Tag Archives: Polish Cultural Institute

Found in Translation Award nomination, Deadline January 31st

If you haven’t yet made your nomination, please read further and send your email in by this Sunday!

Found in Translation Award 2010

The Book Institute reminds that 31st of January is the deadline for submitting nominations for Found in Translation Award.

The Award was announced 2 years ago by the Polish Book Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute in London, the Polish Cultural Institute in New York and W.A.B. Publishing House in Warsaw.

The Found in Translation Award is presented annually to the translator or translators of the best translation into English of a work of Polish literature published as a book in the previous calendar year.

The Award consists of a three-month placement in Krakow, with accommodation, a grant of 2,000 PLN per month, a return airline ticket to Krakow funded by the Polish Book Institute and a financial award of 10,000 PLN funded by the W.A.B. Publishing House.

The Award is presented by a Selection Committee consisting of representatives of the Polish Book Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute in London and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York. The Director of the Polish Book Institute is the President of the Selection Committee.

The name of the winner is announced during the award ceremony, which is organised each year in the winner’s country of origin, if possible during that country’s International Book Fair.

Candidates for the Award can be nominated by both private persons and institutions in Poland and abroad.

Nominations should be sent to the Polish Book Institute, 31-011 Kraków, ul. Szczepańska 1, Poland, e-mail office@bookinstitute.pl with the subject-heading FOUND IN TRANSLATION.

The nomination must include the book title, the name of the author, the name of the translator, the publisher, and the reasons for the nomination. The deadline for submitting nominations is midnight on January 31 each year.

Previous award winners: Bill Johnston (2008) for NEW POEMS by Tadeusz Różewicz (Archipelago Books, USA); Antonia Lloyd-Jones (2009) for THE LAST SUPPER by Paweł Huelle (Serpent’s Tail, UK).


Literary Reportage: Forensics of Crisis podcast on WWB Blog

David Varno of the Words Without Borders blog has just posted a write-up and a podcast of the event we held on May 27th at Idlewild Books in New York. “Literary Reportage: The Forensics of Crisis” featured Polish journalist Wojciech Tochman (author of Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia), Guatemalan-American novelist Francisco Goldman (author of The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?, and outgoing Director of Yale UP/incoming Director of the Yivo Institute Jonathan Brent (author of Inside the Stalin Archives: Discovering the New Russia). It was moderated by critic and journalist Marcela Valdes, who is a contributing editor at Publishers Weekly and will be a Niemann Foundation Fellow at Harvard next year. I think the discussion was terrific and excellently moderated by Valdes. Although much of it did deal with differences and similarities between fiction and reportage, as Varno points out, by the end of the conversation, Valdes succeeded in uncovering some deeper currents linking the three books, which had to do with the issue of impunity and the writer’s ethical relationship to the victims and perpetrators of injustice. Thanks to David and Bud Parr and Words Without Borders for making the podcast available.

From left: Marcela Valdes, Francisco Goldman, Jonathan Brent, Wojciech Tochman (Photo: John Beckman)

From left: Marcela Valdes, Francisco Goldman, Jonathan Brent, Wojciech Tochman (Photo: John Beckman)

Modjeska & Sontag

My theater-programming colleague here at the PCI, Agata Grenda, has been working on a program about the fascinating nineteenth-century Polish celebrity Helena Modjeska (née Benda, aka Modrzejewska). Modjeska was a Shakespearean actress who rose from humble beginnings to become a star of the Warsaw stage, immigrated with her nobleman husband to California, where they founded a utopian community, then reinvented herself as an American actress to become a star in this country, too. The Polish Cultural Institute is co-sponsoring two events to commemorate Modjeska, who died a hundred years ago this year: a panel discussion on April 8th at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, CUNY Graduate Center, with Duke University Professor Beth Holmgren and Polish Shakespeare scholar Andrzej Żurawski; and the official unveiling of a memorial plaque at St. Stanislaus Church in Manhattan’s East Village (where Modjeska’s final funeral ceremony in America took place before her remains were shipped to Poland for burial).

In my increasing curiosity about her, I turned of course to the interwebs and immediately stumbled on Susan Sontag’s 2001 novel IN AMERICA, a fictionalized account of Modjeska’s life (the publication and story of which were overshadowed first by allegations of plagiarism and then by mediated public outcry over Sontag’s critical statements following the destruction of the World Trade Center in mid-September 2001). I remember when the book came out, but forgot all about it until today.

The opening chapter, which I’ve just read now on Googlebooks, is interesting from a technical viewpoint since it fictionalizes the process of fictionalization itself. The “uninvited, unseen” narrator begins the narration while people-watching at a party, setting her sights on the charismatic figure of Modjeska, whom she names.

It seemed to me I’d caught her name, it was either Helena or Maryna—and supposing it would help me to decipher the story if I could identify the couple or the trio, what better start than to give them names, I decided to think of her as Maryna.

This coyly mistaken nomenclature levers the surface of the text away from the biographical lathing behind it. It  allows Sontag to assert the fictive and the real qualities of the narrative simultaneously, to have her realism and eat it too. In any case, Sontag taps into her own—and everyone else’s it would seem—fascination for this historical person, Helena Modjeska, and uses it to propel the story:

I had no doubt that all the men and several of the women must be at least a little in love with Maryna. But it was more, or less, than love. They were enthralled by her. I wondered if I could be enthralled by her, were I one of them, not merely someone watching, trying to figure them out.

I’ve unfortunately only read Sontag’s essays, so I can’t speak for this book as a whole, but I understand, I think, at least a little of Sontag’s thrall; and this, and the fact that what I’ve read so far is stylistically quite remarkable, makes me want also to read this novel (not on Googlebooks tho’). The more one looks at Modjeska’s life, the more fascinating it becomes, even a century later; and Sontag seems to be exploring that capacity to enthrall—and the capacity to be in thrall—here, too.

hmodjeska_lg ssontag

Incidentally, Susan Sontag has done a great service to the cause of literature by establishing the Susan Sontag Prize for Translation, which is awarded annually (the first award was given in 2008) to “a literary translator under the age of 30 for a translation project of his or her own design.” More information about the award can be found at the Susan Sontag Foundation website.

Polish Cultural Institute at the AWP Book Fair

Here are some photos from our booth at the Associated Writing Programs book fair last week:


awp32 awp62


We displayed over 55 titles of Polish literature in English translation, all published in the last 10 years, from over 23 publishers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. About 20 titles from a small handful of Polish publishers (Czarne, Ha!art, and W.A.B.) were also on hand. Unfortunately we weren’t selling anything, but we did have a stack of New Books from Poland catalogues from the Polish Book Institute to give away, along with bookmarks, Zbigniew Herbert commemorative chapbooks, and magnets! These pictures were taken, I think on Friday, right after the fair opened at 8:30 A.M., so they don’t give any sense of the throngs of Associated Writers that coursed past at other times of the day. It’s hard to say what kind of effect such a booth can or ought to have, much less quantify it, but I think the banner with our logo and the unusual props (an old bookcase, table, and flowers as a vaguely rustic antidote to the corporate countenance of most of the fair…) were well regarded. Thanks to Karen Underhill and Jennifer Croft for their help!