Tag Archives: Dorota Masłowska

Hello! Przerwa skończona!

Yes, the hiatus is over! The past 5 weeks have seen, among other things, preparations for three Polish Cultural Institute events here in New York City:

the Institute’s season opener at Symphony Space on September 11, which featured readings by Polish poet Piotr Sommer and American poet Christian Hawkey and a performance by members of the New York-based ensemble The Knights of recent works by Lisa Bielawa and Jeffrey Lependorf (works composed as settings of poems by Hawkey and Sommer respectively)…

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the Polish Cultural Institute booth at the 4th Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 13 (which featured an informal reading by Jacek Dehnel, the author of the acclaimed novel Lala and editor of Six Polish Poets, and a book signing by Alex Storozynski, author of The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution)…

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photos: A. Grenda

…and our first session of the European Book Club, at which both newcomers and seasoned aficionados of European literature in translation discussed Jerzy Pilch’s The Mighty Angel, recently published by Open Letter Books, together with Open Letter publisher Chad Post, who came down from Rochester to talk with readers.

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The rest of the autumn will be awash with Polish culture — see the Polish Cultural Institute’s website for more details and consider subscribing to the newsletters if you haven’t already. Be sure not to miss the debut performance in the U.S. of work by celebrated Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn (Thursday, October 1, at Symphony Space; the concert will be preceded by a conversation with Mykietyn and Cuban-American composer Tania Leon) and the dissident Theatre of the Eighth Day‘s return to the U.S. with their famous production Wormwood, which will be performed at Yale University November 5-7 and at the Abrons Arts Center in New York City November 11-15.

As for upcoming literary events, make sure to mark your calendar for the following:

October 6-7: After Kapuściński: The Art of Reportage in the 21st Century — a public conversation on the ins and outs of long-form and literary journalism with leading authors of the genre (these include Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Suketu Mehta, and Lawrence Weschler, as well as Wojciech Jagielski and Paweł Smoleński). The event is cosponsored with the National Book Critics Circle, the New York Institute for the Humanities, and the new Literary Reportage concentration of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU.

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November 3-4: Polish Poetry Now: Bożena Keff, Marzanna Kielar, Tomasz Różycki, and Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki will read at the new Poets House in New York on Wednesday, November 4, following a discussion there the night before with translators Benjamin Paloff and Bill Johnston; on Thursday, November 5, they will read and discuss their work together with translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones at Harvard University. Check back here and at the Polish Cultural Institute website for more details.

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November 10: As part of the Performing Revolution in Central and Eastern European festival that the New York Public Library is organizing, there will be a book party at Idlewild Books in New York for The Wall in my Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain — a Words without Borders anthology published by Open Letter Books. Polish author Dorota Masłowska will read, together with Romanian poet Dan Sociu and German author Kathrin Aehnlich; New York University professor Eliot Borenstein will moderate.

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Hope to see you at any or all of these events!

Andrzej Mandalian nominated for Gdańsk’s new European Poet of Freedom Award

Andrzej Mandalian has been nominated as the Polish contender for the City of Gdańsk‘s “European Poet of Freedom Award.” The administration of this award, of which this will be the first iteration, seems to be a bit complicated. The award was established two years ago; the poets from the other seven countries were nominated one year ago; it’s taken a year since then to winnow out a Polish candidate from among six Polish nominees, and the award will be conferred a year from now in 2010. Awards are such fascinating cultural rituals, and I’m sure the circumstances of this one are especially so. Here’s a list of the actors:

The Jury:

Ryszard Krynicki (Head of Jury), major poet of the New Wave, co-publisher with his wife of the Kraków-based house Wydawnictwo A5, one of the strongest publishers for poetry in Poland.

Paweł Huelle, fiction writer and resident of Gdańsk, author of Who Was David Weiser?, Mercedes Benz, Castorp, and The Last Supper.

Agnieszka Holland, acclaimed major film director since the 1970s (Provincial Actors, A Lonely Woman, Europa Europa), also known in the U.S. for having directed episodes of The Wire. What many people do not know here is that Holland is also a translator from Czech (Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, among other books).

Dorota Masłowska, best-selling author of Snow White and Russian Red and The Queen’s Peacock.

