Poland’s Premier Translator Dies

RIP Stanisław Barańczak
RIP Stanisław Barańczak

Stanisław Barańczak, the outstanding Polish poet, translator and literary critic, has died at the age of 68, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he had lived since 1981. For well over a decade he struggled with Parkinson’s disease. He was a key figure for Polish intellectuals of his generation, his students and readers, comanding respect both as a person of integrity and as a brilliant polymath. People who met him recall Barańczak as someone exceedingly gifted, hard-working and prolific, charismatic in his contacts with others yet modest and kind, as well as extremely demanding of himself and principled. He was equally dedicated to his work as a university lecturer, first in Poznań and then at Harvard, as he was to his own writing and translating. His peers admired him for his engagement in the Polish democratic opposition movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Barańczak’s restless mind, discipline and his extraordinary ability to give artistic expression to linguistic and poetic subtleties across languages left an impressive legacy. Antoni Libera, his long-time friend, remembers that Barańczak mentioned having translated over 2,000 poems. “Miłość jest wszystkim, co istnieje” (Love Is Everything That Exists), an anthology of 300 of the most famous English and American love poems selected and translated by Stanisław Barańczak, published in 1992, was a landmark book which introduced many Poles to the poetry of English-writing authors. Barańczak also translated into Polish 24 of Shakespeare’s plays. Polish actors in particular appreciate the lively, sparkling and rhythmic language of these translations. Stanisław Barańczak was an excellent essayist, who left an ample collection of lucid and insightful texts of literary criticism. Importantly for translators and aspiring translators, he published a series of perceptive, discerning and instructive observations on the art and craft of translation with descriptions of some tricks of the trade and explanations of specific linguistic choices. His merits in popularising Polish literature abroad, especially in the English speaking world, an activity he indefatigably pursued as a co-translator and a university lecturer, have been invaluable.
Reblogged from newzar.wordpress.com


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