Tag Archives: Danuta Borchardt

Interview with Pornografia translator Danuta Borchardt on PRI’s The World

Danuta Borchardt talks with Bill Marx on PRI’s December World Books podcast about Witold Gombrowicz and her experience translating not just the recently published Pornografia, but Cosmos and Ferdydurke as well. She mentions the possibility of retranslating Transatlantyk and translating his Peregrinations in Argentina (excerpts of which have been published in Words without Borders). The informative half-hour podcast is downloadable and definitely worth a listen (ideally with a crackling fire in the background, snowdrifts and fir trees outside the window, and a mug of mulled wine or cider in hand… Happy Holidays!).



One major bit of Polish literary news of the past month or so, of course, is that Witold Gombrowicz’s remarkable final novel, PORNOGRAFIA, has finally been published in English in a direct translation from the Polish (by Danuta Borchardt). Here’s the Publishers Weekly review (from July):

Pornografia Witold Gombrowicz, trans. from the Polish by Danuta Borchardt. Grove, $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1925-4
Gombrowicz’s strange, bracing final novel probes the divide between young and old while providing a grotesque evocation of obsession. While recuperating from wartime Warsaw in the Polish countryside, the unnamed narrator and his friend, Fryderyk, attempt to force amour between two local youths, Karol and Henia, as a kind of a lewd entertainment. They become increasingly frustrated as they discover that the two have no interest in one another, and the games are momentarily stopped by a local murder and a directive to assassinate a rogue member of the Polish resistance. Gombrowicz connects these threads magnificently in a tense climax that imbues his novel with a deep sense of the absurd and multiplies its complexity. Gombrowicz is a relentless psychoanalyzer and a consummate stylist; his prose is precise and forceful, and the narrator’s strained attempts to elucidate why he takes such pleasure at soiling youth creepily evoke authentic pride and disgust. Borchardt’s translation (the first into English from the original Polish) is a model of consistency, maintaining a manic tone as it navigates between lengthy, comma-spliced sentences and sharp, declarative thrusts. (Nov.)

With the book pretty well publicized in advance (starred review in PW, Three Percent, The Quarterly Conversation), I’m surprised it hasn’t been reviewed more widely since its release, especially given the general surge of interest (and re/publication) that Gombrowicz has enjoyed the past few years, and the great review by Neil Gordon that Cosmos got in the New York Times. (The recent demise of Kirkus Reviews, however, suggests the problem may have more to do with the state of reviewing than with the book itself or Grove’s publicity machine.) Salonica World Lit, a wonderful international literature blog written by Monica Carter of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, is the one place I’ve found online that has a post-publication review of it (and of a lot of other Central-East European titles besides: the blog is definitely worth following). But that seems to be it so far. Hopefully Grove will release the paperback soon since the book should by rights find its way onto every “Introduction to World/Western/European/Modernist Literature” syllabus in the country. The hardcover, in the meantime, is totally hot:

New Translations from Polish Ahead…

Well, Chad Post beat me to the punch with the news about Danuta Borchardt’s new translation of Gombrowicz’s Pornografia, which is forthcoming with Grove in November. It will be the first translation of the book directly from the Polish (Alistair Hamilton’s translation from Georges Lisowski’s French translation appeared with Calder and Boyars in 1966 and with Grove in 1967). Here are some other new translations from Polish to look forward to (I’ll post a downloadable list here soon as well):

by Andrzej Stasiuk
translated by Bill Johnston
Dalkey Archive Press, forthcoming September 2009

Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya
by Wojciech Jagielski
translated by Soren Gauger
Seven Stories Press, forthcoming October 2009

Primeval and Other Times
by Olga Tokarczuk
translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Twisted Spoon Press, forthcoming November 2009

The New Century: Poems
by Ewa Lipska
translated by Robin Davidson and Ewa Elzbieta Nowakowska
Northwestern University Press, forthcoming November 2009

The Last Supper
by Paweł Huelle
translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Serpent’s Tail, forthcoming December 2009 (appeared in UK in November 2008)

Archipelago Books‘ Fall 2009 catalogue includes announcements of the following new translations:

by Cyprian Kamil Norwid
translated by Danuta Borchardt

A Treatise on Shelling Beans
by Wiesław Myśliwski
translated by Bill Johnston

Stone upon Stone
by Wiesław Myśliwski
translated by Bill Johnston

There are also rumours that in addition to Lipska, Northwestern UP will be publishing a new book of poems by Julia Hartwig, translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter; this will be Hartwig’s second book in English (In Praise of the Unfinished came out with Knopf last year). Another book that we’ll hopefully see very soon is Zbigniew Herbert’s collected essays, translated by Alissa Valles and forthcoming next year with Ecco.

Incidentally, there’s an early issue of The Complete Review (Twice Removed: Case Studies [Vol. IV, issue 4; November 2003]) that discusses those first second-hand translations of Gombrowicz’s novels (it’s interesting to see, too, that John Ashbery reviewed both Pornografia and Ferdydurke for the New York Times).