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A Short Guide to Famous Foreigners Fascinated with Poland


Filip Lech
 Wisława Szymborska i Karl Dedecius (tłumacz poezji W. Szymborskiej na niemiecki) podczas Targów Książki w Warszawie, 1997, fot. Krzysztof Wojciechowski / Forum
Wisława Szymborska and Karl Dedecius (translator of Szymborska's poems into German) at the Warsaw Book Fair, 1997, photo: Krzysztof Wojciechowski / Forum

Andrukhovych, Brodsky, Davies, Gerould, Snyder, Sekiguchi...These are just some of many foreign academics and translators, who want to share Polish history and culture with the world. Who are they and what have they done?

Yurii Andrukhovych

Jurij Andruchowycz, fot. Leszek Zych / Reporter
Yurii Andrukhovych, photo: Leszek Zych / Reporter

Writer, poet, singer and translator from Ivano-Frankivsk. He has translated Czesław Miłosz’s poetry, A Dreambook for Our Time by Tadeusz Konwicki and Cinnamon Shops by Bruno Schulz into Ukranian. Together with Andrzej Stasiuk, he published the book My Europe: Two essays on the Europe Called Central. He also recorded an album with Karbido (a band from Wrocław) and Mikołaj Trzaska.

Timothy Garton Ash

Timothy Garton Ash, fot. Mateusz Skwarczek / AG
Timothy Garton Ash, photo: Mateusz Skwarczek / AG

The British historian’s main focus of interest is contemporary European history. He is fluent in German and Polish and published The Polish Revolution: Solidarity and The Uses of Adversity: Essays on the Fate of Central Europe. His essays can be read in The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Gazeta Wyborcza.

Anders Bodegård

Anders Bodegård, fot. Bartosz Bobkowski / PAP
Anders Bodegård, photo: Bartosz Bobkowski / PAP

A Swedish Slavicist, translator of French and Polish literature. In 1967, he attended a course for Polish philology students at the University of Warsaw. In the 1980s, he lived in Kraków and taught Swedish at Jagiellonian University. Bodegård has translated and promoted the works of Ryszard Kapuściński, Ewa Lipska, Zbigniew Herbert, Paweł Huelle, Antoni Libera, Józef Tischner, Adam Zagajewski and Wisława Szymborska. The latter had said, that without his translations, she would never have received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Joseph Brodsky

Josif Brodski i Czesław Miłosz podczas spotkania na Uniwersytecie Jagiellońskim w Krakowie, 1990, fot. Maciej Socho / PAP
Joseph Brodsky and Czesław Miłosz during a meeting at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, 1990, photo: Maciej Socho

A poet, author of numerous essays and Nobel Laureate in Literature in 1987. He was a member of the board of the Paris-founded Zeszyty Literackie [Literary Notebooks] and translated  Czesław Miłosz’s and Zbigniew Herbert’s poetry into Russian. Irena Grudzińska-Gross wrote the book Miłosz and Brodsky: Magnetic Fields, devoted to the Nobel laureates’ friendship.

Francesco M. Cataluccio

Francesco M. Cataluccio, fot. Damian Klamka / East News
Francesco M. Cataluccio, photo: Damian Klamka

The Italian philosopher and Polish philologist studied in Florence and in Warsaw. He is the editor of the Italian editions of Witold Gombrowicz’s work as well as the Italian and Spanish joint edition of Bruno Schulz’s oeuvre. He is perhaps best known to Polish readers as the author of Immaturity: Disease of Our Time and I’m Going to See if It’s Better There. Cataluccio is a laureate of the Giuseppe Dessi National Literary Prize.

Norman Davies

Norman Davies, fot. Piotr Małecki / Forum
Norman Davies, photo: Piotr Małecki / Forum

British historian, a member of the Polish Academy of Learning, the British Academy and Knight of the Order of the White Eagle (Poland’s highest distinction). He lectured at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College in London. In 2014, Davies became a Polish citizen and roots for the Cracovia Kraków soccer team.

His first book, dedicated to Polish history, based on his doctoral dissertation (White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War, 1919-20), was published in 1972. The book was published in the Polish underground in 1989, but its first official release (by the Znak Social Publishing Institute) wasn’t until 1997. Other works by Davies, share Polish history with English readers include God’s Playground. A History of Poland (1979) and Rising ’44. The Battle for Warsaw (2003). 

