North Dakota State Professor Provides First English Translation of Sorbian Novel



October 25 – GRAND FORKS – NDSU history professor John Cox has provided the first English translation of ‘The Cherry Tree’, a novel published by Sorbian author Jurij Koch.

Sorbian is a Slavic language, closely related to Czech and Polish, spoken by an ethnic minority inhabiting the historical region of Lusatia. Lusatia includes the modern German states of Brandenburg and Saxony, and the Polish region of Lower Silesia, which borders Germany.

According to Cox, there are approximately 60,000 Sorbs residing in Lusatia. The minority status of their language was largely respected until the Third Reich, when Hitler attempted to Germanize the Sorbs in an effort to eradicate their language.

After the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, Cox says Sorbian experienced a resurgence due to state support from the new East German government.

“The new communist East German government wanted the group to recover and flourish – to show that Germany could be proud of its diversity,” Cox said. “Today many subsidies have disappeared in reunified Germany, but there are bilingual road signs and some educational opportunities in Sorbian. There are still religious services – mainly Catholic and some Lutheran – in Sorbian, plays, musical groups and various folk events. . “

Koch was born in 1936 in the Saxon village of Horka. According to Cox, Koch has been writing since the 1960s, both as a journalist and as a fiction writer. He writes in Sorbian and German.

“I translated the novel into English from German,” said Cox, who is fluent in German. “Jurij personally translates his Sorbian works into German or has the assistance of a translator.”

The novel will be published in North Dakota Quarterly, UND’s literary magazine. It is the first novel-length work to be published in the magazine since 1984, according to a UND press release.

Bill Caraher, an associate professor of history at UND and editor of the Quarterly, said the inclusion of “The Cherry Tree” will be important for the magazine.

“NDQ has long straddled the line between academic and popular works,” Caraher said in a UND press release regarding the book. “Cox’s translation of ‘The Cherry Tree’ is an excellent example of the kind of fertile ground that exists at this intersection. The short story is a serious work of literature that deserves critical appreciation, but also the kind of work accessible to a more large public. spectators.”

Interested readers can download a free digital copy of “The Cherry Tree,” through UND’s Digital Press, or purchase a paperback copy for a nominal fee.

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