The Czech Embassy in the Philippines finally launched the first output of its participation in a joint translation exchange program initiated by the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) in 2014.
At the 37th Manila International Book Fair at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olša Jr. and KWF Chairman Virgilio Almario unveiled Sa Praga: Mga Piling Tula by great Czech author Jaroslav Seifert.
The book launch took place shortly after Filipino literary pieces from the late 19th century to the early 21st century were translated and published at Czech’s literary monthly called Plav. The August 2015 issue entitled “Literatura ng Pilipinas” was successfully launched in Prague.
The said efforts of the Czech Embassy show Olša’s avid support for the arts even as he has only held his position for a year.
In an interview with The Manila Times, the envoy said, “I want to put focus on the arts because it makes a difference in a country. I also feel that supporting the arts will bring together the different cultures of our countries, which is why I wanted to take part in this literary project.”
National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario acknowledged Ambassador Olša’s efforts as he said, “I am very happy that among the 10 embassies I wrote to last year regarding the commission’s translation program, Ambassador Olša was first to respond. What is nicer is that immediately after he responded he really involved us in frenetic activities to finish the project within this year.”
The Czech ambassador for his part recalled, “When I met with Chairman Almario, we found out we share a common goal. And when you share something in common, it’s easier to go on from there.”
A series of meetings resulted in a project that will translate three Filipino titles into Czech and three Czech titles into Filipino.
Asked why they began with Seifert’s poems first, Olša replied, “It was an idea of Chairman Almario’s because he had translated the author years ago. He asked if it will be possible to do so in Filipino and I told him it will be quite difficult because Seifert is the only Noble Prize winning Czech writer. Still, we agreed to do it and planned how to arrange for the rights of the books for translation.”
Almario added, “The ambassador considered it as his personal project. He did all the networking and talking to private individuals from the Czech Republic to get us started.”
The ambassador considers Seifert an “important writer in a global sense,” as Sa Praga carries the poem, “Left Wing, erotic, Avant-Garde, and human rights.”
The collection was translated by group of young poets LIRA (Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo) led by Roberto Anonuevo and Gian Lauro Abrahan 5th.
Asked about the next titles and authors whose works will be translated into Czech, Olša said he personally prefers an anthology of Filipino short stories.
“I think it’s quite difficult [to choose just one Filipino author]for translation. Because when the literature is not quite well known [to another country], it needs to have a wider selection. That is why the anthology must also be balanced. We must decide well which names or topics should be there,” Olsa explained.
In return, Almario hopes to translate an entire Filipino novel to Czech. He shared, “I have two novels in mind. One by the latest National Artist, Francisco Lazaro called Ilaw sa Hilaga; the other is Edgardo M. Reyes’ Sa Kuko ng Liwanag.”