Karl Dedecius

Karl Dedecius, fot. Irena Jarosińska/Forum
Karl Dedecius, photo: Irena Jarosińska / Forum

Translator of Polish and Russian literature in Germany. He worked on translation theory, Polish-German relations, published works in both popular and academic the press and lectured at numerous universities. He was born in 1921 in Łódź. During World War II, he was recruited to the Wehrmacht and sent to the Eastern Front. He was captured near Stalingrad (1943-49) and used his time in captivity to learn Russian. In 1952, he emigrated to West Germany. He died in 2016 in Frankfurt am Main.

In 1980, Dedecius founded the Deutsches Polen Institut in Darmstadt (editor’s translation: German-Polish Studies Institute), which was in charge of Polish-German relations and the promotion of Polish literature. He was also an editor of the fifty-volume Polnische Bibliothek, which featured monographs on separate eras of Polish literature, from the Middle Ages until today, as well as German translations of Polish literature (including the works of Mickiewicz, Miłosz, Szymborska, Kruczkowski, Żeromski, Nałkowska, Parnicki, Rymkiewicz and Herbert).

Dedecius has translated more than 300 Polish poets and writers. His most important publication is Panorama der Polnischen Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts (Panorama of Polish Literature of the 20th century). He has also written a guide for translators called Translator’s Notebook (editor’s translation), the book Poles and Germans in Europe (editor’s translation) and a memoir European from Łódź.

In 2003, the Karl Dedecius Prize was created to recognize Polish translators of German literature and German translators of Polish literature.

Daniel Gerould

Okładka książki Quick Change: 28 Theatre Essays & 4 Plays in Translation, 2010. Daniel Gerould, fot. archiwum Paula Bargetto, materiały prasowe wyd. Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
Cover of Quick Change: 28 Theatre Essays & 4 Plays in Translation by Daniel Gerould, 2010, photo: courtesy of Paul Bargetto, press materials: Martin E. Segal Theatre Centre

The Swedish theatrologist, fascinated with Polish culture, died in 2012. He started to study Polish after his encounter with Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s theatre. In the Anglo-Saxon world, especially in the USA, Gerould became a real ambassador of Polish theatre. When, in the 1970s, he became a professor of theatre and comparative literature at New York’s most prestigious schools, the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York (where he lectured his whole life), his fascination with Polish theatre was shared by his students to the extent, that one can safely say, that there isn’t a single serious theatre researcher in the States, who doesn’t know Witkacy, Witold Gombrowicz, Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy Grotowski, Sławomir Mrożek or Tadeusz Różewicz. Because of Gerould’s work at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center at CUNY, of which he was the director, that list was modified and expanded year by year, to include younger names such as Dorota Masłowska or Przemysław Wojcieszek.

He was the author of essentially all of the English translations of Witkacy published in the USA, among which are plays and writings of the author of  The Shoemaker. All of Witkacy’s American adaptations (and there were more than 20 of them between 1966 and 1976 alone!) were based on Gerould’s translations. His inexhaustible energy, both in translation and research, resulted in many other translations of, among others, Mrożek, Stanisława Przybyszewska (translated with his wife Jadwiga Kosicka), poems of Teatrzyk Zielona Gęś (editor’s translation: The Little Theatre of the Green Goose) and many others. He left a huge legacy of works on theatre and drama theory as well numerous essays.

Ola Hnatiuk

Ola Hnatiuk, fot. Nowa Europa Wschodnia
Ola Hnatiuk, photo:  Now Europa Wschodnia (New Eastern Europe)

Ukrainian Studies expert, an alumna of the University of Warsaw, a professor at the Institute of Slavic Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences. She translates Ukrainian literature into Polish (e.g. the novels of Yurii Andrukhovych, The History of Ukraine, by Natalia Yakovenko, Katyń. On the Traces of Polish Officers [editor’s translation] by Oleksandr Zinchenko). Her doctoral dissertation A Farewell to the Empire: Ukranian Debates on Identity, from 2003, was awarded a Przegląd Wschodni Prize and Jerzy Giedroyć Literary Award. In 2015, she published the book Courage and Fear about the Polish, Jewish and Ukrainian intelligentsia of Lviv during the war.

