Tag Archives: Awards

Tomasz Różycki wins “Top Quark” prize for PEN America blog post

Tomasz Różycki wins the 3 Quarks Daily 2010 “Top Quark” Prize in Art and Literature for his post on his poem “Scorched Maps” on the PEN America blog. Judged by US poet laureate emeritus Robert Pinsky, the prize comes with a $1000 award; and the notice of the award as well as Różycki’s acceptance “speech” (in the form of a comment) are available here. Mira Rosenthal translated both the poem and the poet’s short essay, which can be found on PEN America’s blog.

Tomasz Różycki is the author of over six books of poems in Polish and one in English, The Forgotten Keys, translated by Mira Rosenthal (Zephyr Press, 2007). The Polish Cultural Institute in New York supported his residency last fall at the Vermont Studio Center, which has this nice profile of him up on their website; and he participated in group readings and discussions last November at Poets House’ in New York and at Harvard University.


Biserka Rajčić awarded 2009 Trans-Atlantyk Prize

The highlight of the 2nd International Congress of Translators of Polish Literature, of course, was the award ceremony for this year’s Trans-Atlantyk Prize, which went to the Serbian translator Biserka Rajčić. It was a lovely event, which was introduced by the Book Institute Director Grzegorz Gauden and featured a string quartet that played a stunning piece of music, the name of which I forgot to learn… Last year’s winner, Xenia Staroshyelska, did the honors. Here’s an excerpt of the description on the Book Institute website:

Over her forty-five years of translation work, Biserka Rajčić has translated and published 77 books in all spheres of the humanities (poetry, prose, essays, philosophy, theatre studies, political sciences, historiography etc.). She has translated around 330 of the most outstanding Polish artists, philosophers, and historians of all generations, including: Witkiewicz, Gombrowicz, Miłosz, Schulz, Szymborska, Herbert, Różewicz, Hartwig, Międzyrzecki, Białoszewski, Lem, Filipowicz, Herling-Grudziński, Konwicki, Mrożek, Kapuściński, Brandys, Nowakowski, Stachura, Fink, Zagajewski, Lipska, Kornhauser, Barańczak, Tokarczuk, Gretkowska, Goerke, Świetlicki, Kielar, Podsiadło, Sonnenberg, Różycki, Kołakowski, Kott, Kantor, Grotowski, Zanussi, Topolski, Łowmiański, and Michnik. Since 1962 she has published over 470 texts in magazines of every sort, devoted to authors she has translated and Polish literary-cultural life. Her bibliography includes over 1584 items. She has also published 2 books about Poland: ‘Poljska civilizacija’ and ‘Moj Krakov.’

She has received the highest Polish and Serb distinctions for her translation and promotion work, including the Serb Translators’ Union Award for lifetime achievement, the Jovan Maksimović Award for translation from the Russian, the Belgrade Radio 2 Award for her many-year (1958-2008) co-operation in the field of literature and art, the ZAIKS Award, the Polish Republic Order of Service, delivered by the President of the Polish Republic, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Diploma for outstanding service to the promotion of Poland in the world, the Zbigniew Dominiak Award for the translation of poetry, and the Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz Award for achievement in promoting Polish theatre culture in the world.

The Trans-Atlantyk Prize is the Book Institute’s annual award for the most outstanding promoter of Polish literature abroad. Its previous winners are:  Henryk Bereska (2005), Anders Bodegard (2006), Albrecht Lempp (2007) and Xenia Staroshyelska (2008).

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:

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.

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.

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).

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

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.

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).

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.

Silesius Award winners

Ah, there was more to that Silesius Award than I let on in the previous post. Not only was Stanisław Barańczak honored for his entire oeuvre (the award that went to Tadeusz Różewicz last year, when the Silesius was established), but Krystyna Miłobędzka was given the prize for best poetry volume of the year (Gubione [Lost]) and Dariusz Basiński got the prize for best first book of poetry (Motor kupił Duszan [Duszan’s Bought a Motorbike]).

