On March 24, ten titles were selected out of the initial 47 submitted by readers, authors and publishers. On April 7, five finalists were announced. On May 13 the jury will name the winner. The Award honours the legacy of Ryszard Kapuściński - eminent reporter, journalist, publicist and poet - and Warsaw native. He is the second most translated Polish author after Stanisław Lem.
The contest has an international scope, with Polish translations of foreign books also in the running. Last year's winner was French reporter Jean Hatzfeld for his La stratégie des antilopes / The Antelope Strategy. The book was translated into Polish by Jacek Giszczak. The author of the award-winning book will receive a prize of 50,000 PLN (appr. $17,700; €12,900). If the winning work comes from a non-Polish author, an additional award of (15,000 PLN) will be received by the work's translator.
The contest is organised by the City of Warsaw together with the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
Wojciech Górecki: Toast za przodków" / "Toast to the Forefathers (Wojciech Górecki, published by Czarne, Wołowiec)
Wojciech Gorecki's book begins with some historical background: "This is a story about Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia - the three countries that were part of the Soviet Union, and are today working hard to rebuild their nations. Georgians and Armenians for centuries have been flourishing kingdoms, which were eventually stifled by more powerful neighbors. Azerbaijan has not previously existed as a unified state (except for an episode from the years 1918-1920), but proving its right to existence, it refers to most of the past". The book is a fascinating story of the Caucasus, the mixture of cultures situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, drawing on the traditions of both continents. The author takes the reader to the tiny villages and big cities, listens in on his conversations with people and looks into their homes. The book is a description of the everyday customs of the region and a fascinating essay on its history.
Peter Fröberg Idling: Uśmiech Pol Pota" / "Pol Pot's Smile (translated by Mariusz Kalinowski, published by Czarne, Wołowiec)
In Cambodia, Pol Pot killed around two million people - not all the crimes were revealed to the public. "Cambodia was a closed country. For some time, few people in the West had any idea what was really happening. Swedes went to the Khmer and not able to discover the truth", said the author in an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza. In his book, he talks about Swedish intellectuals who in 1978 traveled to Cambodia because they were fascinated with the regime of the Khmer Rouge and wanted to see it with their own eyes. They were there for two weeks, never noticing that there was a genocide underway. "There was a similar trip to the Soviet Union under Stalin. Many left-wing enthusiasts have written that although they see a lot of misery, they do not intend to inform the public. In the USSR - they explained - there are great things happening, wonderful things, there is a revolution underway, the result of which will be a singular happiness. But this revolution has many enemies throughout the world, so this needs to be hidden. These reports of prior decades are a small justification. They really saw nothing. Another thing is what they would do if they saw anything, because they did not ask tough questions ", says idling. His book is warns against the ease with which left-wing journalists believe that the death of hundreds of people may be a necessary step in building a new order.
Chloe Hooper: Wysoki. Śmierć Camerona Doomadgee" / " Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee (translated by Agnieszka Nowakowska, published by Czarne, Wołowiec)
In 2004, in a remote Aboriginal community in northern Australia, Cameron Doomadgee, a drunk young indigenous man, was arrested and, a few hours later, died in his prison cell. A witness claimed that the six-foot-seven-inch arresting officer beat Doomadgee to death. The officer claimed that Doomadgee fell accidentally and that the extent of his injuries (which included broken ribs and a ruptured liver) wasn't apparent. Through the story of the manslaughter trial, Hooper lays bare Australia's institutional racism and the grim conditions of Aboriginal life there. A novelist, she finds a muscular music even when confronting sordid truths. Describing a desolate indigenous settlement, she recalls Aboriginal myth: "beer cans lay by the river's edge, their red-and-green aluminum shimmering in the sun; a nightmare incarnation of the Rainbow Serpent". Source: The New Yorker, Copyright ©2008.
