Monday, May 26, 2008

Bill Johnston's New Poems by Tadeusz Rozewicz Wins Translation Award

Bill Johnston recently received the first annual Found in Translation Award for his translation of New Poems by Tadeusz Rozewicz (Archipelago Books, 2007). The award, established in 2007, is given annually for the best translation of a work of Polish literature into English.
Rozewicz has had a number of excellent translators over the years including Milosz, Adam Czerniawski, and Victor Contoski, and Bill Johnston continues that tradition. He captures the essential calmness and sanity of Rozewicz's voice as it speaks of a world that is mostly chaotic and insane.
Here's one of Johnston's translations:

"It's past and gone [...]
Best would be to go mad."
(Tadeusz Konwicki, Afterglows)

And once again
the past begins

best would be to go mad
you're right Tadzio
but our generation doesn't go mad
our eyes stay open
to the very end

we don't need to be blindfolded
we have no use for the paradises
of faiths sects religions

with broken backs
we crawl on

yes Tadzio at the end
we have to relive everything
from the beginning
you know that as well as I
at times we whisper
all people will be brothers
in life's labyrinth
we encounter
distorted faces of friends

you hear me
I'll tell you an image from the past
again I'm running away
from a specter who
wrapped in a gaberdine of sky
stands in a green meadow
and speaks to me in an unknown language
I am the lord thy god
who led thee out of the house of bondage

everything starts from the beginning

once again Mr. Turski
my singing teacher
looks at me with the handsome
sweet eyes
of Omar Sharif

and I sing
the apple tree has blossomed (...)
red apples did it bear ...
I know I'm out of tune
but Mr. Turski has been smiling
at me since 1930
and I get an A
Mr. Turski in a fragrant
strange cloud
exotic and mysterious
for an elementary school
in a provincial town
between Częstochowa and Piotrków Trybunalski
and takes his mystery
to the grave

when will the past
finally end

Two excellent review-essays on Johnston's translation of Rozewicz's New Poems are available online. Ron Slate writes about it at his blog, and Rainer J. Hanshe's "Writing the Apocalypse: Voicing Silence Through Time" appears at the Nietzsche Circle.


Academy Chicago Publishers said...

Thanks for all the great reviews of Polish Authors. Have you ever considered reviewing Mother and Me: Escape From Warsaw 1939 by Polish-American author Julian Padowicz?

In Mother and Me: Escape From Warsaw 1939, ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award Winner in 2006, author Julian Padowicz gives a first hand account of the struggles he faced with his mother, Basia, as a Jew in Warsaw when the bombings began in the fall of 1939. Only seven years old at the beginning of the story, Julian had already become estranged from his mother.
Before the bombs began to fall, Julian’s mother, a Warsaw socialite who had no interest in child-rearing, turned her son completely over to his governess, a good Catholic, named Kiki, whom he loved with all his heart. Kiki was deeply worried about Julian’s immortal soul, explaining that he could go to heaven only if he became a Catholic.
Julian’s world completely changed when the bombings of Warsaw began. Kiki returned to her family, and Julian was left with Basia, the mother he barely knew.
Resourceful and determined, his mother did whatever was necessary to provide for herself and her son: she brazenly cut into food lines and befriended Russian officers to get extra rations of food and fuel. But because he had been brought up by Kiki to distrust all things Jewish, Julian considered his mother’s behavior un-Christian.
In a heartfelt tale of emotion and, at times, humor, Mother and Me: Escape From Warsaw 1939 (Academy Chicago Publishers, 978-0-89733-570-6, 415pp, Paperback, $18.95) Julian wrestles with his identity in the midst of the horror of World War II. As conditions worsen in Warsaw, Basia and Julian make their dramatic escape to Hugary through the Carpathian mountains and Julian comes to believe that even Jews can go to Heaven.

John Guzlowski said...

Thank you for letting me now about this book.

I will definitely try to find a copy.