Krzysztof Pomian, eminent philosopher and historian, dissident in the 1970s and exile in France in the 1980s, where he worked with the journal Kultura. Since 2001, Director of the Museum of Europe in Brussels.

Stanisław Rosiek, literary historian, founder and publisher of the excellent Gdańsk-based humanities publisher słowo/obraz terytoria.

Andrzej Seweryn, acclaimed stage and film actor (Without Anaesthesia, The Silver Globe, Schindler’s List, Pan Tadeusz). Seweryn gave an acclaimed staged reading of Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz in Gdańsk last year.

Andrzej Jagodziński, former Director of the Polish Cultural Institute in Prague, translator from Czech (of Vaclav Havel among others), reporter for Gazeta Wyborcza, editor for Literatura na świecie.

With a jury as exciting as this, who needs prizewinners? Never fear, the nominees are no less fascinating. They’ve been chosen from eight different European countries (seven of which will be different every time the award is given — which at this rate will be once a decade — with Poland always being the eighth country). This time the award will be given for a book published in 2006-2007. The objective of the award is the “commendation and promotion of works of poetry that treat of one of the most important of present-day topics, freedom, and at the same time are characterized by artistic excellence.”

The nominees:

Belarus
Уладзiмер Арлоў (Uladzimir Arlou, b. 1953) for his book Паром празь Ля-Манш (A Ferry Across La Mancha). Arlou is a noted opposition poet and literary historian and Head of the Belarusan PEN Club.

Cyprus
Άνδρος Ζεμενίδης (Andros Zemenides, b. 1973) for his book Απ’ τατρίατομεγαλύτερο (The Greatest of Three). Poet, novelist, and screenwriter, Zemenides was born in England to a Cypriot father and Polish mother and lives in Limassol, where he works as a teacher.

France
Emmanuel Hocquard (b. 1940), for his book Conditions de lumière. Élégies. Author of over 17 books of poetry, many of which have been translated into English (by Lydia Davis, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Michael Palmer, among others).

Serbia
Marija Knežević (b. 1963), author of over 7 books of poetry and fiction, for her book Uličarke (Streetwalkers).

Slovakia
Ivan Štrpka (b. 1944), for his book Tichá ruka. desať elegií (Quiet Hand: Ten Elegies). One of the most important contemporary Slovak poets, translator from Spanish, Chief Editor of the magazine Romboid.

Slovenia
Primož Čučnik (b. 1971) for his book Dom in delo (Home and Work). Čučnik is the author of over 5 books of poetry, the publisher of the publishing house Lud Šerpa, Managing Editor of the important journal Literatura, and translator from Polish and English (Adam Wiedemann, Piotr Sommer, John Ashbery, Joshua Beckman, among others).

Sweden
Birgitta Lillpers (b. 1958) for her book Nu försvinner vi eller ingår (Now We Disappear or Join In). Poet and novelist, Lillpers has published over 10 books and recently won the newspaper Aftonbladet‘s literature prize.

All of the books by foreign nominees have been translated into Polish and published in slowo/obraz terytoria’s European Poet of Freedom—The Nominations series.

So who were the Polish nominees? An equally mixed group, generationally at least:

Magdalena Bielska (b. 1980) for her first book Brzydkie zwierzęta (Ugly Animals).

Julian Kornhauser (b. 1946), another major Polish poet of the New Wave, for his book Origami. Kornhauser is also a translator from Serbo-Croatian and a literary critic.

Andrzej Mandalian (b. 1926 in Shanghai), major poet and translator from Russian who came to prominence as a socialist realist poet during the Stalinist period, later a member of the opposition in the 1970s. Mandalian was born into a Communist family that took part in the revolution in China and the Spanish Civil War. For his book Poemat odjazdu (The Poem of Departure), which is a reportage poem about Warsaw’s Central Train Station and was nominated for the 2008 NIKE Prize.

Tadeusz Różewicz (b. 1921) one of the major Polish poets of the postwar generation, Różewicz is also well known as a playwright. His work has been available in English since the 1960s, translated largely by Adam Czerniawski, but also by Magnus Krynski and Robert Maguire and most recently by Bill Johnston (New Poems, published by Archipelago Books in 2007, was nominated for the NBCC’s Poetry Prize and Johnston won the first Found in Translation Award for it). Różewicz was nominated twice for the European Poet of Freedom Award, for two books: cóż z tego, że we śnie (so what if it was dreamed), nauka chodzenia (the science of walking).

