Tag Archives: Mariusz Szczygieł

After Kapuściński: Institute of Reportage (InstytutR) opens in Warsaw

The Polish Instytut Reportażu has just opened in Warsaw, established in response to a couple of problems that are hardly limited to Poland: dwindling financial resources for investigative journalism and the need to train new generations of reporters. Wojciech Tochman, author of Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia (Portobello / Atlas & Co., 2008), Mariusz Szczygieł, winner of the Prix AMPHI and the Europe Book Prize for his book Gottland, and Paweł Goźliński, Head of Gazeta Wyborcza‘s reportage section, are the founders and make up the Board. Joanna Czudec, formerly of the Book Institute in Kraków, has just moved to Warsaw to become its Director. And there is an Advisory Board that includes Wojciech Jagielski, author of Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya (Seven Stories, 2009); Alicja Kapuścińska, widow of Ryszard Kapuściński; and Hanna Krall, author of The Woman From Hamburg and Other True Stories (Other Press, 2005), among other books in English. These are all absolutely fantastic people to have working together, and this is an exciting project that will no doubt go a long way to securing the future of journalism in Poland, hopefully with effects in other countries as well.

I took the liberty of translating the Institute’s mission statement:

Why an Institute of Reportage?

“We know too little about too much.”

There are various ways for people to gain more knowledge.
One way is reportage.

It was invented to provide as many people as possible with knowledge about other people.
To enable as many people as possible to understand another person.

So, since Polish reportage (and Polish literary journalism likewise) is our passion…

And since Polish reportage is rather expensive, and reporters, publishers, and editorial boards are less and less able to cover the costs of fieldwork…

Since more and more young people are interested to learn journalism, but have no one to teach them…

Since there has thus far been no central resource for information about Polish reporters and their writing…

Since more and more often we hear how it is reportage, not novels or films, that has most accurately described what has happened in Poland and the world since the fall of communism, and that a lot of journalistic writing could easily be adapted for the theater…

And since Warsaw itself seems to us to provide such excellent material for reporters…

We have established here, in Warsaw, the Institute of Reportage, which aims to do everything possible to make full sentences out of those dependent clauses above.

Sentences, and an assignment. For the coming years.

Since we know too little about too much (as Ryszard Kapuściński, the greatest representative of our vocation, writes in Travels With Herodotus), we need to support reportage. Because the more we know about the world around us, the better, safer, and more stimulating our lives will be.

Paweł Goźliński, Mariusz Szczygieł, Wojciech Tochman
Founders, InstituteR

Known in brief as InstytutR, the institute has a website up that features extensive information on recent and upcoming journalism-related events; the program for its year-long course in journalism (an impressive syllabus that involves a three-day intensive block course every month, with classes taught by Goźliński, Krall, Szczygieł, and Tochman, along with other well-known Polish reportage authors like Agata Tuszyńska, Jacek Hugo-Bader (whose reportage on Russia, White Fever, has just been bought by Portobello in the UK), and Lidia Ostalowska; as well as information on books, radio and theater tie-ins, and photoreportage. So far the website is only available in Polish. But an English-language version is in the works, so make sure to check back for it.

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>

Why an Institute of Reportage? —

“We know too little about too much.”

There are various ways for people to gain more knowledge.

One way is reporting.

It was invented to provide as many people as possible with knowledge about other people.

To enable as many people as possible to understand another person.

So, since Polish reportage (and Polish literary journalism likewise) is our passion…

And since Polish reportage is rather expensive, and reporters, publishers, and editorial boards are less and less able to cover the costs of fieldwork…

Since more and more young people are interested to learn journalism, but have no one to teach them…

Since there has thus far been no central resource for information about Polish reporters and their writing…

Since more and more often we hear how it is reportage, not novels or films, that has most accurately described what has happened in Poland and the world since the fall of communism, and that a lot of journalistic writing could easily be adapted for the theater…

And since Warsaw itself seems to us to provide such excellent material for reporters…

We have established here, in Warsaw, the Institute of Reportage, which aims to do everything possible to make full sentences out of those dependent clauses above.

Sentences, and an assignment. For the coming years.

Since we know too little about too much (as Ryszard Kapuściński, the greatest representative of our vocation, writes in Travels With Herodotus), we need to support reportage. Because the more we know about the world around us, the better, safer, and more stimulating our lives will be.

Paweł Goźliński, Mariusz Szczygieł, Wojciech Tochman
Founders, InstituteR

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.

*

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

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.