Tag Archives: Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Found in Translation Award nomination, Deadline January 31st

If you haven’t yet made your nomination, please read further and send your email in by this Sunday!

Found in Translation Award 2010

The Book Institute reminds that 31st of January is the deadline for submitting nominations for Found in Translation Award.

The Award was announced 2 years ago by the Polish Book Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute in London, the Polish Cultural Institute in New York and W.A.B. Publishing House in Warsaw.

The Found in Translation Award is presented annually to the translator or translators of the best translation into English of a work of Polish literature published as a book in the previous calendar year.

The Award consists of a three-month placement in Krakow, with accommodation, a grant of 2,000 PLN per month, a return airline ticket to Krakow funded by the Polish Book Institute and a financial award of 10,000 PLN funded by the W.A.B. Publishing House.

The Award is presented by a Selection Committee consisting of representatives of the Polish Book Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute in London and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York. The Director of the Polish Book Institute is the President of the Selection Committee.

The name of the winner is announced during the award ceremony, which is organised each year in the winner’s country of origin, if possible during that country’s International Book Fair.

Candidates for the Award can be nominated by both private persons and institutions in Poland and abroad.

Nominations should be sent to the Polish Book Institute, 31-011 Kraków, ul. Szczepańska 1, Poland, e-mail office@bookinstitute.pl with the subject-heading FOUND IN TRANSLATION.

The nomination must include the book title, the name of the author, the name of the translator, the publisher, and the reasons for the nomination. The deadline for submitting nominations is midnight on January 31 each year.

Previous award winners: Bill Johnston (2008) for NEW POEMS by Tadeusz Różewicz (Archipelago Books, USA); Antonia Lloyd-Jones (2009) for THE LAST SUPPER by Paweł Huelle (Serpent’s Tail, UK).


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)…


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)…




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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Olga Tokarczuk novel nominated for Leipzig Book Fair prize (after nabbing NIKE Award in 2008)

Esther Kinsky’s German translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s 2007 novel BIEGUNI (The Runners—translated into German as UNRAST—Restlessness) has just been nominated for the 2009 Translation Award of the Leipzig Book Fair.

bieguni2 unrast3

Published by the Kraków-based Wydawnictwo Literackie in 2007, BIEGUNI won the 2008 NIKE Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Poland. The book is, in the Polish Book Institute’s words:

…a collection of longer, shorter and extremely brief stories, [that] forms a carefully thought-out whole and is very artfully constructed. The theme of the stories is a way of life that involves non-stop travelling.

Schöffling & Co. released Kinsky’s translation on 11 March. Here’s a quick translation of the copy from their website:

A woman and her young son mysteriously disappear while on vacation; an Orthodox sect keeps wandering from one place to the next in their attempt to elude the devil; the female narrator is permanently on the move: in her new book RESTLESSNESS, the eminent Polish author Olga Tokarczuk deals with the wanderlust and nomadism of modern humans. Traversing a range of genres, from travelogue to mythological fable to philosophical observation, she captures the hectic pace of modern life in a finely woven narrative universe and irresistibly delightful prose.

The original is 297 pages. Translation rights are held by the Dutch publisher De Geus. Andrew Leader has very generously translated into English an interview with Tokarczuk about the book and made it available on his great Polish Writing site.

With seven books in German, Tokarczuk has quite a following there, but is unfortunately little known in English. Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation of her HOUSE OF DAY, HOUSE OF NIGHT was published by Granta Books in the UK and Northwestern UP in the US. But aside from that one book, her English incarnation is available mainly in periodicals, most online. Words Without Borders has published two short pieces of hers, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Jennifer Croft respectively. Polish Writing has published another story translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones as well as an excerpt of House of Day, House of Night and two interesting interviews. Chicago Review published a story translated by Kim Jastremski in its 2000 Polish issue.


