Tag Archives: Julia Hartwig

Polish Literature News Digest!

Some recent news in Polish literature:

Mariusz Szczygieł’s reportage Gottland (which was written up here in March after it won the Prix AMPHI), has just been awarded the Europe Book Prize. The Prize, which is in its third year, was announced on December 9 and comes with an award of 10,000 euros for each of its two winners. According to euronews, it was founded in honor of former EU Commission President Jacques Delors in order “to promote European values and an understanding of the European Union as a cultural entity.”

Poems by Piotr Sommer and Andrzej Sosnowski appear in the December 14 issue of The Nation, translated by Christian Hawkey and Rod Mengham, respectively.

On November 28, Northwestern UP released The New Century, a delightful new selection of poetry by Ewa Lipska translated by Robin Davidson and Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska. (I wrote about Lipska and this book in a March post.) But the good news from Northwestern doesn’t stop there: editor Mike Levine recently acquired a new selection of poems by Julia Hartwig, translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter, which will be coming out in April 2010.

Words without Borders’ December international science fiction issue includes an excerpt from Stanisław Lem’s previously untranslated first novel Man From Mars (1946) along with a great overview of Polish speculative fiction and a novel excerpt (a first publication in English) by the younger author Tomasz Kołodziejczak. The October issue of WWB includes a review of Andrzej Stasiuk’s wonderful Fado.

Copenhagen-based poet Grzegorz Wróblewski, one of the more distinctive voices of the so-called “bruLion generation,” has just published a new chapbook of his poems in English: A Rarity, translated by Agnieszka Pokojska and released in October by Červená Barva press. Here’s eclectica.org’s review of his first full-length book Our Flying Objects, translated by Rod Mengham and others, and an earlier chap, These Extraordinary People. And here’s John Guzlowski’s blogpost on Our Flying Objects, which includes several of Wróblewski’s poems and links to more. It’s great to see so much of his work available now.

He is also, incidentally, a visual artist.

Yale University Press has announced a March 29, 2010 pub date for an important new collection of stories by Tadeusz Borowski (1922-1951). Here in Our Auschwitz and Other Stories, translated by Madeline Levine, offers “the first authoritative translation of Borowski’s prose fiction, including numerous stories that have never appeared in English before.” Borowski is one of the most important writers of the Holocaust, but for too long was represented in English by a single (crucial) collection of short stories, This Way For the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. Northwestern UP brought out a selection of his correspondence two years ago. This new and long-awaited collection of Borowski’s “stark, unsparing and self-tormenting narratives”—as Imre Kertesz described them in his 2007 Nobel Prize lecture—promises to be required reading for a new generation.

The new film Rewers (The Reverse, 2009), directed by the young Borys Lankosz and written by the novelist Andrzej Bart, won 7 Golden Lions at the Gdynia Film Festival in September and the FIPRESCI Prize for Best European Debut; it has been selected as Poland’s Best Foreign Film submission for the 2010 Academy Awards, and is getting a lot of jubilant press (Variety, cineuropa, The Krakow Post, among others). Bart’s screenplay was recast as a “film novella” and published by W.A.B. just last month. The Book Institute has a write-up about it by Dariusz Nowacki on its website.

For U.S. publishers, Andrzej Bart is definitely a Polish writer to watch. Born in 1951, he published his first book in the early 1980s, but his career as an author didn’t take off until his second book almost a decade later. He has been called “the most mysterious of Polish writers” and likened to Pynchon and Kafka. His popular novels, which are stylistically quite elegant, typically introduce a speculative element into a historical situation. The 2008 The Flypaper Factory, for example, is set in the Łódź Ghetto but revolves around an entirely fictional trial of Ghetto leader Chaim Rumkowski. It won the 2009 Gydnia Literary Prize and was nominated for this year’s NIKE Award, and Reverse director Lankosz has just announced plans for the film adaptation. In terms of his potential for the U.S. publishing market, Bart may very well be Poland’s answer to serious popular foreign authors like Stieg Larsson, Peter Hoeg, or Jostein Gaarder. The Book Institute has more information about him and his books on its website, along with an excerpt from The Flypaper Factory, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.

