May 2, 2022
Watch this episode on our YouTube channel.
Episode 16 and all video recordings are available at:
Polish Cultural Institute New York YouTube
Encounters with Polish Literature is a video series for anyone interested in literature and the culture of books and reading. Each month, host David A. Goldfarb will present a new topic in conversation with an expert on that author or book or movement in Polish literature. More about the Encounters with Polish Literature series and the timeline.
We continue our series on Polish-Ukrainian literary dialogue in this episode with contemporary author Żanna Słoniowska, who is also our first author on the program discussing her own work.
In her recent essay for The New York Times, she writes about how Ukrainian identity is changing in Poland, reflecting a shift from a colonial relationship to one of mutual recognition as Europeans with common interests and values. “It used to contain such nuances as, for example, ‘the Easterner’ or ‘the village man’ or even ‘wild man,’” she says, but “[n]ow it sounds different. When the word is uttered, I hear ‘the brave warrior’ and ‘our brother.’ For those leaving their lives behind, under the pressure of bombardment and attack, the fraternal salute seems exactly right.”
In this episode we talk about Słoniowska’s path from writing journalism for television in Ukraine to fiction in Polish. She discusses what it means to be a “Ukrainian-born Polish author” and offers her thoughts about multilingualism as an essential characteristic of Ukrainian culture. She also discusses her experience growing up in Ukraine and then moving to Poland, where she has lived now for more than twenty years. The discussion focuses on her widely acclaimed first novel The House with the Stained-Glass Window (tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones), the story of four generations of women in a house in Lviv, their intergenerational traumas, artistic aspirations, and amorous intrigues against the backdrop of Ukrainian history over the past century.
Selected works by Żanna Słoniowska:
The House with the Stained-Glass Window. Tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones. London: MacLehose Press, 2017.
“I Left Ukraine 20 Years Ago. It Never Left Me” New York Times, A21 New York edition, 28 March 2022.
Wyspa (In Polish, The Island), Kraków: Wydawnictwo Znak, 2019.
Also mentioned in the episode:
Grzegorz Gauden. Lwów: Kres iluzji. Opowieść o pogromie listopadowym 1918 (In Polish, Lwów: The End of an Illusion. The Story of the November 1918 Pogrom), Kraków: Universitas, 2019.
Kurkov, Andrey. Grey Bees. Tr. Boris Dralyuk. Dallas: Deep Vellum, 2022.
Żanna Słoniowska (b. Lviv, 1978) is a Ukrainian-born Polish novelist. She won the Znak literary prize for her novel Dom z witrażem (The house with the stained-glass window) in 2015 and Conrad prize for the best Polish literary debut of 2016. The novel was also short-listed for the Nike award, Poland’s highest literary prize, in 2016. The novel has been translated into Ukrainian, English, Russian, French and German, and the Spanish translation is underway. In 2018 the novel was shortlisted as the best foreign novel translated into English at Warwick University, UK.
Słoniowska was invited to present her book to the European First Novel Festival (Budapest, Hungary), European Festival of the First Novel (Kiel, Germany), British library (London, UK), Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation’s seminar, Trinity college (Dublin, Ireland), Maison de la poesie (Paris, France), Bron festival (Lyon, France), Zurich liest, Leipzig Book Fair and many other conferences and book events throughout Europe. In May 2019 Sloniowska took part of the Franshhoek Literary Festival in South Africa.
In Sloniowska’s second novel, Wyspa (The Island), was published in Poland by Znak publishing house in 2019, and in 2020 she wrote a play, The Oscilations, for Wrocławski Teatr Współczesny (Contemporary Theatre in Wrocław). Her children’s book Discovering Ukraine is under contract with the award-winning children’s publisher, Dwie Siostry (Two Sisters Publishing House, Poland), and is undergoing revision in light of the war in Ukraine. Her third novel, set in South Africa and Ukraine, is under contract with Znak Publishing House in Poland.