Olga Tokarczuk will be reading tonight (actually, given the time difference, she’s probably reading as I’m writing this) in the Kunsthalle der Sparkasse Leipzig. It is the last of four “author evenings” sponsored by the Polish Book Institute. The three previous ones featured Magdalena Tulli (well known here through Bill Johnston’s translations for Archipelago), Sylwia Chutnik (a young author who was just awarded Polityka Magazine’s Paszport Prize for her book THE POCKET ATLAS OF WOMEN), and another young authoress named Katarzyna Sowula.


The other books nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair translation prize are listed here. True to the pattern of international translation written about recently on the Three Percent blog, three of the five nominees are translations from English (Maeve Brennan’s The Springs of Affection; Burroughs’s Naked Lunch; and Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift), one is from Spanish (Don Quixote), and Tokarczuk. All inequities aside, that’s not bad company at all.


The Book Institute also has a nice write-up on their website by Jagiellonian University professor Jerzy Jarzębski about Paweł Huelle’s newest book, a collection of short stories titled COLD SEA TALES (Opowieści chłodnego morza). I think Antonia Lloyd-Jones, who recently translated Huelle’s THE LAST SUPPER for Serpent’s Tail, has translated some of these already. I like Huelle the short story writer (of MOVING HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES) almost better than Huelle the novelist (with the exception of MERCEDES BENZ, CASTORP, and DAVID WEISER, of course), so this new collection, just published by Znak, promises to be a real delight. Hopefully we’ll see it in English soon.


Wojciech Tochman’s LIKE EATING A STONE

Thanks to the Polish Book Institute’s website (my subscription to the venerable NYRB having recently lapsed…), I’ve just learned of Charles Simic’s review of three recent titles dealing with human rights violations in the former Yugoslavia, “Connoisseurs of Cruelty” (New York Review of Books, 12 March 2009). The first book he looks at is Polish author Wojciech Tochman’s LIKE EATING A STONE: SURVIVING THE PAST IN BOSNIA, which Antonia Lloyd-Jones has very generously given to us under the auspices, last April, of Portobello Books in the UK, and last October, of Atlas & Co. in the US. Restrained and bleak, it is a remarkable book; and I could hardly keep from telling everyone I know about it after I read it last November.


Tochman, who was born in 1969 and lives in Warsaw, is a leading younger journalist in a country that has a long and rich tradition of reportage, or literary journalism. This tradition is primarily associated with Krzysztof Kąkolewski, Ryszard Kapuściński, and Hanna Krall, three authors whose careers took off in the 1970s, the latter two of whom are quite well known abroad. What is usually called the “Polish School of Reportage” (NB: a parallel movement in film is called by the same name), has its roots in the work of Ksawery Pruszyński, Melchior Wańkowicz, Tadeusz Borowski, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, and Zofia Nałkowska, writers who came of age in the interwar period and who largely wrote about the experience of World War II.Reportage is an established and respected literary genre in Poland in a way that it is not (yet, at least) in English, despite the presence of classics like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the Library of America’s recent impressive editions of 20th century journalism, or the work of writers like Anne Fadiman, Philip Gourevitch, or Lawrence Weschler. In Poland, high school students study it alongside novels and lyric poetry as a distinct field of literature. And many publishing houses, like WAB and Czarne, have series devoted to reportage, featuring books by a younger generation of writers: Wojciech Jagielski, Paweł Smoleński, Olga Stanisławska, Mariusz Szczygiel, and Jacek Hugo-Bader, among many others.