John Pomfret: Lekcje chińskiego. Dzieci rewolucji kulturalnej i dzisiejsze Chiny" / " Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China (translated by Jan Halbersztat, published by Ushuaia.pl, Warszawa)
Pomfret's first sojourn in China came as an American exchange student at Nanjing University in 1981, near the outset of China's limited reopening to the West and its halting, chaotic and momentous conversion from Maoist totalitarianism to police state capitalism and status as world economic giant. Over the next two decades, he returned twice as a professional journalist and was an eyewitness to the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Pomfret's enthusiasm and personal access make this an engaging examination of three tumultuous decades, rooted in the stories of classmates whose remarkable grit and harrowing experiences neatly epitomize the sexual and cultural transformations, and the economic ups and downs, of China since the 1960s. At the same time, Pomfret draws on intimate conversations and personal diaries to paint idiosyncratic portraits with a vivid, literary flair. Viewing China's version of capitalism as an anomoly, and focused overwhelmingly within its national borders, the book's lack of a greater critical context will be limiting for some. But Pomfret's palpable and pithy first-hand depiction of the New China offers a swift, elucidating introduction to its awesome energies and troubling contradictions. Source: Publishers Weekly. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Svetlana Alexievich: Wojna nie ma w sobie nic z kobiety" / "The War's Unwomanly Face (translated by Jerzy Czech, published by Czarne, Wołowiec)
Women soldiers. There were a million in the regular army. They were very young, barely out of college, just starting their first jobs. "I went to war so young that I grew up in this time", says one of the women in the book. They rushed into war to save their homeland, or to avenge a loved one. Had no idea about what war was about. They walked to the front in light shoes and skirts. Handkerchiefs on their heads. They soon forgot about their heels and dresses. They were sharp shooters, foot soldiers. Some played more feminine roles, as nurses, collecting wounded soldiers from the battlefield, often under fire. Dragging them to the trench to dress their wounds. Or carry the amputed limbs from the surgery. They longed for their mothers, cried in their sleep. The book is woven through with the stories of dozens of women who fought during World War II. For 20 years the author trailed the women soldiers to hear 500 stories."It was a huge subject! There was only the male canon of writing about war. More than five thousand wars, and almost every one described from the male point of view. Take one scene. I was looking for a woman at the Minsk tractor factory who had been a sharpshooter. A great one. I went to the department staff and I heard from the director: 'Are there not enough men? Why listen to those stories? Those fantasies?'", recalled Alexievich in an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza.
Yoani Sanchez: Cuba libre. Notatki z Hawany" / "Cuba Libre. Notes from Havana (translataed by Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison, published by W.A.B., Warsaw)
Yoani Sanchez lives in Cuba. She is one of the most famous bloggers of the world and "Cuba libre" is composed of excerpts from her blog. Sanchez sneaks into hotels for foreigners or the few internet cafes available to tourists to publish her work. She uses humour and irony in her writing, avoiding the voice of the victim. Her writings are geared at the generation of Cubans who are 25-40 years, who so far have either remained silent or tried at all costs to go into exile. Sanchez describes the everyday life of Havana - the broken-down elevator, the houses falling into disrepair, cramped apartments, a parent's son and the reason why he has no sisters. "Everything I write basically boils down to the question that's on everyone's mind all over Cuba. How does all that's around us on this island have anything to do with what we were promised? What happened? What does this country have in common with the ideal that was intended?" said the author in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza.
Wojciech Tochman: Dzisiaj narysujemy śmierć" / "Today We Draw Death (published by Czarne, Wołowiec)
Reporter has lent a voice to those who survived the events which occurred in Rwanda in 1994. "Over one hundred days tens of thousands of people were killed there, four in one hour, seven in a minute. The country of a thousand hills and a million smiles suddenly turned into a country of a million stinking corpses", says the author. A dozen years after the Rwandan massacres Tochman talks with those who survived. His interlocutors open up slowly, he is patient, allowing them to follow their own rhythm. They talk about violence, the death of loved ones, terrible fear, escaping their persecutors. Today - it happens often - the victims are living close to their tormentors, the women raise children conceived through rape, some are dying of AIDS. Perhaps time can heal some superficial wounds, but they cannot restore human dignity. "They saved me from death, but no one saved me from what came after", says one woman. Rwanda drew many journalists, reporters and writers. To narrate, to try to explain. To ask: How did this happen? Who is to blame? What has been done to help prevent it? Tochman questions not only the victims and the persecutors, but witnesses, such as two Polish soldiers in the UN army, one of who returns to Gikondo after a number of years, and Polish priests who were in Rwanda at that time. Archbishop Henryk Hoser, who spent 21 years in Rwanda, didn't give his permission for the author to use his answers. He prefers to speak about other matters.
