Ellen Elias-Bursać

Freelance Literary Translator and Independent Scholar
President, American Literary Translators Association
Cambridge, Massachusetts

ellen Elias-BursaćI have been working as a literary and community translator since the mid-1970s, starting when I lived in Yugoslavia (Zagreb, Croatia) from 1974 to 1990. Just a year before the war broke out in Yugoslavia, my family and I moved back to the Boston area where I'm from.

For 10 years, I taught in the Slavic Languages and Literatures Department of Harvard University as a preceptor (language instructor). When I left there, I went to work at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, where I spent a total of 6-1/2 years as a translator/reviser in the English Translation Unit.

I found the role played by translation and interpreting in the ICTY proceedings fascinating. The prosecution, defense and chambers approached the fact that translation and interpreting were involved in every exchange, document, testimony at the tribunal in different ways. When I left the tribunal in 2010, I began working on a book project about the ways translation and interpreting shaped the trials, and it was published in 2015 in Palgrave Macmillan's "Languages at War" series. Since then I have published several articles, two focused on the translation issues which arose in the trial of Radovan Karadžić.

There have been many issues of translation and international justice which I have found compelling, but it is the position of the translator/interpreter — working between the international institutions who run the courts and the witnesses whose voices are heard in trials — that interests me most. Hence, the title of my book: "Working in a Tug of War."

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