Tochman was nominated for two prestigious prizes for LIKE EATING A STONE, which was first published by Wydawnictwo Pogranicze in 2002: the Polish NIKE Award and the French Prix Témoin du Monde. He has a website (most of which is in Polish): http://tochman.com.pl/. LIKE EATING A STONE, his third book, was written in 2000-2001, and aside from one heartbreaking foray into the Serbian Republic, largely follows the experience of Muslim women in Bosnia who, as Simic puts it, “years after the signing of the Dayton Accords were still haunting the mass graves being exhumed in Bosnia in the hope that among the bones being identified they might find their long-missing husbands and sons”—and daughters, too. Organized in short chapters that are themselves subdivided in small sections titled according to specific objects or phenomena—”Body Bags,” “Plums,” “String,” “Questions that Are Not Asked,” “The Last Day of the Holidays,” “The Garage”—the book reads as rather loosely structured for the first fifty pages or so, dipping into the stories of first this character then that, before eventually cohering around the work of one woman, the forensic anthropologist Dr. Ewa Klonowski, and the hopes and fears of a couple of families. There is no “I” in this book—the narrator is entirely evacuated, disembodied—no immediately identifiable organizing principle. But that uncanny vacancy is less the assertion of an intangible, distant authority, than—I think—an unaffected, and affectless, recreation of the author’s own devastation, having come so close to the heart of the atrocity. What the reader gets is about as unfiltered an account of tragedy as anything he or she is likely to read for a long time.

I can only imagine that Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s experience of translating this book, of finding the language in English and editing drafts and galleys of it, must have been harrowing. I’m reminded of a paper I once heard given by the University of Chicago professor Loren Kruger, who described the trauma that official interpreters for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission themselves experienced as a byproduct of translating the testimonies of victims of human rights crimes. I wonder, too, if Tochman’s resistance to representing his own subjectivity might be understood as a kind of prophylaxis.

LIKE EATING A STONE is by no means an easy book, but for that, like Gourevitch’s stories from the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, it is a necessary one. It is also not only a report about atrocities in Bosnia, but involves, too, I think, an attempt to engage the relationship between self and other, or rather, between others: Muslim Bosnian and Orthodox Serb; the living and the dead; the individual, unmarked male observer and the communities of women observed and described. The book stands—in fact it practically requires—being read multiple times, and certainly discussed and worked through.

“A melancholy affirmation of the world as it is”: A few words on Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz

Like the New York Review of Books or the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the Polish magazine Polityka has established its own books series: Polska Literatura Współczesna (Modern Polish Literature). Poet and critic Jarosław Klejnocki reviews one of its newest titles, TATARAK I INNE OPOWIADANIA (Calamus and Other Stories) by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, in Polityka‘s February 10th issue.

Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz is one of the best, and almost certainly the most eminent, Polish author of short stories in the twentieth century, a master of the short form in narrative. If you need convincing, get hold of a copy of Calamus and Other Stories. The collection contains stories written after World War II, so we will not find old stalwarts like “The Maids of Wilko” or “The Birch Grove” in it; but for that we have a chance to commune with stories that today are hard to find (like “Sérénité” or “Heydenreich”) or practically forgotten (“Zarudzie”), along with others that in the past few years have even been adapted for the screen (like “Lovers from Marona” or the eponymous “Calamus”—Andrzej Wajda’s newest film [NB: the Polish “Tatarak” is translated by another variant, “Sweet Rush”], which is being shown at the Berlinale).

Incidentally, Iwaszkiewicz’s stories tend to be quite long and often exceed the limits of what we presently understand by short narrative form; nowadays they could easily be considered micro-, or even full-length, novels.

Despite the fact that Polish prose in English basically constitutes a canon of lacunae, it is still remarkable that Iwaszkiewicz (1894-1980) hasn’t had more than two (yes, two) solo titles published in all of Anglophony: THE SUMMER AT NOHANT: A PLAY IN THREE ACTS, translated by Celina Wieniewska and published in London by Minerva Press all the way back in 1942, and Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation of the stories: “A New Love,” “The Wilko Girls,” “The Birch Grove,” and “The Mill on the River Utrata,” published in Budapest in 2002 by Central European University Press as THE BIRCH GROVE AND OTHER STORIES. This may be due to the fact that, as Leszek Kołakowski explains in his introduction to the latter book, Iwaszkiewicz was compliant with the Communist authorities (as he had been with the interwar regime of Marshall Piłsudski). But so were a lot of writers translated into English, and I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Iwaszkiewicz was a short-story and novella writer, and the Golden Age of Translation in Anglophone Publishing (i.e. the post-war, pre-conglomerate era of the late 1950s to early 1980s) coincided with a decided editorial bias in favor of the novel.

