The Nation has just published a great review by Benjamin Paloff of Jarosław Anders’ Between Fire and Sleep: Essays on Modern Polish Poetry and Prose, which Yale University Press brought out recently.
The title, “Cures for the Common Cold War: Postwar Polish Poetry,” is a little befuddling, since much of the work discussed by Paloff—and Anders—is prose. The editorial oversight notwithstanding, the review is informative and, like Anders’ essays, brings an indispensable perspective to bear on the reception of Polish literature in English:
…while [Polish] literature is hardly a historical relic, our approach to it often risks being just that. In this regard, Anders’s critical approach is an invaluable tonic. His fleet-footed leaps between biographical detail and scholarly commentary are enormously edifying and entertaining in their own right. At the same time, Anders generally refuses to succumb to the romanticizing that has reduced so much journalism about these authors to a pocket lexicon of moral clichés.
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The fate of Polish literature in this country certainly cannot be isolated from that of translated literature in the publishing economy. Chad Post, the publisher of Open Letter Books and blogger of Three Percent, offers an indispensable assessment of the situation in the new Publishing Perspectives, “Translation Nation: A State of the Union.” He addresses a current conundrum—
So why, if Bolano’s 2666 and Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses can hit the best-seller list, and if everyone’s arguing that literature in translation is important for enriching our culture, are there fewer translations coming out this year than last?
and identifies causes not only in the economy, of course, but, structurally, in the
disconnect between publishing thoughtful, long-selling literary translations and a system that thrives on the HUGE HIT and is willing to spend millions to make that hit happen IMMEDIATELY.