Andrzej Sosnowski (b. 1959), one of the major poets debuting after 1989, author of over 12 books; translator from English of John Ashbery, John Cage, Elizabeth Bishop, Ronald Firbank, and Jane Bowles; editor for Literatura na świecie. For his book Po tęczy (After the Rainbow).

Krzysztof Zuchora (b. 1940), for his book Noc blisko światła (Night Near the Light). Zuchora is a professor at the Józef Piłsudski Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw, a member of the Polish Olympic committee, and Chief Editor of the magazine Kultura Fizyczna.

One thing that is immediately evident to me (and to most other North American and British readers, I suspect) is that of the 21 active and passive participants in this ritual (8 jury members, 13 nominees), only 5 are women. I guess that’s not bad comparatively, but it’s clear from this example and that of other recent awards that gender ratio is less important in Poland than it would be in the U.S. (This is also an issue for translation too, incidentally. The post-1989 generation of poets includes proportionally few women poets, which would make a representative anthology seem nevertheless lopsided to an English-language readership.)

Awards may be one of the least apparently substantial areas of literary culture, and don’t seem, at least on the surface, to merit much more attention than a press release. But I find them pretty fascinating phenomena for observing how cultural economies interact, and how political entities like cities, especially smaller regional metropolises (in this case Gdańsk; in the case of the Silesius Award, Wrocław), raise their profiles nationally and internationally by organizing structures of value and rituals around individual authors’ work and fame. The award of course comes with both prestige and a monetary component: 100,000 zloties (or 30,000 euros).

It is also politically significant that Mandalian has received the Polish nomination. He is one of the great first postwar generation of Polish poets — of Herbert, Różewicz, Szymborska, Ficowski, Białoszewski, Hartwig, and Harasymowicz — who came of age during World War II and had to negotiate the Stalinist period according to a variety of tactics: dissidence, opportunism, idealistic commitment. As an example of the last of these (from a Communist family, moreover), Mandalian took the ideologically regrettable—but perhaps existentially defensible?—path. I don’t know Mandalian’s later work at all; I associate him mainly with his earliest socialist realist works: Dzisiaj (Today, 1951) and Wiosna sześciolatków (The Spring of the Six-Year-Plans), the latter a remarkable book of spunkily propagandistic reportage verse he wrote together with Andrzej Braun and Wiktor Woroszylski, which was on one of my comprehensive exams lists. Despite his later activity in the opposition, I’m sure his nomination will raise the hackles of the Radio-Maryja and Institute-of-National-Remembrance folks (who recently put up such a fuss about a certain Bruno Jasieński Street in an out-of-the-way village, but more on that later). Those are the same people who get all Cheney-Bush on Szymborska for her early socialist realism and on Miłosz for being “anti-Polish.” Nominating Mandalian, who is clearly a substantial poet and at any rate underrecognized, is a much deserved slap in the face.

Andrzej Mandalian

Andrzej Mandalian

As for other felicitous accolades in recent news, former Premier (the first non-Communist Premier after 1948) Tadeusz Mazowiecki has been deemed “Person of the Year,” and “Person of the 20-lecia [two decades]“since the collapse of Communism in Poland, by Gazeta Wyborcza. I suspect it was not a hard decision to make.

I saw this man in person in October 1989 in the Collegium Maius in Krakow. He was standing three feet away from me, and I dont think Ive ever seen a more exhausted and concerned and respect-worthy person in my life.

I saw this man in person in October 1989 in the Collegium Maius in Krakow, standing three feet away from me as I walked by. He was Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the recently democratically elected Premier of a country with a whole lot of trouble on its hands. I've never seen a more exhausted, concerned, and respect-worthy person in my life. Even now, after Obama's election, he remains for me the model of a leader.

Premiere of film based on Dorota Masłowska’s SNOW WHITE & RUSSIAN RED

Following the hiatus of the past couple of weeks, I’ll try to cover some recent literary news from Poland in the next few posts.

