A Second Nature: Barańczak Translates Barańczak for America

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This article discusses the literary practice of self-translation by Stanisław Barańczak (1946–2014), one of the leading poets of late twentieth-century Poland, a dissident intellectual, and later an émigré and professor at Harvard University. It focuses on the poet’s only book-length collection published in the United States, The Weight of the Body (1989), as well as touches on other poems co-translated with Clare Cavanagh years later. The article’s main import is a more nuanced reading of the poet’s creative process of self-translation. It argues that Barańczak’s self-translated poetry, when read alongside the originals, become a conscious and critical dialogue with a range of literary conventions and expectations among a U.S. audience. In particular, Barańczak’s texts revise clichés recurring in the U.S. perspective on Eastern European migrant authors; at the same, they also blur the line between original and translation by pointing to the text’s double nature. The article places Barańczak’s self-translations against the backdrop of the poet’s essays on writing in a foreign language, his unpublished correspondence with Czesław Miłosz from the Beinecke Library at Yale and, more broadly, the reception of Eastern European writers in the late twentieth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475–496
Number of pages22
JournalThe Slavic and East European Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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