26.09.2020 Literature, News

Contemporary Polish Literature

The history of Poland is a turbulent one: it disappeared at the end of the 18th century, then it was resurrected after World War I and afterward fell victim to Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes.  
Polish literature has often played the role of a guardian of the national soul and patriotic values. Thus, while Poland was occupied by Russia, Prussia and Austro-Hungary, the nation saw the birth of its greatest masterpieces, particularly during the XIX century Romanticism. Many Polish artists and writers were exiled in France. Novels of Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki or Henryk Sienkiewicz contributed to the awakening and construction of Polish consciousness.
During the 20th century Poland faced Nazi and then Soviet totalitarian regimes. Writers who did not accept the rules of the imposed ideology were once again condemned to exile, either physically or spiritually. We owe to these rebellious minds unique works that convey the experience of war, the horror of the camps and the resistance in the face of oppression. One of the characteristic features of the Polish literature, especially between 1945-1989, is the division to national and emigration literature. Among the writers from that period, we can mention Czesław Miłosz, Witold Gombrowicz, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, Stanisław Mrożek and Zbigniew Herbert.

Heir to its long history, the contemporary Polish literature is characterized by permanent reinvention, a threat that can be proved by the Nobel Prize won by Olga Tokarczuk in 2018. Since its creation in 1901, six Polish writers have received this awardː Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905), Władysław Reymont (1924), Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978, Yiddish), Czesław Miłosz (1980), Wisława Szymborska (1996) and Olga Tokarczuk (2018).

Contemporary Polish literature offers a wide selection of genres. It has been recognized and translated into many languages. We encourage you to discover books from Wiesław Myśliwski, Andrzej Stasiuk, Szczepan Twardoch, Dorota Masłowska, Andrzej Sapkowski, Mariusz Szczygieł, Zygmunt Miłoszewski and many others. Here is the non-exhaustive list of new releases as well as some classics translated into English and available in Belgium.

Olga TOKARCZUK, NOBEL Prize in Literature 2018

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator), Publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions 

Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019

Flights, Olga Tokarczuk (author), Jennifer Croft (translator), Publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions 

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2018

The Books of Jacob, Olga Tokarczuk (author), Jennifer Croft (translator), Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions 

Primeval and Other Times, Olga Tokarczuk (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator) Publisher: Twisted Spoon Press 

House of Day, House of Night – Writings from an Unbound Europe, Olga Tokarczuk (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator), Publisher Northwestern University Press 

MEDIA REVIEW

[A] delight to read–wonderfully inventive and by turns comic, tragic and wise. Tokarczuk’s prose is simple and unadorned. She tells her stories with a natural fluency that easily accommodates the hopes, drudgery and absurdities of the world she is describing. Real lives mingle with the imagined, dreams with day, past with the present in an entirely plausible way. — The Observer

Fiction/ Non-fiction:

The King of Warsaw, Szczepan Twardoch (author), Sean Gasper Bye (translator), Amazon Publishing

Ryszard Kapuściński: A Life, Artur Domosławski (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator), Publisher Verso Books

Stone Upon Stone Wiesław Myśliwski (author), Bill Johnston (translator), Publisher: Archipelago Books

How To Feed A Dictator: Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Enver Hoxha, Fidel Castro, and Pol Pot Through the Eyes of Their Cooks, Witold Szablowski (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator), Publisher Penguin Putnam Inc 

Mrs Mohr Goes Missing, Maryla Szymiczkowa (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator), Publisher  Oneworld Publications 

MEDIA REVIEWS

An ingenious marriage of comedy and crime. — Olga Tokarczuk, 2018 winner of the Man Booker International prize 

This is a delicious read. — Michal Rusinek

Charming and moreish…this is a tale that conjures up the delightful books of Dorothy L Sayers and is the perfect diversion for annoying commutes. — Stylist top books for March 

A Grain of Truth Zygmunt Miłoszewski (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator), Bitter Lemon Press

Entanglement Zygmunt Miłoszewski (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator), Bitter Lemon Press

Milosz: A Biography, Andrzej Franaszek (author), Aleksandra Parker (editor and translator), Michael Parker (editor and translator) Harvard University Press 

MEDIA REVIEWS

[A] magnificent biography…Milosz: A Biography will reframe our picture of the poet in a way that will last–devastatingly human, flawed, ferociously strong-willed, living with a daemon that never left him, even into his nineties. — Cynthia Haven in Times Literary Supplement (04/21/2017)

