The Polka: What’s Riveting in Polish Literature by Anna Blasiak

I was a voracious reader when growing up, I always had a book (or several) in my hand, I was reading in any and every situation, sometimes after lights out against my parents’ wishes, by candle- or just by moonlight. I walked around the house (or, once on holiday, as I remember, around a pool) with a book in my hand, tripping over everything, because I simply could not stop reading, even for a short while. I read extensively and at the time I read only in Polish, though that was soon to change. It was in that language that I encountered not only Polish literature but also world literature in translation into Polish. Who knows, perhaps that’s why I ended up as a translator? But my growing interest in translated literature never diminished my strong relationship with writing in Polish. It was, and often is, a love-hate kind of relationship. But I will never forget some of those heady first encounters with writers and books, for example with Bruno Schulz whose writing left me positively giddy (and rather misunderstood in my household, to be honest). I have fallen in love with many other Polish writers’ books since, with Wioletta Greg’s, Joanna Bator’s, Zyta Rudzka’s, Mirka Szychowiak’s, Irit Amiel’s, to name just a few.

I read differently now, having lived in the UK for over 20 years, but it still happens – thank goodness! – that I am absolutely enthralled by something I am reading in Polish: it can still make me giggle or cry, and I still feel the pressing urge to translate some words on the spot into makeshift English so that I can share them with those around me who can’t read Polish.

And this is really the idea behind my new blog, The Polka: to share. To share with you my excitement about my Polish literary discoveries: about new books, writers and poets. The blog will take a fluid form – sometimes a translation extract, sometimes a book review or an introduction to a particular writer, sometimes a round-up of new releases, sometimes an interview. Whatever it takes to draw your attention to what I consider ‘riveting’ in contemporary Polish literature. After all, I am a ‘Polka’!  No, not the dance – ‘Polka’ in Polish means a female Pole. And this particular female Pole enjoys reading books from Poland. But yes, also the dance: why not enjoy a literary Polka with me?

Anna Blasiak

Anna Blasiak is a poet, writer, translator and Managing Editor of the European Literature Network. Recently she translated According to Her by Maciej Hen (shortlisted to the EBRD Literature Prize 2023) and, with Bohdan Piasecki, Czernowitz Charmowitz by Aneta Kamińska. She has published a bilingual poetry and photography book with Lisa Kalloo Café by Wren’s St-James-in-the-Fields, Lunchtime, and a book-length interview with a Holocaust survivor, Lili: Lili Stern-Pohlmann in conversation with Anna Blasiak. Her second poetry collection, Deliverance, will be published later this year.

Photo by Lisa Kalloo

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