About the Work

by Will Firth

Ivan Dodovski was born in Bitola, Macedonia, in 1974. He has spent most of his adult life in Skopje and is currently Dean of the School of Political Science at the University American College Skopje. His primary interest as an author is in drama, but he also writes poetry and short prose. His most recent book is the poetry collection Тревога (Alarm, 2020). 

“Cleaning Up” is taken from Dodovski’s short-story collection Големиот куфер (The Big Suitcase), published by Templum in Skopje in 2005. Two of its nine stories have already been published in English (as “Artist of the Revolution” and “The Giant Suitcase”), and I have also translated the book into German (Der große Koffer, Erata, Leipzig 2008).

The collection’s cover is designed to partly resemble an Orthodox death notice, and indeed, Dodovski originally wanted to call the collection All My Dead. It seems the editor talked him out of it. The stories are about the fates and deaths of figures whom Dodovski may have known—there are several biographical links—and together they paint a picture of Macedonian society in the late 20th century. Most of the stories are rich in irony and entertaining hyperbole, and they often contain bizarre, Kafkaesque twists.

“Cleaning Up” is somewhat different. As Macedonian writer Goce Smilevski points out in his postscript, it lacks the satirical, grotesque thrust of the other stories because it focuses on the life of a lonely middle-aged woman, who, unlike the protagonists in all the other stories, does not strive for power and prestige, and ultimately fall victim to that ambition.

Tellingly, “Cleaning Up” has been turned down by several editors: one, understandably, criticized the fragmentary nature of the story; for others, I think the somber tone of the piece sets it at odds with contemporary expectations of upbeatness. However, its calm, considered honesty make it my favorite story in the book; and when I told this to the author, he said it’s his favorite too! Turkoslavia’s editors presumably agree with me that it is an evocative, (meta)realistic portrayal of one woman’s mid-life crisis in a post-Yugoslav society.


Will Firth was born in Newcastle, Australia, in 1965. As a literary translator, he focuses on contemporary writing from the Serbo-Croatian speaking countries and North Macedonia. He graduated in German and Russian (with Serbo-Croatian as a minor) from the Australian National University in Canberra. He won a scholarship to read South Slavic studies at the University of Zagreb in the 1988-89 academic year and spent a further postgraduate year at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow in 1989-90. Since 1990 he has been living in Germany, where he works as a freelance translator of literature and the humanities. He translates from Russian, Macedonian, and all variants of Serbo-Croatian into English, and occasionally into German. In 2005-07 he worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Firth is a unionist and member of professional associations of translators in Germany (VdÜ) and the UK (Translators Association). His best-received translations of recent years have been Aleksandar Gatalica’s The Great War, Faruk Šehić’s Quiet Flows the Una, and Tatjana Gromača’s Divine Child.


In the Classroom