Franaszek’s intelligent and comprehensive biography should be read in conjunction with Milosz’s New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001.Together they provide a detailed and at times startling portrait, not only of one of the most fascinating and significant poets of the past hundred years but of what it was like to be alive, curious, politically engaged, and spiritually conflicted in the 20th century. —Troy Jollimore in Washington Post (04/21/2017)

Poetry:

Here Wisława Szymborska (author), Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak (translators), Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Selected Poems of Adam Zagajewski, Adam Zagajewski (author) Publisher: Faber & Faber 

Czesław Miłosz Selected and Last Poems 1931-2004, Czeslaw Milosz (author) Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd 

Still Life with a Bridle, Zbigniew Herbert (author) Publisher: Notting Hill Editions

Fantasy:

The Witcher  – The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski (author), Danusia Stok (translator), Publisher: Orion Publishing Co 

The Witcher – Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski (author), Danusia Stok (translator), Publisher: Orion Publishing Co 

MEDIA REVIEWS

Like Mieville and Gaiman, Sapkowski takes the old and makes it new — FOUNDATION

An incredibly nuanced, well-articulated novel, imbued with a self-assured command of description and brimming with Eastern European folklore — Starburst on Time of Contempt

Delightfully dry humour, mythology brimming with radical creatures and a group of interesting characters — Fantasy Book Review

One of the best and most interesting fantasy series I’ve ever read — Nerds of a Feather

There’s lots of imagination on show, the writing has a strong voice, and the Witcher is an entertaining character — Mark Lawrence

The Witcher – Sword of Destiny, Andrzej Sapkowski (author), David French (translator), Publisher: Orion Publishing Co 

The Witcher – Time of Contempt, Andrzej Sapkowski (author), David French (translator), Publisher: Orion Publishing Co 

CHILDREN’S BOOK:

Maps, Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski (author) Publisher: Templar Publishing 

MEDIA REVIEWS

This is a book I coveted as soon as I clapped eyes on it… The illustrations are engrossing with the right amount of detail (avoiding information overkill). It is a book that invites you to brood, browse – and travel. — Kate Kellaway in The Guardian

A great first atlas for kids… — Lonely Planet Traveller 

Under Earth, Under Water, Aleksandra Mizielinski (author, illustrator), Daniel Mizielinski (author, illustrator), Publisher: Templar Publishing 

Welcome to Mamoko, Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski (author) Publisher: Templar Publishing 

The Book of Bees, Piotr Socha (author), Wojciech Grajkowski (author of text) Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd 

MEDIA REVIEWS

A beautifully illustrated new book by cartoonist Piotr Socha will delight your children with all things buzzy…It is a brilliant way to educate the younger generation about something very small but very important. — Absolutely Education Magazine

Designed like a coffee table book, yet containing the knowledge of an encyclopedia, and reading like a fun newspaper, this is stunningly executed my top non-fiction book of the year. — Minerva Reads

This glorious book will introduce you to the bee world. It is fantastically illustrated in a cartoonish style that is big, bold and will appeal to all ages of reader. As well as being encyclopedic, it is great fun – featuring recipes and a little bee newspaper, the Daily Buzz. — Book Trust

This A3-sized beautifully illustrated book will quickly become a favourite in any household. — Countryside

The Bee Book is a treasure trove of information just waiting to ‘bee’ harvested! — The Bookbag

Charming and educative. — The Tablet

While it is intended for children with most of the illustrations … of a folksy and caricature-type nature, it will readily appeal to adults too — Beekeeper Quarterly

A marvelous, unique picture book about beekeeping that delights everyone who sees it — Bees for Development Journal

A wonderfully imagined and wittily illustrated compendium … Full of humour … Everything is beautifully explained in detail on a double-page spread for a deeper understanding. Quite magnificent. — The Society of Authors

The Book of Trees, Piotr Socha (author), Wojciech Grajkowski (author of text), Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd 

Oscar Seeks a Friend,  Paweł Pawlak (author), Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator) Publisher: Lantana Publishing 

Greek Myths and Mazes, Jan Bajtlik (author, illustrator), Zosia Krasodomska-Jones (translator), Publisher: Walker Books Ltd 

King Matt The First, Janusz Korczak (author), Publisher: Vintage Publishing 

Mr Miniscule and the Whale, Julian Tuwim (author), Publisher: Book Island Ltd

Locomotive, Julian Tuwim (author) Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd

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