Meet the ’18 Mentees: Mirgul Kali

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to facilitate and establish a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is approximately one year. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in a year’s time, and they will only be advised on that particular project. Congratulations to this year’s non-language-specific prose mentee, Mirgul Kali, who will be mentored by Madhu H. Kaza:

Mirgul Kali PhotoMirgul Kali is a native of Kazakhstan. She has a background in engineering and spent fifteen years working in the oil and gas industry. She first became involved in literary translation a couple of years ago while volunteering at the Silk Road House, an organization based in San Francisco Bay Area. At this non-profit, dedicated to promoting and supporting diverse ethnic cultural traditions, she translated Kazakh folk tales and songs for storytelling events and singing workshops. Since then, she has translated several short stories by Kazakh writers, some of which have appeared or are forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly and Asymptote Journal.

For the ALTA mentorship program, Mirgul chose to translate Kokbalaq, a novella by a prominent Kazakh writer Mukhtar Magauin, whose works are highly regarded and widely read in Kazakhstan. The novella follows a gifted musician through transformative and tumultuous events of the twentieth century (the expansion of the Russian Empire into Kazakhstan, the Soviet rule, and World War II) which cause disruption in the traditional nomadic lifestyle of Kazakh people. The book explores the role and meaning of art in the life of a man who witnesses not only obliteration of his family and wealth but also the disintegration of the very environment that allows him to practice his ancient art.

Very little of Kazakh literature has been translated into English, and most of the existing translations have been made on the basis of Russian translations. By translating directly from Kazakh to English, Mirgul hopes to offer another, possibly a more nuanced and informed interpretation of the national literature and share its rich and unique voices with the rest of the world. She is confident that the participation in the ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program will help her become a better translator and support her in her mission to promote Kazakh literature abroad.

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