A few other individual stories by Iwaszkiewicz have made it into English and been anthologized in volumes like Maria Kuncewiczowa’s 1963 THE MODERN POLISH MIND (includes the story “Tatarak” translated as “Sweet Flag”) , Bogdan Czajkowski’s and Andrzej Busza’s 1983 GATHERING TIME: FIVE MODERN POLISH ELEGIES (published in an edition of 200, it includes the story “Map of Sunshine”), Wiesiek Powaga’s 1996 DEDALUS BOOK OF POLISH FANTASY (which has an excerpt of “Mother Joanna of the Angels”), and Teresa Halikowska’s 1996 THE EAGLE AND THE CROW: CONTEMPORARY POLISH SHORT FICTION (“The Statue”). (I am pretty sure that there is something in Celina Wieniewska’s 1967 anthology POLISH WRITING TODAY, as well, though I don’t have the book handy and there is no reference to its contents on WorldCat or elsewhere online.) So basically, Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation aside—which like most CEU Press books is near impossible to find in bookstores—Iwaszkiewicz today is accessible to English speakers mainly through subtitled film adaptations like Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s 1961 MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS, Andrzej Wajda’s 1970 THE BIRCH WOOD and 1979 THE MAIDS OF WILKO, Andrzej Domalik’s 1986 SIEGFRIED, or Wajda’s 2009 SWEET RUSH.

Wajda actually pretty much captures Iwaszkiewicz’s moody but improbably transcendent ambivalences in THE MAIDS OF WILKO (which was screened in a crisp new print at the Film Society at Lincoln Center last fall). Klejnocki describes the enigmatic character of the author’s work in greater detail:

The people in Iwaszkiewicz’s stories are characterized by internal complexity, sensitivity, and a rich psychic life; but the description of their fates, choices, and personalities is often shrouded in an aura of mystery and inexpressibility. As if the author wanted to tell us that the subject is in essence a riddle even to himself, that he does not have complete control over himself and does not completely understand his own conduct (this viewpoint is wonderfully illustrated in “The Lovers from Marona”).

In Iwaszkiewicz’s work the traditional existentialist belief in the unrepeatability and singularity of any human life is met with a practically pagan resistance to death, a feeling of terror at the inevitability of departure, in opposition to which we once again find the atavistic primal apologia of our earthly existence. Almost all of Iwaszkiewicz’s stories are fraught with pessimism and fatalism—for time is inescapable, human life is ephemeral, few of our plans will come to fruition, and there’s  little chance of reconciling the opposing forces and the clamor of passions within each of us. But we can also take pleasure in the form of the world, in the countless delights of life, as long as we know how to see them in everyday experiences.

“A melancholy affirmation of the world as it is—that is the hidden message, never directly expressed, of Iwaszkiewicz’s prose, and also of his poetry and plays,” writes Kołakowski in his introduction; he wonders whether this world view had an ultimately spiritual motivation and recounts its practical consequences for Iwaszkiewicz’s position in a Polish society starkly divided between officialdom and opposition. More recently, the Swiss Polonist German Ritz has ascribed this indirection in Iwaszkiewicz’s prose to “inexpressible [homosexual] desire,” an interpretation that is supported by the more expressive homoeroticism of works like “Siegfried”; and scholars in Poland have begun to consider his writing in terms of other (Lacanian mainly) theoretical approaches that may also prove to be fruitful.

There is, in any case, a lot to suggest that Iwaszkiewicz would find a substantial readership in English if he were more available.