Dorota Masłowska’s bestselling novel Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą białą-czerwoną (translated into English by Benjamin Paloff and published by Grove/Atlantic in 2005 as Snow White and Russian Red) has been made into a film (directed by Xawery Żuławski) and was premiered today at the Off+Camera Festival of Independent Cinema in Krakow. Details from the festival program can be found here. I’m curious to see the film. The Gazeta Wyborcza reviewer, Małgorzata Niemczyńska, praises it not only for being a successful adaptation (“The literary material, it’s true, is abbreviated somewhat and edited about, but the film retains all those elements for which Masłowska has been loved and hated”), but for the director’s “unusual deconstruction of the work along the lines of John Fowles’s French Lieutenant’s Woman,” which is to say that the film is “simultaneously a story about Masłowska” herself, and the author plays a role in the film. (Masłowska was eighteen when she published the novel, her first book, in 2002, thus becoming an instant celebrity in Poland.)

Here’s the trailer (in Polish):

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Polish Nominations for the European Union Literary Prize

The European Commission has announced a new European Union Literary Prize, financed by the Cultural Programme of the European Union, that will be awarded for the first time at the end of September 2009. Here’s some info from the press release:

The aim is to put the spotlight on the creative and diverse wealth of Europe’s contemporary literature, promote more circulation of literature within Europe and greater interest in non-national literary works. The first edition of the Prize will be awarded in autumn 2009.

The European Prize for contemporary literature will consist of an award to a European Ambassador of literature and a prize for a winning emerging talent from each of the participating countries in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The Federation of European Publishers working together with the European Booksellers Federation and the European Writers’ Congress has been selected to organize the selection process and the 2009 award ceremony.

Each year, 12-13 countries out of 34 (presumably a different configuration each time), will participate. This year, the following countries are involved: Austria, Croatia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Sweden. (Nice of them to include Norway, despite its not being a member of the EU.)

Twelve Polish authors and books have just been nominated for the award, the press conference having taken place earlier today in Warsaw. They are:

Dawid Bieńkowski, author of Nic (Nothing, WAB 2005)
Jacek Dehnel, author of Lala (Lala, WAB 2006)
Jacek Dukaj, author of Lód (Ice, Wydawnictwo Literackie 2007)
Ignacy Karpowicz, author of Cud (Miracle, Wydawnictwo Czarne 2007)
Artur Daniel Liskowacki, author of Mariasz (Matrimony, Forma Autorska 2007)
Dorota Masłowska, author of Paw królowej (The Queen’s Peacock, Lampa i Iskra Boża 2006)
Krzysztof Niewrzęda, author of Wariant do sprawdzenia (Option to Be Considered, Forma Autorska 2007)
Daniel Odija, Niech to nie będzie sen (Let It Not Be a Dream, Wydawnictwo Literackie 2008)
Tomasz Piątek, author of Pałac Ostrogskich (Ostrogski Palace, WAB 2008)
Janusz Rudnicki, Chodźcie, idziemy (Come, Let’s Go, WAB 2007)
Krzysztof Varga, author of Nagrobek z lastryko (Terrazzo Tombstone, Wydawnictwo Czarne 2007)
Michał Witkowski, author of Barbara Radziwiłłówna z Jaworzna-Szczakowej (Barbara Radziwill of Jaworzno Szczakowa, WAB 2007)

Last time I checked, it certainly seemed that more than one-twelfth of Polish authors were women; so how interesting that of all of them, only Dorota Masłowska is included here! (She is also the only one of these twelve to have a book so far available in English, though Witkowski is on the way—really.) In any case, the Polish part of the prize is being organized by the three European organizing bodies’ local member organizations: The Polish Book Chamber (Polska Izba Książki, a member of the FEP), the Polish Writers’ Union (Związek Literatów Polskich, a member of the EWC), and the Chamber of Polish Booksellers (Izba Księgarstwa Polskiego, a member of the EBF). The Polish jury that nominated these twelve authors is headed by Professor Jerzy Jarzębski, and includes Krzysztof Masłoń, Leszek Bugajski, and Jan Lus. More information, in Polish, here: http://rynek-polski.pl.