OCA PEOPLE: CAROLINE WALTON

OCA Magazine: Tell us about yourself and your activity/work

Caroline Walton: A Londoner born and bred, I am a Russian to English translator and editor. Translation is more than just knowing two languages – the translator has to be able to write well in their own language. I am also an author of books on Russia, Ukraine and the countries of the former Soviet Union. My books have been published in The UK and the US and have won several awards.

I set up my company, Sirin Books, to help Eurasian authors prepare their work for publication in English. We offer advice, translation, editing and liaison with publishers such as Hertfordshire Press. I have translated and edited for Azerbaijani, Crimean Tatar, Kazakh, Bukharian Jewish, Russian and Ukrainian authors – all of whom have opened windows onto their cultures for me and for their western readers.

I first became interested in Russia in my teens, through reading Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I lived in Russia for a while in the early 90s and wrote a book about the experience. I write mainly non-fiction, true stories about people’s lives. For example, in 1999 I went to St Petersburg to speak to the survivors of the siege of Leningrad, specifically, people who had been singers, actors, artists, and musicians. How did their creativity enable them to transcend their circumstances? Their answers changed my life and can be read in my book The Besieged – a story of survival (Biteback Books).

My latest book My Cossack Family – meetings with remarkable people in Russia and Ukraine is a further exploration of how people were able to survive famine, the Gulag, war and nuclear disaster. The tragedies in Soviet history have been well documented; I look at the positive sides, at what can be learned. In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the messages of the subjects of my book are all too relevant today. 

The book can be ordered from sirinbooks@gmail.com

My website is www.sirinbooks.com

OCA: What is “Eurasianism” for you?

CW: I love the word ‘Eurasia’. From the perspective of this small island it brings images of grassy plains, baking desserts, stern mountain ranges and fabulous cities, homes to a myriad of different cultures. Eurasianism is a bridge that spans these cultures, bringing them together while celebrating their uniqueness.

OCA: Who are your favourite artists?

CW: For me art must point to deeper spiritual truths. I love mugham music for example, and the textile art of Uzbekistan, early Russian icons…

In the ECG it has been a great privilege to meet not only writers but also Eurasian women and men who work in all kinds of media. For example I love Guli Bost from Kyrgyzstan and her felt art. I would never have believed it to be possible to create such beauty with felt.

OCA: Have you taken part in the events of the Eurasian Creative Guild (London)?

CW: I meet regularly with ECG members in London and attend ECG literary festivals. 

OCA: What does the Eurasian Creative Guild mean to you, and how did it affect your creativity / activity?

CW: The ECG is a brilliant concept. Besides introducing me to the art and literature of many different countries in the region it brings enormous possibilities for meeting fellow creative people, women and men whom I might not encounter in the normal course of life. 

OCA: Do you have any personal projects that you would like to talk about?

CW: At the moment I am working on getting my books translated and published in Russia. I would be happy to have them translated into other languages of the region too.

OCA: What projects have you participated in and in which do you plan to participate?

CW: The literary festivals. In October 2019 the ECG held a launch for my latest book My Cossack Family – meetings with remarkable people in Russia and Ukraine (Sirin Books). The responses of members of the audience were very moving. They reminded me of why I write.

OCA: What would you wish for the members of the ECG, just starting their career?

CW: Believe in yourself, your talent and inspiration. Keep to your path. Stay true to your heart.