Out of Africa. To Ukraine

In our uncertain times, when in addition to many other problems we have this bloody epidemic, there seems to be nothing good. But as the Mohammedans say: "Insh Alla", that is, God's will. I used quarantine time to finish translating two wonderful books of the Danish writer Karen Blixen to Ukrainian. These are books “Out of Africa” and “Shadows on the Grass” that were not previously published in Ukrainian. It is not known if mine would be published, I have sent my proposals to several publishers, but there are many uncertainties and obstacles ahead.

Here, on the blog, everything is published much faster and easier, so I want to share with you, maybe future readers of these books, a small piece, based on the preface, or whether the epilogue I wrote for this edition:


It’s a story, that is more than a hundred years old. The author, Karen Blixen (alias Isak Dinesen) wrote it in Denmark, where she returned after twenty years of living in Kenya, where she grew coffee on her farm. “Out of Africa” is one of the best books of all time written about Africa. And after so many years, I dared to translate it into Ukrainian. This was due to a complicated coincidence of circumstances, which began, of course, with the flutter of butterfly wings somewhere in the mountains of Kenya, or maybe Ethiopia. The events unfolded further. The circumstances of Baroness Blixen are described in the book. About the circumstances on my part - you can find out by reading my blog about coffee and not only at http://gastra.com.ua/

From the blog you will understand that I have been making coffee for about the same amount of time as Karen Blixen has done. That is, among other things, we are joined by coffee. The translation of the book intertwined coffee and language, language and coffee. And Africa. And the whole world.


Wandering the paths of the distant places that Karen Blixen mentions in the book, by the end of the translation “Out of Africa" ​​I suddenly learned a wonderful thing. It turns out that when she published this book in 1937, she did not forget her characters (because they were all real people in her life), thought about them, and kept in touch with them. And shortly before the end of her life, 30 years after leaving Africa, in 1960 she published another book, “Shadows on the Grass”. In it, Karen goes even further, rethinking her additional 30 years of life experience, describing her closest African friends, and further communicating with them. I also translated this book. "Shadows on the Grass" is an even deeper, more personal letter, a kind of testament to which, besides the text, Karen Blixen included several drawings she had made in Africa. The drawings are extremely professional, yet it is not in vain that she attended art school and it is a pity we have seen so few of them. One of the drawings is very symbolic. It brings together many times and events. This is a portrait of a boy, Somali Abdullahi.


 The Abdullahi worked at her home and during the Spanish epidemic (which raged across the globe in 1918-20 and killed about 20 million people), he also became ill, but recovered and lived for a long time, becoming the hero not only Karen Blixen’s book, but also other authors. Karen painted it around 1920, the world saw this picture in 1960, when she included it in the book “Shadows on the Grass”. And now, thanks to the internet (which nobody dreamed of in the 1920s, even in the 1960s, especially in Africa), we can see Abdullahi's portrait every day. This portrait hangs at the entrance to the Karen Blixen Museum, located in her former home near Nairobi, Kenya. Everyone can go to Google Maps or Google Earth and use the "yellow man" to get to the house, even "walk" on it and see a portrait of Abdullahi, made by the hand of Karen Blixen. Moreover, the area itself is now named Karen, perhaps the most famous coffee farmer. Try it - search Google Maps for Karen, Nairobi, Kenya :)


Except  the Baroness Blixen and coffee, I want to thank those people, without whom I would not have done it. First of all, my wife Olga, with whom we seem to have recently “camped” on our way of life, but we have two rather adult children, Katya and Olga. They have successfully passed the EIT in Ukrainian, so they could reasonably criticize my Romny dialect. Also for the language, I would like to thank the teachers of Ukrainian from Romny, Olga Omelianivna and Nadiya Ivanivna, who gave me a “four” on this subject, which stimulated my entire life to learn and improve my language, striving (but not reaching it) to “five” .

 An important critic of my language in the book and my first reader became my friend and classmate Serhy Kibets. He is not a writer or an editor, but in the same Romny school # 8, by some other teacher, Serhy was nicknamed "The one who reads the books". And such a name is worth the title of at least Academician, because he reads "books", sometimes even quite thick, for fifty years. I’m also very grateful to Iryna Drobit, and Serhiy Synhaivsky, who were readers and critics of parts of my translation the book. Serhiy Synhaivsky's book “The Road to Asmara” is very important to me, assisting  me on this translation, because helped to understand Africa better and to write better.

Special thanks to my colleagues at Kofein, thanks to whom I discovered coffee of Kenya, and not only Kenya. And not just me. This is of course Kolya and Vova, without which there would be nothing at all. This is our coffee roastmaster Olexander Zatsarinny, without whom Kenya's coffee would not be understood. This is Ruslan Karelashvili, the first champion of Ukraine in coffee brewing, his Kenyan coffee inspired me to carefully read the original book “Out of Africa” and to start the translation. It is the Kofein barista (and especially Gurus like Anya Deeva, Oksana Peleshenko, Oksana Tonkoshkur, Marina Yaitska, Zlata Antonyuk, Anya Volkova, Lera Kurbatova) who make Kenya coffee such that Kenyans themselves would cry in happiness.

In the time of translating this book, thanks to the development of genetics, I received the data, that I have a fairly noticeable percentage of Scandinavian blood. That is, to some extent, Karen Blixen and I are far relatives. Our distant ancestors, once upon a time, many (1-2 thousands) years ago, took oars, pushed off the shore and went to sea. They discovered America (a little, only for themselves), saw Kyiv, destroyed Rome, were in Constantinople and reached Jerusalem. And some of their distant descendants put away oars and swords and began to grow coffee in Kenya or brew it in Ukraine.


So, finally, let me remind you, anyway you may know it, that life is too short to drink bad coffee. And not to read such a wonderful coffee book in your own language.



Serhy Zatsarinny




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