Padraic Kenney

Padraic Kenney, fot. z archiwum prywatnego autora
Padraic Kenney, photo: courtesy of the author

The American historian’s main focus is the contemporary history of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. He was head of Polish Studies at Indiana University until 2014 and is currently chair of its International Studies Department. While some of the Boston native's works were translated, such as A Carnival of Revolution – Central Europe 1989 and Rebuilding Poland: Workers and Communists, 1945-1950, others he actually wrote directly in Polish itself, such as Wrocławskie Zadymy (Kenney’s unofficial translation: Wrocław Rumbles).

Akiko Kasuya

Okładka książki Akiko Kasuya ''Modern Art in Central Europe'', reprodukcja: Dagmara Smolna
Cover of Akiko Kasuya’s book Modern Art in Central Europe, reproduction: Dagmara Smolna

An expert on Polish art and professor at the Kyoto City University of Arts. She studied philosophy at Jagiellonian University’s Department of Aesthetics. Kasusya is the author of many works on Polish Avant-garde: Polish Avant-garde Art: Applied Fantasy for Survival and Modern Art in Central Europe (together with Toshino Iguchi). She is the artistic director of a festival in Tatsuno, to which she has invited many Polish artists, e.g. Mirosław Bałka.

Andreas Lawaty

Andreas Lawaty, fot. Adam Guz / Reporter
Andreas Lawaty, photo: Adam Guz / Reporter

German historian and Slavicist, born in Bytom. He worked in the Deutsches Polen Institut in Darmstadt and is editor of the fifty-volume series of Polish literature in German translations published by the Polnische Bibliothek. He is the author of many books on Polish-German culture and history, along with the book Intellectual Visions and Revisions in the History of Polish-German Relationship of the 19th to 21st Centuries.

Wiktoria Moczałowa

Wiktoria Moczałowa, fot. Rafał Guz / PAP
Wiktoria Moczałowa, photo: Rafał Guz / PAP

Philologist, Slavicist, and head of the Association of Scientists and Jewish Studies Professors at the Sefer Universities in Moscow. Polish and Czech literature is her main focus of research. She has published works in Polish and Russian on Polish literature and is a recurring guest at academic conferences in Poland. Her publications include: Еcha poezji Jana Kochanowskiego w literaturze rosyjskiej (editor’s translation: Echoes of Jan Kochanowski’s Poetry in Russian Literature) and Nieznany egzemplarz siedemnastowiecznego wydania polskiego Sowizrzała odnaleziony w Moskwie a problem edycji naukowej tego utworu (editor’s translation: Unknown Edition of the 17th Century Polish Till Eulenspiegel Found in Moscow and the Problem of its Scientific Edition).

Agneta Pleijel

Agneta Pleijel, fot. Marcin Obara / PAP
Agneta Pleijel, photo: Marcin Obara / PAP

Swedish playwright and poet. Together with her husband, Marcin Zaremba Bielawski, she has translated Zbigniew Herbert’s poetry into Swedish. Pleijel’s book Lord Nevermore talks about anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski’s affiliations with Witkacy.

Martin Pollack

Martin Pollack, fot. Maciej Zienkieiwcz / AG
Martin Pollack, photo: Marcin Zienkiewicz / AG

Austrian writer, reporter, Slavicist, historian and translator. He studied at the University of Vienna, the University of Warsaw and in the former Yugoslavia. He translated the works of Andrzej Bobkowski, Ryszard Kapuściński, Mariusz Wilk and Wilhelm Dichter into German. In his own books, printed by the Czarne publishing house, he writes about and analyses Polish history: To Galicia: Of Chasidim, Huzules, Poles and Ruthenians, Why Did They Shoot Stanisławów?, Sarmatian Landscapes.

In 2007, he received the Karl Dedecius Prize and in 2016, the Kapuściński Award for his achievements in translation.

Brian Porter-Szucs

Brian Porter Szucs oraz okładka książki "Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom", fot. kadr z filmu Pope Francis' Stands on Immigration Will Add to Debate in the U.S., University of Michigan
Brian Porter-Szucs and the cover of his book Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom, photo: still from the movie Pope Francis’ Stands on Immigration Will Add to Debate in the U.S., University of Michigan

Historian, writer and professor at the University of Michigan. Since 1994, he has researched the history of the Catholic Church as well as Polish history, particularly the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2010, he became head of the Polish Studies Association, an international organisation promoting an interdisciplinary approach to studying Polish history, literature, culture, society and politics. Polish readers can learn about his research in When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland.

