Reportage III: Mikołaj Grynberg and Patrycja Dołowy with Sean Gasper Bye
S3E11 and all video recordings are available on our 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.
Mikołaj Grynberg trained as a psychologist, and is a widely exhibited photographer and writer who collects oral history about Polish Jews. For many years he was most active primarily as an art photographer and published a collection of studio portraits entitled Many Women—a project that began with portraits of his mother. This was followed by a cycle of photographs of visitors to Auschwitz, called Auschwitz: What am I doing here?, the title of which manifests the overlap between portraiture and oral history—a good portrait tells a story, and an oral history reveals a portrait of the speaker. In 2012 he began publishing oral histories, beginning with Survivors of the 20th Century, consisting of interviews with Polish Jews who had emigrated to Israel. His second collection, I Accuse Auschwitz are tales of generational trauma from interviews with children of Holocaust survivors. The stories discussed in this episode from I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To are fiction based in the stories he has heard from and about Polish Jews.
Patrycja Dołowy is a writer, science journalist, artist, and activist interested in feminist and Jewish issues, a cofounder of the Mama Foundation, and since 2022 has been director of the Warsaw Jewish Community Center (JCC). She was born in Boston while her father pursued a postdoc in the sciences but grew up in Poland and lives in Warsaw. Her book, Treasures: Hunters and Protectors of Jewish Memory, weaves together stories of formerly Jewish property and Jewish objects that remain in Poland, focusing on their caretakers both Jewish and non-Jewish who bear the responsibility of preserving Jewish memory. In addition to Treasures, discussed here, she is the author of I’ll Return when you’re Asleep: Conversations with Children of the Holocaust. Both works are as yet untranslated.
In this episode we discuss some of the particular issues and ethical responsibilities of translators working on reportage and the different expectations that readers in Poland and the United States have when reading journalistic works that present themselves as factual. We talk about what these works have to say about the Jewish Revival in contemporary Poland, and we consider the particular innovations in the form of literary nonfiction exemplified in the works under consideration, drawing comparisons particularly to new forms of radio journalism and podcasts in the U.S.
Texts discussed and recommended resources for this episode
Dołowy, Patrycja. Skarby: Poszukiwacze i strażnicy żydowskiej pamięci (Treasures: Hunters and Protectors of Jewish Memory, in Polish). Sękowa: Czarne, 2022.
“Patrycja Dołowy’s Oral History.” Wexler Oral History Project. The Yiddish Book Center. (Video)
Grynberg, Mikołaj. I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To. Tr. Sean Gasper Bye. New York: New Press, 2021.
Sean Gasper Bye has translated books by authors including Małgorzata Szejnert, Szczepan Twardoch, Mikołaj Grynberg and others. His translations have won the EBRD Literary Prize and the Asymptote Close Approximations Prize; and have been shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, the National Jewish Book Award, the Sami Rohr Prize and the National Translation Award. He has been a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellow and Translator-in-Residence at Princeton University. He serves on the board of the American Literary Translators Association and mentors emerging translators through the National Centre for Writing and the Yiddish Book Center. He lives in Philadelphia.
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