Kevin Frazier, Arto Halonen: W cieniu świętej księgi" / "Shadow of the Holy Book (translated by Sebastian Musielak, Czarne, Wołowiec)
Several European countries have published translations of Saparmurat Niyazov's Ruhnama (The Book of the Soul), not on the basis of its literary qualities, but rather to gain access to the natural resources of of Turkmenistan and to coddle its leaders. Finnish film director Arto Halonen and the American journalist and lawyer Kevin Frazier expose the reasons why foreign companies do business in Turkmenistan, regardless of the circumstances. Meanwhile, residents of this country have themselves said that they are former, current and future prisoners, that the public health services have been taken away and there is a lack of medicines. And when there are no hands to gather the cotton, people are rounded up in the streets to do the work. Multimillion-dollar contracts do not improve the position of ordinary people. The book accurately the consequences of closer cooperation between international corporations and authoritarian governments. "Dostoevsky would say that they are all guilty. No matter where we live, we all had a hand in subjecting Turkish dissidents to torture and the oppression of the whole nation. And it is the responsibility of each of us to do what is in our power to change this situation", explain Kevin Frazier and Arto Halonen.
Michał Olszewski: Zapiski na biletach" / "Ticket Notes (published by W.A.B., Warszawa)
The Highway from Bielsko- Biała to Kraków. A4 Autoroute from Kraków to Wrocław. Bus from Kraków -Bochnia. Flight from Przyrowice to Barcelona. Shopping at Ikea. These are notes from travels to Poland, where sauerkraut is served with a dash of orange and the kebab has become part of the national cuisine. The author of the does not ridicule Poland, but he is not excessively ginger either. He records Poland's awkwardness, its backwardness, noting, however, that in spite of everything, it all has to be better than the days of socialist dreariness. And that, in spite of everything has to be better than the days of PRL dreariness. He attempts to characterise a country that may soon become unified according to the European formula.
During his travels, the author may stop at a bar in Kraków's Kazimierz district, along ul. Krakowska. He suddenly notices a detail that makes this bar just like all those other hotel bars and restaurants the world over, from Kazakhstan to the United States. It's the "artificial chlorophyll, and mitochondria of polymers, " or, in other words, the fake flowers. Olszewski is sometimes playful and ironic: "If there is a hell of writers, an inner circle, in which all hacks are frying in boilers, groaning, moaning and crying, then Ikea is the gateway".
E. Benjamin Skinner: Zbrodnia. Twarzą w twarz ze współczesnym niewolnictwem" / " A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slaver (translated by Jacek Konieczny, published by Znak, Kraków)
From Today there are more slaves than at any time in history, according to journalist Skinner's report on current and former slaves and slave dealers. Skinner's travelogue-cum-indictment focuses most sharply on Haiti, Sudan, Romania and India, and is interspersed with a detailed account of the work of John Miller, director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, or America's antislavery czar. Skinner reiterates that sexual trafficking is only one component of slavery, but devotes the bulk of this book (when it is not following Miller's State Department career) to this issue. The text teeters toward the travelogue, taking the reader to Dubai's most notorious brothel and Skinner's adventures in pos[ing] as a client to talk to women... [or] as an arms dealer to talk to traffickers. Nevertheless, Skinner's story merits reading, and not just because the cause is noble and the detail often fascinating, such as the moral complications of Christian Solidarity International's redemption or purchase of 85,000 slaves' freedom. Skinner's account of the internal workings of the State Department and the deep links to faith-based antislavery groups and their special interests is seriously newsworthy and, at times, moving. Source: Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Source: um.warszawa.pl and wyborcza.pl, unless otherwise noted.