Translators of literature and language

The tradition of translating Polish literature into other languages dates back to the 16th century. The works of Polish Renaissance poets were translated at the time; later, 17th- and 18th-century novels enjoyed popularity. “A good translation is something valuable and rare, it remains in the history of the language and influences the language not less, and sometimes even more, than the works originally created in that language” – these words by Czesław Miłosz could very well serve as a motto for many local translation initiatives.

Significant activity in the field of literary translation can be observed on the part of the Book Institute. For years, it has organised a special scholarship programmes for translators from various languages (the Translators’ College, the Albrecht Lempp Scholarship), and it grants the Transatlantyk Award for ambassadors of Polish literature abroad. The award is intended to promote Polish literature on international markets and to integrate the circles of Polish literature translators and promoters – literary critics, literary historians, and animators of culture. The prestigious nature of the award and the extensive promotional setting that accompanies it are supposed to encourage translators to become interested in Polish literature and encourage publishers to publish it, and to direct the attention of international audiences towards it.

Another award granted by the Book Institute in collaboration with the Polish Cultural Institute in London, the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, and the W.A.B. Publishing House is the FOUND IN TRANSLATION AWARD, given to the author(s) of the best translation of Polish literature into English, published in a book form in the previous calendar year.

The Book Institute’s activity also includes the © POLAND Translation Programme and the ©POLAND Sample Translations campaign. Subsidies from the former one are directed to publishers who want to commission translations and introduce Polish literature to foreign markets. The latter financially supports translators, encouraging them to present their translations of Polish books to international publishers. In cooperation with Polish publishers, the Book Institute also organises seminars supposed to encourage international publishers to increase the presence of our literature in other countries.

On the Institute’s initiative, translators of Polish literature meet every four years in Krakow at the World Congress (the 3rd edition in 2013), the guests of which also include Polish writers, poets, and literary critics and historians.

Interesting translation initiatives are also taken by the Villa Decius Association, organising creative scholarships for translators of literature from German to Polish and from Polish to German and the Visegrád Literary Residencies programme for writers, also translators, from the V4 Group, as well as publishing a trilingual magazine, Radar, in which it places a special emphasis on the art of translation. In January 2013, the Association got involved in the TransStar Europa project, promoting translations and literature of the less common European languages, aiming at training translators and animators of culture.

Jagiellonian University has educated many excellent translators of literature and language (the UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication operates here, among others), and each year, tens of experts in languages and culture – British, Germanic, Romance, but also Greek or Turkish – graduate from it. Translation activity is supported by international institutions such as: Pro Helvetia, the Goethe-Institut, the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Cervantes Institute, the French Institute, the Italian Institute, and others. It is also supported by publishing houses – such as Wydawnictwo Literackie and Znak – which look after the high quality of the translations they publish.

An important role in the literary landscape of the city is played by translators themselves. They live and work here, and take part not only in the publishing, but also educational and promotional activities. The personalities of Krakow’s translators have always been a mark of Krakow’s intellectual circles. They include Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, Maciej Słomczyński, and Stanisław Barańczak, to name but a few.

Among Polish contemporary writers, the works of Stanisław Lem (990 translations of books + 76 works in anthologies), Witold Gombrowicz (345 +43), Czesław Miłosz (281 + 116), Ryszard Kapuściński (299) Sławomir Mrożek (229+ 63), Wisława Szymborska (175 + 140), Janusz Korczak (140 + 24), Tadeusz Różewicz (134 + 167), Zbigniew Herbert (129 + 100), Andrzej Sapkowski (125 + 4), Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (124 + 152), Bruno Schulz (104 + 27), Jerzy Andrzejewski (99 + 38), Andrzej Szczypiorski (97 + 9), Tadeusz Konwicki (84 + 8), Andrzej Stasiuk (76 + 25), Olga Tokarczuk (75 + 14), and Hann Krall (62 + 13) enjoy the greatest popularity in the world.

If the criterion of popularity was the number of languages into which a writer’s works have been translated, the most popular authors turn out to be: Tadeusz Różewicz (50 languages), Czesław Miłosz (45), Stanisław Lem (42), Wisława Szymborska (41), Zbigniew Herbert (39), Ryszard Kapuściński (36), Sławomir Mrożek (35), Witold Gombrowicz (33), Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (31), Karol Wojtyła (30), Janusz Korczak (29) and Jerzy Andrzejewski (29), Olga Tokarczuk (27), Tadeusz Konwicki (24), Andrzej Szczypiorski (23), Andrzej Stasiuk (22), Paweł Huelle (21), and Antoni Libera (20).

