Polish Rural Epic wins Pen Translation Prize

PEN Translation Prize Judges Aron Aji, Donald Breckenridge, and Minna Proctor wrote in their citation: „Wiesław Myśliwski’s Stone Upon Stone presents a passionately colloquial and abundantly rich account of life in a small Polish village during the darkest decades of 20th century Eastern Europe with clarity, humor, and emotional candor. Bill Johnston has done a truly remarkable job rendering this beautiful novel into English. His translation is pitch-perfect, seamless and extraordinarily precise. Johnston shows breathtaking versatility and enables us to hear, sense, and feel the narrator’s whirlwind monologue across diverse characterizations, story-lines, tones, and dramatic modalities. The transposition from midcentury Polish to English is—in the best sense of the word—invisible. Stone Upon Stone is a (singular) revelation and an absolute pleasure to read.”

Wieslaw Myśliwski, novelist, essayist, and playwright, was born in 1932 in the village of Dwikozy in southeastern Poland, near the city of Sandomierz. He is the leading figure of the „peasant current” in postwar Polish literature, elevating the language of the countryside to the measure of the epic, recounting the clash of old ways with the forces of war, history, and technological progress.  He is the only writer to have twice won Poland’s highest literary award, the NIKE Prize, in 1996 for Widnokrąg (The Horizon) and in 2006 for Traktat o łuskaniu fasoli (A Treatise on Shelling Beans). In 2011 he received the Golden Sceptre award for lifetime achievement in the arts.

Bill Johnston, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Second Language Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, is one of the leading translators of Polish literature in the English-speaking world. Working in both prose and poetry, he has translated such authors as Witold Gombrowicz (Bacacay, Polish Memories), Tadeusz Różewicz (Found in Translation Award winner—New Poems), Magdalena Tulli (Dreams and Stones, Moving Parts, and Flaw), Andrzej Stasiuk (Nine, Fado), Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński (White Magic and Other Poems), Juliusz Słowacki (Balladina), Bolesław Prus (The Sins of Childhood and Other Stories), and Stefan Żeromski (The Faithful River and The Coming Spring). His translation of Stone Upon Stone also won the 2012 Best Translated Book Award from the University of Rochester’s “Three Percent” blog and Amazon.com.

The European Book Club is a monthly series of book discussions organized by ten European cultural institutes and consulates based in New York. There are no special membership requirements to participate. Simply check the European Book Club website for upcoming meetings as they are announced, register, read the book, and join the discussion!

The discussion of Myśliwski’s Stone Upon Stone will be moderated by David A. Goldfarb, Curator of Literature and Humanities at the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

The Polish session of the European Book Club is organized by the Polish Cultural Institute New York in collaboration with the Mid-Manhattan Library of the New York Public Library, within the framework of the European Cultural Institutes in New York (EUNIC).

PRESS CONTACT: David Goldfarb, [email protected], 212.239.7300 ext. 3002

WHAT:  European Book Club discussion of Wiesław Myśliwski’s Stone Upon Stone.
WHEN:  Sep 27, 2012, 8 pm
WHERE:  Corner Gallery, First Floor, Mid-Manhattan Library, 455 Fifth Avenue (at 40th St.), New York , NY
ADMISSION: Free with registration at europeanbookclub.org and open to the public
MORE INFORMATION: http://www.polishculture-nyc.org

WHAT:  PEN Literary Awards Ceremonywith translator, Bill Johnston and all the 2012 PEN award winners
WHEN:  Oct 23, 2012, 6:30 pm
WHERE:  CUNY Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, 365 Fifth Ave. (at 34th St.), New York, NY
MORE INFORMATION: http://www.pen.org

The POLISH CULTURAL INSTITUTE NEW YORK, established in 2000, is a diplomatic mission to the United States serving under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

The Institute’s mission is to build, nurture and promote cultural ties between the United States and Poland by presenting Polish culture to American audiences and by connecting Polish artists and scholars to American institutions, introducing them to their professional counterparts in the United States, and facilitating their participation in contemporary American culture.

The Institute has been producing and promoting a broad range of cultural events in theater, music, film, literature, the humanities, and visual arts. Among its American partners are such distinguished organizations as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Brooklyn Academy of Music; The Museum of Modern Art; The Jewish Museum; The PEN American Center; The Poetry Society of America; National Gallery of Art; Yale University; Columbia University; Princeton University; Harvard Film Archive; CUNY Graduate Center; Julliard School of Music; The New Museum; La MaMa E.T.C.; and many more. Our programs have included American presentations of works by such luminaries as filmmakers Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda and Jerzy Skolimowski; writers Czesław Miłosz , Adam Zagajewski and Wisława Szymborska; composers Krzysztof Penderecki, Witold Lutosławski and Mikołaj Górecki; theatre directors Krystian Lupa, Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor and Grzegorz Jarzyna; visual artists Krzysztof Wodiczko, Katarzyna Kozyra, Artur Żmijewski; and many other important artists, writers, historians, scholars, musicians, and performers.