12 May 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

It was recently announced that Antonia Lloyd-Jones has received this year’s Found in Translation Award for her translation of Pawel Huelle’s The Last Supper. (Which is available in the UK from Serpent’s Tail, and has a U.S. pub date of December 1, 2009.)

Huelle is a big name in Polish literature, and although a number of his books have been translated into English, it seems that he’s much more popular in the UK than the U.S. Which is unfortunate—this novel sounds pretty interesting:

The story of The Last Supper is set in Gdansk and centres on a single day in the near future, when twelve men have been invited by their mutual friend, an artist, to model at a photographic session for a modern version of The Last Supper. The histories of the twelve men are revealed through their thoughts on the day: their wayward behaviour is a reflection of the role of the Church in Polish society today. The reunion is disturbed as a wave of terrorist bombs paralyses the city, creating upheaval and a sense of unease.

Antonia Lloyd-Jones is one of the best Polish to English translators working today, and has translated other Pawel Huelle titles (including Castorp), along wiht works by Olga Tokarczuk, Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, Ryszard Kapuscinski, and Wojciech Tochman.

The Found in Translation prize was established last year by the Polish Book Institute, Polish Cultural Institutes in London and New York, and W.A.B. Publishers. Its goal is to honor the best translation from Polish into English published within the past year by giving the translator PLN 10,000 (ca $3,000) and a three-month scholarship.

17 November 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

To help promote the new Pawell Huelle book, The Last Supper, that’s forthcoming from Serpent’s Tail, Polish Writing has translated and posted a two-part interview (I, II) with Huelle which originally appeared in Gazeta Wyborcza:

Violetta Szostak: I’m rather nervous about this interview…

Paweł Huelle: Why should you be nervous, I should be nervous, it’s me they would like to kill…

Because of this book?

It’s not as bad as that!

...

I have written a contemporary novel. Maybe partly because critics were always saying that my novels are escapist, I thought: OK, now I will present you with a contemporary novel ‘par excellence’.

And references to living people? This is an approach that to different degrees has been used by many writers before me. One can give as an example ‘The Wedding’ by Wyspianski – which doesn’t mean I am comparing myself to Wyspianski!

The book is written fairly bluntly, because I think that we find ourselves in a moment of crisis, linked with postmodernism. We’ve lost our goals, our centre; we have fallen off the right track, and can’t create a new one. I didn’t originate this diagnosis, but I’m a participant in this crisis, it’s happened to me, so I am reacting and asking some questions. My book is fairly pessimistic, it doesn’t give a recipe to overcome this situation. I think that it is necessary to make oneself conscious of it, because a large number of us don’t realise that we are in such a difficult, strange situation.

5 September 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This past weekend (yes, I’m still catching up), The Independent ran an interview with Polish author Pawel Huelle under the intriguing title, “Why cult Polish author Pawel Huelle thinks he’s a camel.”

That’s explained away pretty quickly—he has two humps—and most of the interview focuses on Huelle’s new novel Castorp, just out from Serpent’s Tail and based on a throwaway line from The Magic Mountain.

“When I first read Mann’s The Magic Mountain, the story of a young German called Hans Castorp, it had a hypnotic effect on me. I was 16 and extremely ill, and had to lie in bed for several weeks. So my mother brought me books to read; unfortunately, in spite of my illness, I still read so fast she couldn’t keep up. No sooner had she found me another novel than I’d finished it. One day, however, she brought in this great, fat book and said triumphantly ‘I think this’ll last you for at least 10 days.’ Secretly I think she hoped I’d find it such heavy going I’d get better before I finished it. But I read it in five days, simultaneously becoming even more feverish and, although I didn’t understand everything in it, that book cast a spell on me. One sentence in particular stuck in my mind; it was the start point for my own novel.” He picks up his copy of Castorp and reads the quotation at the beginning: “‘He had spent four semesters at the Danzig Polytechnic.’”

“I grew up in Gdansk – Danzig, as it used to be called. Just imagine a writer you really, really like creating a literary hero who you discover may have lived in the house next door to you. Your imagination goes crazy: where did he live? Where did he go? Where did he get his hair cut? For years I wondered: what did Castorp do in Gdansk?”

Overall, Huelle, who used to be published in the States by Harcourt, sounds like a writer worth looking into. Especially since Hrabal and Sabato are two of his literary idols.

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