one of the main translators of the Sofia International Film Festival since its first edition in 1997.