As an award, the Silesius is pretty serious business. The entire oeuvre award comes with a prize of 100,000 zloties (roughly $30,000 at today’s exchange rate), the winner of the best poetry volume award receives 50,000 (~$15,000), and the winner for the best first book gets 20,000 zloties (~$6,000).

The jury for the award this year was headed by Prof. Jacek Łukasiewicz, and included Prof. Przemysław Czapliński, Grzegorz Jankowicz, Dr. Adam Poprawa, Prof. Tadeusz Sławek, Justyna Sobolewska, and Prof. Marian Stala.

Last year, in addition to Różewicz, the award for best book went to Andrzej Sosnowski. The best first book award is evidently a new category introduced this year.

Correction (9 May 2009): MLB comments that “Silesius First Book Award was awarded last year, to Julia Szychowiak for Po sobie (After Self).”

Mariusz Szczygieł’s GOTTLAND receives Prix AMPHI

The Book Institute also reports that Mariusz Szczygieł and his French translator, Margot Carlier, have just been awarded the prestigious Prix AMPHI for the book GOTTLAND. Previous recipients of the award include: J.M. Coetzee and Catherine Lauga du Plessis (2002), Jonathan Safran Foer and translators Jean-Pierre Carasso and Jacqueline Huet (2004), Fleur Jaeggy and Jean-Paul Manganaro (2005), and Robert Menasse and translators Marianne Rocher-Jacquin and Daniel Rocher (2007).

Szczygieł’s GOTTLAND was published by Wydawnictwo Czarne in 2006 and nominated for a NIKE Award in 2007. It is a reportage about the lives of Czech people under Communism. Here’s a description of the book from the Czarne website, via the Adam Mickiewicz Institute’s portal culture.pl:

A collection of reportages about the Czechs and how they were caught up in the times they lived in. Czechoslovakia and the Czech lands—Gottland—is a country of horror, sadness, and the grotesque. Mariusz Szczygieł’s GOTTLAND has nothing in common with the stereotypical image of a country of jokers who kill time drinking beer.

Actress Lída Baarova—the woman who made Goebbels cry; sculptor Otokar Švec—author of the largest statue of Stalin on the planet, who decided to kill himself before he had completed his creation; a genuine niece of Franz Kafka’s who lives in Prague to this day; singer Marta Kubišová, whom the communist regime forbade to sing for 20 years and erased her recordings from radio archives; legendary footwear manufacturer Tomáš Bata, who founded a town he fully controlled 10 years before Orwell came up with his ideas; writer Eduard Kirchberger, who re-created himself and became Karel Fabián, and many others—these are the heroes of the book. Through their colourful biographies, Mariusz Szczygieł describes the times they (and we) had to live in. He writes about the inordinate price they had to pay for seemingly minor decisions, about the tragic coincidence of chance and destiny that shaped the lives of entire generations.

Here are a couple of blurbs from Adam Michnik and Agnieszka Holland, from the Czarne website:

“An intelligent, compelling, and necessary book. By narrating the fate of ordinary people, Szczygieł tells the complicated history of our neighbors to the south. With his fascination for Czechoslovaka’s unique culture and everyday life, its sense of irony, humor, and sarcasm, he reminds us of the Czech encounter with ‘history unleashed.’ We cannot help but read these narratives through the prism of our own history, which only makes them more captivating. Our fates were similar, but all the more different for that. An exciting book.”—Adam Michnik

“A wonderful book. The horribly depressing panorama of Czech lives in the 20th century. (Which includes the new century, too, which is no less depressing.) What has always attracted me about Czech history is its constant, dynamic, tragic and simultaneously humorous ambiguity. Mariusz Szczygieł comes out of the tradition of Polish reportage and applies his own method to that ambiguity. The effect is incredibly powerful, original, and suprising. I found the majority of these portraits to be extremely evocative. It has been a long time since I’ve undertaken such an intense journey back to the experiences, questions, and preoccupations of my youth. But reading this book also made me profoundly sad. I hope there will be a sequel to these reportage-essay-stories (even their genre isn’t fully defined), that a kind of catharsis may be possible, that it may yet be possible to slip the trap of Central European history.”—Agnieszka Holland

GOTTLAND has been published in Germany (Suhrkamp), France (Actes Sud), Hungary (Europa), Czech Republic (Dokoran), Italy (Nottetempo), and is forthcoming in Russia (NLO). There’s more info  on the book, plus an excerpt in English, as well as on Szczygieł, available here.

