Bill Johnston, translator and professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University, is the winner of the 10th Transatlantyk Prize. The 54-year-old Johnston is the translator of 30 books and 53 short works from Polish, including that of Jan Kochanowski, Różewicz, and Tkaczyszyn-Dycki.
The prize, presented by the Book Institute in Kraków, was awarded on Thursday, June 12 at the Jagiellonian University’s Collegium Maius. Johnston was recognized for his contribution to popularizing Polish literature abroad by a jury comprised of Russian translator Ksenia Starosielska, English professor Elżbieta Tabakowska, literary historian Jerzy Jarzębski, and last year’s winner, Karol Lesman.
Bill Johnston was born in 1960 in Great Britain. As a student at Oxford University (Russian Philology and French) he received a scholarship to study Polish at the University of Warsaw.
Johnston has particular connections with Kraków and Wrocław, where he lived after university, from 1983-1991. There he worked as an English teacher on behalf of the British Council and as director of the English Language Center. Among his students from that time are professors Jerzy Jarzębski, Leon Kieres, and Tamara Trojanowska. He now lives in the USA.
His prolific career has produced translations of 30 novels and 53 short works. Johnston has translated early Polish literature (The Envoys by Jan Kochanowski), the Romantics (Balladina by Słowacki), realist writers of the late 19th century (Żeromski's Coming Spring and The Faithful River, Prus's The Sins of Childhood), and many 20th century classics, above all Gombrowicz (Bacacay and Polish Memories), the short stories of Herling-Grudziński, the novels of Szczypiorski, and the poetry of Baczyński and Różewicz.
He has also made significant contributions to the translation of contemporary literature, including the works of Magdalena Tulli, Andrzej Stasiuk, Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki, Tomasz Różycki, and selected poems by Krzysztof Koehler, Julia Fiedorczuk, Wojciech Bonowicz, Mariusz Grzebalski, and Dariusz Suska.
His translations have been highly praised and released by prestigious publishing houses (including Achipelago Press Books, New Directions, Grove Press, Yale University Press, and Northwestern University Press). Johnston’s translations of Wiesław Myśliwski’s novels (Stone Upon Stone and A Treatise on Shelling Beans) have be particularly praised. For Stone Upon Stone, he received many of the most significant translation awards in the USA (Best Translated Book Award 2012: Fiction, PEN Translation Prize, AATSEEL Translation Award).
The Transatlantyk Prize has been awarded by the Book Institute in Kraków since 2005 and includes a prize of 10,000 euro and a statue by Łukasz Kieferling. It is granted to outstanding ambassadors of Polish literature abroad. Its aim is to promote Polish literature in the world, and to integrate the communities of those working to promote Polish literature (translators, literary critics, literary historians, cultural animators). The prize is named for the famous work of Witold Gombrowicz.
Nominees must be citizens of other countries (including Poles with foreign passports) and are selected from translators, publishers, critics, and organizers of cultural life. Submissions of candidates come from Polish and foreign cultural institutions, research centers, publishers, creative associations, and private individuals.
The previous award winners to date have been: Henryk Bereska (2005), Anders Bodegaard (2006), Albrecht Lempp (2007), Xenia Starosielska (2008), Biserka Rajčić (2009), Pietro Marchesani (2010), Vlasta Dvořáčková (2011), Yi Lijun (2012), and Karol Lesman (2013).
Source: PAP, Instytut Książki, ed. mg, 13 June 2014, trans. Alena Aniskiewicz 13.06.2014