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(Photos of Piotr Sommer and Andrzej Sosnowski © Elżbieta Lempp / Biuro Literackie.)

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):

Fado
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:

Poems
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).

Julia Hartwig #7 on IndieBound’s Spring poetry list

I just downloaded IndieBound’s new iphone application—which looks like it will actually be useful (as opposed to 98% of iphone applications)—and I was pleased to see that Julia Hartwig’s book In Praise of the Unfinished (translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter, Knopf 2008), is listed at #7 on IndieBound’s Spring 2009 Poetry list. The list is compiled based on recommendations from booksellers around the country. Here’s what Shawn Wathen from the Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton, Montana has to say about Hartwig:

In her only collection currently available in English, Julia Hartwig’s In Praise of the Unfinished is a profound meditation on life at boundaries of History and Time. In exquisite distillations of experience and perception, Hartwig—one of the brilliant poetic masters from Poland—explores philosophical and emotional depths without losing herself or her readers in obscurantism or trite turns of phrase. A poet of the universal rather than the narrow, we should be grateful for her words.

Ewa Lipska in the 21st Century

The latest issue (#15) of the San Francisco-based translation journal Two Lines came in the mail yesterday, and what I’ve read so far is tremendous: two really amazing poems by French poet Emmanuel Moses, translated by Marilyn Hacker; works by Latvian poet Pēters Brūveris, translated by Inara Cedrins (two poems that remind me somehow of that other great Baltic poet Johannes Bobrowski) and Lithuanian novelist Ričardas Gavelis, translated by Elizabeth Novickas (an excerpt from Vilnius Poker, which Open Letter has just published); a number of Old English rune poems translated by John Estes (I have to admit I was more interested in discerning a connection with the Old English, which I know almost nothing about, than reading the translations…); and three lovely poems by Ewa Lipska, translated by Margret Grebowicz. There’s a lot more that I haven’t gotten to, all of it enticing. The issue is subtitled “Strange Harbors” and is quite thoughtfully edited. You can find more information about it (and past issues of Two Lines) at the Center for the Art of Translation website.

cover-two-lines

It’s nice to see work by Lipska in English again. She has been one of the stalwarts of Polish poetry since her debut in the early 1960s, and is associated with the New Wave poets— Barańczak, Zagajewski, Kornhauser (in the same way that Barbara Guest is associated with Ashbery, O’Hara, and Schuyler, I would add)—both because they are of the same generation and on account of the linguistic skepticism that characterized all of their work in the 1970s. Lipska, however, has continued to pursue this poetic, while the others haven’t really, except maybe Kornhauser. And if her contemporary Zagajewski can be considered an inheritor of Herbert, she might be considered an heir-apparent to Różewicz.

The now defunct Forest Books brought out a book of Lipska’s poetry in 1991, Poet? Criminal? Madman?, translated by British translators Barbara Plebanek and Tony Howard, which is out of print. I’ve just learned of another Plebanek-Howard collaboration, Arc Publications’ Pet Shops and Other Poems, which is not distributed in the U.S. and was evidently not very well publicized anywhere. She has also appeared in several anthologies over the years: Barańczak’s and Cavanagh’s 1991 Spoiling Cannibals’ Fun, Bassnett’s and Kuhiwczak’s Ariadne’s Thread, Regina Gról’s 1996 Ambers Aglow. But probably because of the galvanization of a canon of Polish poets that happened more or less when Szymborska got the Nobel Prize in 1996, Lipska has fallen out of view—the American view, at least.

