29.03.2024 Events, Literature

Alissa Valles receives the 2024 Found in Translation Award

The Polish Book Institute, Polish Cultural Institute London (PCI London), and Polish Cultural Institute New York (PCI New York) are delighted to announce that Alissa Valles has been awarded the 2024 Found in Translation Award, 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.

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:

2008 – Bill Johnston for his translation of New Poems by Tadeusz Rózewicz
2009 – Antonia Lloyd-Jones for her translation of The Last Supper by Pawel Huelle
2010 – Danuta Borchardt for her translation of Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz
2011 – Clare Cavanagh & Stanislaw Baranczak for their translation of Here by Wislawa Szymborska
2012 – Joanna Trzeciak for her translation of Sobbing Superpower by Tadeusz Rózewicz
2013 – Antonia Lloyd-Jones for the entire work of translations in 2012
2014 – Philip Boehm for his translation of Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall
2015 – Ursula Phillips for her translation of Choucas by Zofia Nalkowska
2016 – Bill Johnston for his translation of Twelve Stations by Tomasz Rózycki
2017 – Piotr Florczyk for his translation of Building the Barricade by Anna Swirszczynska
2018 – Jennifer Croft for her translation of Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
2019 – Madeline G. Levine for her translation of Collected Stories by Brunon Schulz
2020 – Anna Zaranko for her translation of The Memoir of an Anti-hero by Kornel Filipowicz
2021 – Ewa Malachowska-Pasek and Megan Thomas for their translation of The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma by Tadeusz Dolęga-Mostowicz
2022 – Jennifer Croft for her translation of The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk

2023 – Anna Zaranko – for her translation of “Peasant” by Władysław Reymont

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.

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