Tokimasa Sekiguchi

Tokimasa Sekiguch, fot. Łukasz Krajewski / AG
Tokimasa Sekiguchi, photo: Łukasz Krajewski / AG

Polish philologist, translator, professor of Polish studies. He studied French literature and comparative culture, in 1974-1976 he was a Polish government scholar at Jagiellonian University. In 1992, Sekiguchi began to work at the Department of Polish Studies of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (opened just a year before), which he was head of until March 2013, after which he retired and the department closed. He published a series of essays in Japanese: Pōrando to Tasha (Poland and Its Strangers – editor’s translation) and translated Jan Kochanowski’s Laments, Ballads and Romances by Mickiewicz, Czesław Miłosz’s The History of Polish Literature, Mother Joan of the Angels by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Towards a Biography by Jan Kott, Four Plays of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Ivona, Princess of Burgundia by Witold Gombrowicz and the Correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, vol. I, 1816-1831.

Marci Shore

Marci Shore, fot. Artur Reszko / PAP
Marci Shore, photo: Artur Reszko / PAP

American historian, interested in Central and Eastern Europe. She is a lecturer at Yale University. In 2006, she published Caviar and Ashes about the relationship of Polish writers of the inter-war period with the ideology of the communist regime ­­– from Aleksander Wat and Bruno Jasieński to Władysław Broniewski and Wanda Wasilewska. In her second book, published in 2013, The Taste of Ashes, she writes about the fall of the communist regime from the perspective of her own journeys to Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania. She translated The Black Seasons, a wartime memoir of Michał Głowiński, a Polish literature critic and theoretician.

Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder, 2011, fot. Magda Starowieyska/Fotorzepa/Forum
Timothy Snyder, 2011, photo: Magda Starowieyska / Fotorzepa /Forum

American historian, a professor at Yale University, Snyder specialises in the history of nationalism in Middle-Eastern Europe. In the book The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus, 1569-1999, he strives to track the birth of national identities of the countries in the region. He also wrote a biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauze and Bloodlands, a history of Central Europe in 1933-1945 from the perspective of victims murdered for political reasons.

Adrian Thomas

Okładki książek "Bacewicz: Chamber and Orchestral Music'', ''Górecki'',  ''Polish Music since Szymanowski'', fot. materiały prasowe wyd.
Covers of Bacewicz: Chamber and Orchestral Music, Górecki, Polish Music since Szymanowski, photo: publishing house’s press materials

British composer and musicologist specialising in Polish music. He studied in Nottingham, Cardiff and Kraków, as a student of Bogusław Schaeffer. Some of his most valued books include Bacewicz: Chamber and Orchestral Music, Górecki (published both in Polish and English), Polish Music since Szymanowski and a monography of Witold Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto (in the making).

In 1993, he organised the Polska! Festival, in honour of the 80th birthday of Lutosławski and the 60th birthdays of Górecki and Penderecki.

Tomas Venclova

Tomas Venclova, fot. Adam Guz / Reporter
Tomas Venclova, photo: Adam Guz / Reporter

Lithuanian poet and essayist, literary critic and translator. He was a member of the editing board of the Paris-founded Zeszyty Literackie, and actively participated in the anti-communist movement in Lithuania and Russia. In 1977, he emigrated to the United States, where he taught Slavic and Russian literature at Yale University. Venclova was friends with Czesław Miłosz and Joseph Brodsky. He translated the poems of Norwid, Miłosz, Herbert and Szymborska into Lithuanian. He also wrote a monograph on Aleksander Wat. He currently lives in New Haven, but he is a frequent guest in Vilnius and Kraków.

Ołeksandr Zinczenko

Wykład Ołeksandra Zinczenki "Ukraiński ślad katyński", IPN Warszawa, 2 czerwca 2014, fot. Piotr Życieński / IPN
Oleksandr Zinchenko’s lecture on the Ukranian traces of the Katyń massacre, Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw, 2 Jun 2014, photo: Piotr Życieński / IPN

Historian, journalist and writer, a lecturer at the H.S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University. He worked at the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, is a television presenter and contributor to Historic Truth (editor’s translation). Zinchenko is also the author of the first Ukrainian book about the Katyń massacre: Katyń. In the Footsteps of Polish Officers (editor’s translation), which was based on a documentary he directed.

Originally written by Filip Lech, translated by WF, edited by NR, 14 Feb 2017

Category: 
Language & Literature