(Based on my own memory of the time, I’d say that prior to 1996—or let’s say 1995, when View With a Grain of Sand came out—Szymborska was only marginally better known in the U.S. than Poland’s other major woman poets: Lipska, Julia Hartwig, Urszula Kozioł; and was certainly no better known than Różewicz, with whom she shared Magnus Krynski and Robert Maguire as her first translators. Also, in the 1980s, largely due to Miłosz’s very active promotion of her and a single hardbound volume with Harcourt Brace, Anna Świr was far better known than Szymborska, though who reads her now?)

Anyway, back to Lipska. We’re about to see a lot of her again in a very short while: Northwestern University Press has a volume slated for their fall catalogue: THE NEW CENTURY, which comprises poems from at least six of her recent books, with the lion’s share coming from 1999 (1999) and Newton’s Orange (2007). The volume will also be furnished with forewords by Ewa Lipska herself, Szymborska, and both of the translators: Robin Davidson (who is a professor in the English Department at University of Houston Downtown) and Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska (a younger Polish poet based in Kraków). Lipska’s translator for the poems in Two Lines, Margaret Grebowicz (who is a professor in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Goucher College), also has a complete manuscript that is looking for a publisher. I haven’t seen it, but judging from the three lovely poems in the magazine, I hope it does find one soon. In any case, with Knopf publishing books by Julia Hartwig and Janusz Szuber (forthcoming in May—I’ll be posting something on this shortly) and this book by Ewa Lipska coming out with Northwestern, it seems there might be a new wave of interest in Polish poetry afoot.

ewa_lipska_obraz_027Ewa Lipska (photo credit: http://www.zgapa.pl)

In Praise of Julia Hartwig

Julia Hartwig, one of the more eminent poets of the generation of ’56 (born in 1921, she is roughly the same age as Szymborska, Herbert, and Ficowski), finally appeared in book form in English last year, thanks to the good work of translators John and Bogdana Carpenter and editor Deborah Garrison at Knopf. While this is her first extensive appearance in English, it is by no means her first appearance in an English-speaking country. She and her husband, the poet Artur Międzyrzecki (1922-1996), spent several years in the States, teaching at SUNY Stonybrook in the 1970s, and as participants in the International Writing Program in the 1980s. Hartwig’s book IN PRAISE OF THE UNFINISHED is exceptionally handsome, with thick paper wraps and stamped typography, and garnered quite a bit of attention at our AWP table last week.

in_praise_of_the_unfinished_selected_poemslarge2

Unfortunately it has not been as widely reviewed as one might hope (though that’s hardly surprising for any book of poetry). One brief but thoughtful review, by Rita Signorelli-Pappas, did appear in World Literature Today in November. Here’s an excerpt:

What gives Hartwig’s poems their unusual freshness is her lightness of touchshe seems able to effortlessly balance the real and the mythic. In “Philemon and Baucis,” she presents a modern epilogue to the Ovidian myth. A husband who distractedly listens to his wife’s shuffling footsteps in the middle of the night suddenly becomes disoriented and asks, “Is this shuffling real, or is it only a memory, in the past, in nonexistence?” In Ovid, the couple’s generosity to the gods was rewarded with a gift that froze them in eternal union, but Hartwig’s poem suggests an elastic, reversible sense of time in which the present looks back at the past and the past points forward to the present. In “Not Eternity and Not a Void,” the speaker muses on the elusive present moment in time, which “like the mythical messenger / light-footed Iris / always moves away from us with an unknown message.”

Memory amounts to a kind of gentle obsession with Hartwig, but her treatment of the subject is buoyant rather than melancholy. In “Rebuke,” the speaker slyly scolds memory for being unpredictable, a view underscored by the absence of punctuation: “Lawless memory you project / whatever you like on a screen / ignoring our expectations.”

Hartwig was invited to return to New York next week, to read together with Charles Simic at the 92nd Street Y and participate in a translation workshop with the Carpenters. Unfortunately she broke her hip last month and cannot travel. Simic will be reading a selection of her poems from the book along with a short text written by her for the occasion. We wish her a speedy recovery: Szybkiego powrotu do zdrowia!