In the years 2000-2009, the largest number of works of Polish literature were translated into Russian (1101 titles), German (936), and French (496), as well as – English (427), Czech (293), Spanish (289), Lithuanian (250), Italian (244), and Hungarian (206). (Data source: the Book Institute)

Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński

(born in 1874 in Warsaw, died in 1941 in Lviv)

Translator of the canon of French literature; poet, satirist, essayist, and theatre critic of the Young Poland movement. Graduate of the Nowodworski Secondary School and of Medicine at Jagiellonian University. Co-creator of the Zielony Balonik cabaret. Theatre reviewer of the Krakow Czas magazine. Author of Flirt z Melpomeną, Reflektorem w mrok, Znaszli ten kraj, and Antologia literatury francuskiej. He is the patron of the Bagatela Theatre, and his bust may be found in the Planty Park.

Maciej Słomczyński

(born in 1920 in Warsaw, died in 1998 in Krakow)

Writer, translator of English-language literature, author of screenplays, theatre plays, TV shows and programmes. He lived and worked in Krakow since 1954. A year earlier, he became a signatory to the Resolution of the Polish Writers’ Union in Krakow regarding the Krakow trial. Author of the novel Cassiopeia (1975) and the only translator in the world to translate the complete works of Shakespeare. Buried on the Avenue of the Distinguished at the Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow.

Ryszard Krynicki

(born in 1943 in Sankt Valentin)

Poet, translator, and publisher. Counted among the authors of the New Wave. Cooperated with Zapis. Author of the following volumes, among others: Pęd pogoni, pęd ucieczki, Akt urodzenia, Nasze życie rośnie, Jeżeli w jakimś kraju, Ocalenie z nicości, Wiersze, głosy, Niepodlegli nicości, Magnetyczny punkt, and Kamień, szron. Winner of the Kościelski Award and the Polish PEN Club Prize. Together with his wife, he runs the a5 publishing house in Krakow.

Ireneusz Kania

(born in 1940 in Wieluń)

Translator, essayist, and polyglot. He completed his studies in Romance Philology at Jagiellonian University. He holds classes on literary translation at the Creative Writing School of Jagiellonian University and he is the vice-president of the Krakow branch of the Polish Writers’ Association. He translates from: English, German, Swedish, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. In 1991, he translated the Tibetan Book of the Dead into Polish. In 1999, he received the Krakow Book of the Month Award for Muttavali. Księga wypisów starobuddyjskich.

Elżbieta Tabakowska

(born in 1942)

Specialist in language and literature, English philologist, translator, professor, and head of the UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Translator of Norman Davies’ works and author of many books on cognitive linguistics and translation theory, including Językoznawstwo kognitywne a poetyka przekładu and Kognitywizm po polsku – wczoraj i dziś.

Magda Heydel

(born in 1969)

Specialist in Polish and English studies, translator. She studied Polish and English Philology at Jagiellonian University. Lecturer at the Chair of Literary Anthropology and Cultural Studies of the Jagiellonian University, head of the Postgraduate Studies for Literary Translators at the UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication, and editor-in-chief of the Przekładaniec magazine. She translated works of authors such as Virginia Woolf, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, and Graham Swift. In 2011, her translation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was published.

The UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication

The UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication was established in July 2002 at the Faculty of Philology of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow under an agreement concluded between the President of Jagiellonian University and the Director-General of UNESCO. The initiator of its foundation, creator of the curriculum, and its first head was Professor Elżbieta Tabakowska, PhD.

The UNESCO Chair’s priority activities include works aiming at streamlining the process of training translators – which, in fact, does not have an established tradition in Poland yet.

The Chair’s educational activity includes doctoral and postgraduate studies, and Continuing Education Courses. The Chair offers Postgraduate Studies for Literary Translators, Postgraduate Studies for Conference Interpreters, and doctoral studies in translation studies and intercultural communication. What is more, staying in close cooperation with relevant services of the European Parliament and the European Commission, it offers Postgraduate Studies for Conference Interpreters.

The Chair continually develops cooperation with national and international institutions of a similar profile, as well as exchange of experiences, students, and staff, and joint organisation of workshops and seminars. It is also involved in popularising and publishing activity: it organises seminars, meetings, and lectures dedicated to various aspects of translation theory and practice.

The UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication is the leading institution of this kind in the country and undoubtedly one of the more important centres in Europe. Master-level studies in translation studies offered by the Chair received the international certificate of European Master’s in Translation (granted only to those programmes of higher education institutions that meet the highest quality standards in teaching translators).

Postgraduate Studies for Literary Translators at Jagiellonian University

Postgraduate Studies for Literary Translators at Jagiellonian University are available to graduates of master’s- or bachelor’s-level studies of any kind who have predisposition towards the translation of literature and texts from the broadly-defined discourse in the humanities. The programme of the studies includes lectures (review of translation doctrines, introduction to literary work interpretation, and copyright), seminars (analysis of contemporary Polish literature and introduction to the basic issues of practical stylistics of the Polish language), and translation workshops (introduction to the methods and modes of work of well-known literary translators, the students’ own translation attempts). Students may choose between languages such as: English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Italian.