Tag Archives: Eugeniusz Tkaczysyzn-Dycki

Recent Polish literature news…

A few updates on recent goings-on in Polish literature:

This year’s NIKE Literary Award was announced on October 4. It went to Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki, the only poet among 7 finalists, for his book Piosenka o zależnościach i uzależnieniach (Song of Relationships and Addictions, Biuro Literackie 2009). Tkaczyszyn-Dycki, who was born in 1962, has over 9 books of poetry in Polish and one in English: Peregrinary, which was translated by Bill Johnston and published in 2008 by Zephyr Press.

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The other finalists were: Andrzej Bart for Fabryka muchołapek (Flycatcher Factory, WAB), Inga Iwasiów for Bambino (Świat Książki), Ignacy Karpowicz for Gesty (Gestures, Wydawnictwo Literackie), Tomasz Piątek for Pałac Ostrogskich (The Ostrogski Palace, WAB), Bohdan Sławiński for Królowa tiramisu (The Queen of Tiramisu, Czarna Owca), and Krzysztof Varga for Gulasz z turula (Turul Gulash, Czarne). Of these other finalists, all but one are men, all but one were nominated for a novel (Varga’s Turul Gulash is a reportage about Hungary), and all but one already had a book or more under their belts (The Queen of Tiramisu is Sławiński’s first novel).

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Andrzej Stasiuk has just published a new novel, Taksim (Czarne). Here’s a summary by critic Przemysław Czapliński from Czarne’s rights catalogue:

In his latest novel Andrzej Stasiuk tells a tale of a very last chase of capitalism. His two main heroes – Paweł, a marketeer who circulates among the bazaars of European provinces, and Włodek, his driver – suffer a symbolic and actual defeat in their encounter with the new force. Up till this moment they’d always managed to come out on top. Paweł in particular is like a knight errant of the first phase of capitalism in these parts.

Now, yesterday’s culture of short-lived products becomes a culture of one-time use. Asia invades Europe, not with an army, but with trade. It floods the continent with knockoffs, in other words merchandise the Chinese copied from Central European products that were themselves copies of Western items.

If someone has the impression that Stasiuk has created a contemporary version of the story of how “the yellow race overcomes the white race,” they will only partly be right. Stasiuk is less interested in portraying the victors in this capitalist duel of deceptions, more in showing us the losers – that is to say, the pariahs of Europe, inhabitants of its poorest regions, people condemned to a worse life because they live in a worse place. These people acquire the cheapest goods, but they themselves, especially the women, are also turned into merchandise. The only thing Western Europe exports to Central Europe is its trash, its used objects, the detritus of its development, while from there it imports male bodies for its harsher jobs and female bodies for its entertainment. In this way the strength of money and the weakness of the provinces cause the ideal of Europe to enter liquidation. And since history driven by money has no brakes, it is a liquidation that cannot be reversed.

I wonder if this book was picked up by an American publisher at Frankfurt last week. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published Stasiuk’s novel Nine three years ago, has plans to release his book Traveling to Babadag sometime in the relatively near future. And if you haven’t yet read his amazing Fado, which came out last month with Dalkey Archive, please drop everything this minute and go out and get it.

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The plot of Stasiuk’s Taksim calls to mind another recent, darkly futuristic Polish novel rooted in a topical discourse: Paweł Huelle’s The Last Supper (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones; Serpent’s Tail 2008; US edition forthcoming in December 2009). One wonders if a new catastrophism is under way in Polish fiction, a throwback to Witkacy’s apocalyptic novels of the 1930s… Here’s an excerpt of The Independent review last year, after Huelle’s novel came out in England:

The Last Supper, again [like previous novels Mercedes Benz and Castorp] centred on Gdansk, makes a small leap forward in time. Bomb attacks on liquor stores have raised the fear of jihadi militancy taking root among local Muslims (at present, they hardly exist), while others blame provocations by rival booze tycoons. The Church, via the flashy local prelate Father Monsignore (who runs his own-brand wine label), is shoring up its status via showbiz-style stunts and entrepreneurial gambits. Meanwhile, the artist Mateusz gathers a group of old friends – all veterans of the 1980s opposition circles, some thriving but others marooned in the free market – to take part in a re-enactment of the Last Supper.

The book’s first US review, in Publishers Weekly, just came out today, and is somewhat lukewarm, beginning with a caution: “American readers may struggle with this near-future novel from Polish author Huelle… a meandering meditation on contemporary Poland and Europe,” and ending with a proviso: “Those familiar with the social, political and religious issues Huelle addresses will best appreciate this challenging book.” It does, however, raise some important questions about translation, reception, and differing horizons of expectations between Poland and the U.S. (and between Poland and the U.K.).

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Poet, translator, and Literatura na świecie editor Piotr Sommer is a Franke Visiting Fellow at Yale University this semester. He gave a reading together with Christian Hawkey at Symphony Space last month at the Polish Cultural Institute’s season opener, joined by members of theNew York-based ensemble The Knights, who performed settings of his and Hawkey’s poems by, respectively, Jeffrey Lependorf and Lisa Bielawa. He will be giving a reading at Yale tomorrow (20 October).

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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!

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.

2008 Best Translated Book Award

Open Letter Books/Three Percent held the ceremony for its first Best Translated Book Award (for 2008) at Melville House last night. The winners were (for fiction) Attila Bartis’s book TRANQUILITY, translated from Hungarian by Imre Goldstein for Archipelago Books, and (for poetry) Takashi Hiraide’s book FOR THE FIGHTING SPIRIT OF THE WALNUT, translated from Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu for New Directions. As Open Letter publisher Chad Post said in his introduction to the event, the idea for the award came out of his and others’ disappointment that translations were consistently left unmentioned in year-end reports about published books. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Congratulations, too, to the translators, authors, and publishers of the two Polish titles shortlisted for the poetry award: Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki’s PEREGRINARY, translated by Bill Johnston and published by Zephyr Press, and Adam Zagajewski’s ETERNAL ENEMIES, translated by Clare Cavanagh for FSG.

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More information on the award and the other long- and short-listed titles here: 3% BTB 2008.