28.03.2024 Events, Literature, News

Alissa Valles wins the 2024 Found in Translation Award

Alissa Valles has been awarded the 2024 FiTA Award for her translation of Zuzanna Ginczanka’s poems in ‘Firebird’.

The Polish Book Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute London, and the Polish Cultural Institute New York are delighted to announce that Alissa Valles has been awarded the 2024 Found in Translation Award (FiTA), for her translation of Zuzanna Ginczanka’s ‘Firebird’, which was published by The New York Review of Books / Poets in 2023.

The year 2023 saw a remarkable selection of outstanding Polish books, now available in English. The longlist featured a blend of classic and contemporary works, spanning a diverse range of literary genres, from prose to poetry, historical and academic essays, making it an impressive celebration of the richness and diversity of Polish literature.

Alissa Valles managed to translate Ginczanka’s poems in ‘Firebird’ in a way they sound startlingly contemporary… both sharp-sensed and sharp-tongued as states Lily Meyer of Poetry Foundation. The FiTA24 committee recognized Valles for her remarkable ability to convey the energy and force of the original work by Zuzanna Ginczanka whose formally audacious poems are shining examples of art as resistance.

Anna Zaranko, the recipient of the 2023 Found in Translation Award, and one of the jurors of FiTA2024 edition said: Alissa Valles’ ‘Firebird’ is a vivid contribution to the growing number of Ginczanka translations. Her imaginative grasp of the challenges presented by these sensual and audacious poems produces solutions that are often breathtaking, while her ability to form powerful condensed images conveys both Ginczanka’s exuberance and her defiance.

Curator of Literature at the Polish Cultural Institute New York, Bartek Remisko said: This is Alissa Valles’ first Found in Translation Award, and we are thrilled that the roster of excellent translators of Polish literature into English continues to grow, ensuring that Polish writers’ work is accessible to the readers around the world. Thanks to these translators, writers like Zuzanna Ginczanka are finally getting their due today in the English speaking world, as we’ve had not one but two separate translations of her poetry published in the U.S. in 2023 alone, and another one is underway in 2024. The Polish Cultural Institute New York has also been actively promoting Ginczanka’s oeuvre producing two installments on her life and work in our two YouTube literature series ‘ENCOUNTERS WITH POLISH LITERATURE’ and ‘POLISH POETRY UNITES’.

About the book

Zuzanna Ginczanka wrote her earliest poems at age four and started publishing at fourteen. In 1936, she released her first and only book, On Centaurs, which was widely acclaimed. She was arrested in Kraków in 1944 and killed by the Gestapo no more than a few days before the Soviets liberated the city on January 18, 1945.

Zuzanna Ginczanka’s last poem, “Non omnis moriar…” (“Not all of me shall die”), written shortly before her execution by the Nazis in the last months of World War II, is one of the most famous and unsettling texts in modern East European literature: a fiercely ironic last will and testament that names the person who betrayed her to the occupying authorities as a Jew, it exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of Polish nationalist myths.

Ginczanka’s linguistic exuberance and invention — reminiscent now of Marina Tsvetaeva, now of Marianne Moore or Mina Loy — are as exhilarating as the passionate fusion of the physical world and the world of ideas she advocated in her work. Firebird brings together many of Ginczanka’s uncollected poems and presents On Centaurs, her sole published book, in its entirety.

Purchase your copy of the book from here:

Watersones | WHSmith | Blackwell’s | Amazon UK | Foyles

About the translator

Poet and translator Alissa Valles was born in Amsterdam to a Dutch mother and an American father. Raised in the United States and the Netherlands, she was educated at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London. She is the author of the poetry collections Orphan Fire (2008) and Anastylosis (Whitechapel Art Gallery 2014), a collaboration with artists Andres Ayerbe and Camille Leproust; and Hospitium (MadHat Books, 2019) as well as the editor and co-translator of Zbigniew Herbert’s Collected Poems 1956–1998 (2008), Herbert’s Collected Prose 1948-1998 (2010), and, most recently, the translator of Anna Bikont’s The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne (2015) and Ryszard Krynicki’s Our Life Grows (2017).

She has contributed to Polish Writers on Writing (2007, edited by Adam Zagajewski) and the anthologies The New European Poets (2008, edited by Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer), Scattering the Dark, and Into English: Poems, Translations, Commentaries. A recipient of a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, Valles has worked for the BBC, the Dutch Institute of War Documentation, the Jewish Historical Institute, and Warsaw’s La Strada International, and is on the editorial board of the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics and has served as an editor for the online literary journal Words Without Borders. Valles has also published poetry under the name Alissa Leigh. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Previously awarded

2023 – Anna Zaranko for The Peasants by Władysław Reymont (Penguin Classics, 2022)

2022 – Jennifer Croft for The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (Fitzcarraldo Editions, the U.K., 2021) (Riverhead Books, the U.S., 2022)

2021 – Ewa Małachowska-Pasek and Megan Thomas for The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz (Northwestern University Press, 2020) 
2020 – Anna Zaranko for The Memoir of an Anti-hero by Kornel Filipowicz (Penguin Modern Classics, 2019)

2019 – Madeline G. Levine for Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz (Northwestern University Press, 2018)

2018 – Jennifer Croft for Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Fitzcarraldo Editions (UK) and Riverhead Books (US), 2017)

2017 – Piotr Florczyk for Building the Barricade by Anna Świrszczyńska (Tavern Books, 2016)

2016 – Bill Johnston for Twelve Stations by Tomasz Różycki (Zephyr Press, 2015)

2015 – Ursula Phillips for Choucas by Zofia Nałkowska (Northern Illinois University Press, 2014)

2014 – Philip Boehm for Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall (Peirene Press, 2013)

2013 – Antonia Lloyd-Jones for the entirety of her translating output in 2012: Paweł Huelle’s Cold Sea Stories (Comma Press), Jacek Dehnel’s Saturn (Dedalus Press), Zygmunt Miłoszewski’s A Grain of Truth (Bitter Lemon Press), Artur Domosławski’s Ryszard Kapuściński: A Life (Verso Books), Wojciech Jagielski’s The Night Wanderers (Seven Stories & Old Street Publishing), Andrzej Szczeklik’s Kore: On Sickness, the Sick and the Search for the Soul of Medicine (Counterpoint Press), Janusz Korczak’s Kaytek the Wizard (Urim Publications/Penlight Press)

2012 – Joanna Trzeciak for Sobbing Superpower by Tadeusz Różewicz (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011)

2011 – Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak for Here by Wisława Szymborska (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)

2010 – Danuta Borchardt for Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz (Grove Press, 2009)

2009 – Antonia Lloyd-Jones for The Last Supper by Paweł Huelle (Serpent’s Tail, 2008)

2008 – Bill Johnston for New Poems by Tadeusz Różewicz (Archipelago Books, 2007)

About FiTA

The award was established in 2008. It is given every year to an author/authors of the best Polish literature translation into English that was published in a book form in the past calendar year. The award is a one-month residence in Kraków, Poland with a monthly grant of 2,000 PLN, a flight to and from Kraków and a financial award of 16,000 PLN. The award is given by the jury consisting of representatives of its organisers: The Polish Book Institute Warsaw / Kraków, The Polish Cultural Institute London, and The Polish Cultural Institute New York as well as translators, the laureates of the last two editions.

For more information about the award please contact Łucja Gawkowska e -mail: l.gawkowska@instytutksiazki.pl with a postscript FOUND IN TRANSLATION AWARD.

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