Stanisław Barańczak wins Silesius Poetry Award

This just in from the Book Institute:

Stanisław Barańczak will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in the second annual Wrocław Silesius Poetry Award.

“We mainly have Barańczak to thank for the whole great ferment in Polish poetry at the turn of the 1960s/70s. He was the main representative of the new mystical poetry of the late 60s. And it was he, finally, who brought Polish readers a wide range of artists from England, America and Russia through his translations,” stated Prof. Jacek Łukaszewicz, the head of the jury.

The competition jury also announced seven nominees for the book of the year award, and three for the debut of the year award.

The following works have been nominated for the book of the year: Enjoy by Roman Honet, Lost by Krystyna Miłobędzka, Tiny! Tiny! by Edward Pasewicz, Trap by Marcin Sendecki, Filters by Adam Wiedemann, Everything by Bohdan Zadura, and A Song of Relationships and Dependencies by Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki.

For debut of the year, the nominees are: Dariusz Basiński for Duszan Bought a Motorbike, Sławomir Elsner for Antipodes, and Monika Mosiewicz for Cosinus salsa.

The winners in the various categories will be announced on 17 April at a gala ceremony at Wrocław’s Polish Theater. Apart from the Silesius statuettes, the winners will receive cash awards: 100,000 zloties for Lifetime Achievement, 50,000 zloties for Book of the Year, and 20,000 zloties for Debut.

The Wrocław Silesius Poetry Awards are organized by the City of Wrocław. The awards are intended to promote the most important works and artists in Polish poetry. Last year’s award for lifetime achievement went to Tadeusz Różewicz.

Eustachy Rylski’s Holly Golightly

By some circuitous (or merely confected) coincidence, author Maeve Brennan, who I mentioned in my post about Olga Tokarczuk and the Leipzig Book Fair a few days ago, returned today via an essay I’ve just read by Polish author Eustachy Rylski. Rumor has it that Brennan, who worked together with Truman Capote at Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker for a spell, was the inspiration for the character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And Rylski has written a rather compelling little essay about that book and its heroine—whom he encountered for the first time in early 1960s Poland at the tender age of eighteen—and on the competition between great works and popular literature for the author’s imagination.

Not that most Americans much care about this sort of thing (or do they?), but the essay also provides a rare glimpse into the subjective, intimate reception of a work translated “from the American English” into another language—in counterpoint to the stochastic view, and is a great meditation on the power of character in fiction. (Interestingly, I think most Americans would immediately associate Holly Golightly with Audrey Hepburn in the film version; Rylski’s essay returns her character to the realm of the written word.) In any case, despite his reservations about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, its negligibility as compared with “the Russian classics, Iwaszkiewicz, Camus and Mauriac,” Rylski does find something to value in it:

What Capote’s characters say to us is: why not hang out with us here and there, get knocked about a bit, listen to us talking bullshit, soak up some sun with the girls on the fire escape, have a chat with O. J. Berman about the movie career you’ll never achieve, sit at the bar in Joe Bell’s, and if you get bored of yourself or us, of the city or life, we won’t hold you back. But in parting we’ll say: don’t you worry about the one-eyed cat, he’ll be fine. If the first merit of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is general lack of obligation, the second stems from it, which is youth.

(Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

The essay appears (in Polish) in a collection of Rylski’s articles and essays titled PO ŚNIADANIE (After Breakfast) just published by Bertelsmann subsidiary Świat Książki. The Polish Book Institute just posted a write-up of the book on their website. They also have more information on Rylski, who is well-respected in Poland as a novelist, but arrived on the scene rather late (his first book was published after he was forty).

On other fronts in the European reception of American literature, the Leipzig Book Fair has awarded its Translation Prize to Eike Schönfeld for her translation of Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift. Great choice, though Kinsky’s Tokarczuk would have been lovely, too.