Nordic literary salon online: Sovietistan

Our guest for November is the translator from Norwegian, Daniela Mrázová. She is going to introduce Erika Fatland’s Sovietistan, a reportage book from the former Soviet republics Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

The event is streamed live on our Facebook page on Monday November 8, 8 PM. All the online events are later available on our YouTube channel.

In Czech. Free admission, no registration needed.

Sovietistan (published in Czech translation by Kniha Zlín in 2021) – Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan liberated from the Soviet Union in 1991. Though they are new to modern statehood, the region itself is rich in ancient history, culture, and landscape unlike anywhere else in the world. Travelling alone, Erika Fatland is a true adventurer in every sense. In Sovietistan, she takes the reader on a compassionate and insightful journey to explore how the Soviet heritage has influenced these countries, with governments experimenting with both democracy and dictatorships.

In Kyrgyzstani villages, she meets victims of the tradition of bride snatching; she visits the huge and desolate Polygon in Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union tested explosions of nuclear bombs; she meets shrimp gatherers on the banks of the dried-out Aral Sea; she witnesses the fall of a dictator. She travels incognito through Turkmenistan, a country that is closed to journalists. She meets exhausted human rights activists in Kazakhstan, survivors from the massacre in Osh in 2010, and German Mennonites that found paradise on the Kyrgyzstani plains 200 years ago. Readers learn how ancient customs clash with gas production and witness the underlying conflicts between ethnic Russians and the majority in a country that is slowly building its future in nationalist colours.

Once the frontier of the Soviet Union, life follows another pace of time. Amidst the treasures of Samarkand and the brutalist Soviet architecture, Sovietistan is a rare and unforgettable adventure.

Erika Fatland (*1983) is a Norwegian anthropologist and writer who has written multiple critically-acclaimed books, including Sovietistan and The Border. Fatland was born in Haugesund, Norway and studied at the University of Oslo and the University of Copenhagen.

She is best known for her travel writing and has written several books: Her first travel book Sovietistan, published in 2015, was an account of her travels through five post-Soviet Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

This was followed by The Border: A Journey Around Russia Through North Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and the Northeast Passage, an account of her travels around Russia’s border, from North Korea to Norway.

Daniela Mrázová (*1976) studied Norwegian, French and Latin at the faculty of Arts of Masaryk University in Brno. She also studied at the Universities of Oslo and Agder. After her studies, she has worked at Masaryk University, the Danish Embassy in the Czech Republic and within the Czech Presidency of the EU translation team. She teaches Norwegian, translated from Norwegian and Danish and edits translations done by her colleagues. She is a member of the Czech Translators of the North and Elg.

The partner of the event are the Czech translators of the North – an organisation uniting the translators from the Nordic languages in the Czech Republic. The event is a part of a year-long project of the Scandinavian House: “Nordic literature in the heart of Europe 2021” that has been supported by Prague municipality and the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.