The time frame of "Afterlives" covers the period from the last decade of the 19th century to the sixties of the 20th century, and the action takes place in the German and British colony, on the territory of today's Tanzania. Gurnah tells an unhurried story about people whose fates were irreversibly marked by the First World War, waged by empires at the expense of countless African lives. In the novel – episodic but also multilingual, full of Swahili, German and Arabic interjections – the writer tries to show the reader a fragment of less assimilated history of East Africa, especially the fate of the Schutztruppe formation (German colonial military troops – ed.), composed of the so-called askaris. Situating himself in the broadly understood postcolonial tradition, Gurnah portrays a complex ethnic, cultural and religious structure of this part of the Indian Ocean basin.
– Dr Krzysztof Majer explains the content of the novel.
Due to the complexity of the subject, the translation process required many consultations, which have been provided by prof. dr hab. Iwona Kraska-Szlenk (University of Warsaw), specialist in Swahili language, culture and literature; Dr Paweł Brudek (Warsaw Uprising Museum), author of a dissertation on German colonial troops in Africa; dr hab. Marcin Michalski (Professor at Adam Mickiewicz University Poznań), Arabist and translator from Arabic and English, and Dr Bartosz Wójcik, translator specialising in the culture of the English-speaking Caribbean and an expert in African literature.
In the fall of 2023, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie announces the publishing of another book by the Nobel Prize winner, which was nominated for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Prize – the novel “Paradise” (1994). The translation will also be prepared by Dr Krzysztof Majer.
Dr Krzysztof Majer is a member of the Polish Literary Translators’ Association. He is a two-time winner of the Literatura na Świecie Award. He was nominated for the Gdynia Literary Prize and the Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński Translation Work Award. He translated, for instance, prose by David Markson (Kochanka Wittgensteina, PIW, 2022), Michael Herr (Depesze, Karakter, 2016), Herman Melville (Benito Cereno w Nowelach i opowiadaniach, PIW, 2020), Patrick deWitt (Podmajordomus Minor, Czarne, 2016), Denis Johnson (Szczodrość syreny, Karakter, 2022), Patti Smith (Rok Małpy, Czarne, 2020), Michael Chabon (Telegraph Avenue, WAB, 2020) and two volumes of letters by Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac (Czarne, 2012, 2014). Together with Kaja Gucio, he also translated short stories by Debora Eisenberg and Bill Gaston..
Interview - Krzysztof Majer: nie ma dla literatury nic bardziej zabójczego niż świętoszkowate traktaty [Krzysztof Majer: there is nothing more deadly to literature than sanctimonious treaties] (in Polish)
Source: dr Krzysztof Majer, Faculty of Philology, University of Lodz
Edit: Promotion Centre, University of Lodz