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Translating Hungarian poetry

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So that's when most of our books came about, we were publishing them one after another, and then, sadly, Artur died. He'd been very ill but he was the chairman of the PEN Club right up to the last. And I have to say – this isn't my opinion – that the PEN Club never flourished as well as it did when Artur was in charge. The secret is simple, namely, he loved that PEN Club and he wanted it to be like that, without this that PEN Club wouldn't have existed because he knew how to inspire all kinds of people to work, and the PEN Club meetings that he led were wonderful. People would come almost as if to see a play because firstly, he was always very well prepared and we always had people from the government, the local councilor, someone... they would show off about coming to the PEN Club. This has finished entirely; almost nobody comes to the PEN Club these days apart from its members, when someone is really interested in the issue that's being discussed. There were often incidents there that needed... various people would turn up with different intentions and they would take the floor, so to keep them in check, to contain them a little, he... Artur was perfect at this. He had a very quick reflex and was always very droll so that the audience would be laughing while the poor person who'd asked the awkward question was cut down to size, slightly confused, which maybe wasn't very nice but it was helpful.

No więc wtedy powstało jak gdyby najwięcej naszych... naszych książek, wydawaliśmy właściwie prawie jedną po drugiej. No, potem niestety nastąpiła śmierć Artura, który bardzo ciężko chorował, ale do ostatniej chwili prezesował w... w Pen Clubie. I muszę powiedzieć, że – to nie jest moje zdanie – że Pen Club nigdy nie przeżył tak świetnego okresu jak wtedy, kiedy on się nim zajmował. A tajemnica jest prosta – mianowicie on ten Pen Club kochał i chciał w nim... i chciał, żeby on taki był, bez tego by nie było tego Pen Clubu, bo on potrafił różnych ludzi podźwignąć do pracy i były zawsze znakomite spotkania penklubowe, które prowadził. Ludzie przychodzili prawie jak na widowisko, dlatego że po pierwsze – był zawsze bardzo dobrze przygotowany i zawsze mieliśmy takich... takich ludzi z... z władz – wojewoda, jakiś... – oni wszyscy snobizowali się na to, żeby przyjść na Pen Club. To już... to się kompletnie skończyło – już teraz nikt nie przychodzi prawie na Pen Club, poza członkami, jak ktoś kimś jest naprawdę zainteresowany, sprawą, o której się mówi. I... bo tam były takie często incydenty, takie, że trzeba było... że... że ten... to różni ludzie przychodzili i z różnymi intencjami zabierali potem głos, więc to, żeby właściwie ich przyhamować czy uciąć ich, no... ich trochę, to on był... Artur był zupełnie idealny. Bo miał takie... takie... taki szybki refleks bardzo i zawsze to było dowcipne, także sala się śmiała i ten biedny, który zadał to przykre pytanie, to był powalony, trochę skonfundowany, co może jest nieładnie, ale korzystnie.

Born in 1921 to a Polish father and a Russian mother, Julia Hartwig is a Polish poet, essayist, translator and author of children's books. She studied at the University of Warsaw, the Catholic University in Lublin and the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Czesław Miłosz called her 'the grande dame of Polish poetry'. Julia Hartwig is one of the few poets in Poland who makes masterly use of poetic prose. She has translated poems by Apollinaire, Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Cendrars and Supervielle, and has published monographs on Apollinaire and Gerard de Nerval. She has also translated from English, and published a large anthology of American poetry which she co-edited in 1992 with her late husband, the poet Artur Międzyrzecki.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks.  He specializes in portraits and in historical films.  Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members.  Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: PEN Club, Artur Międzyrzecki

Duration: 1 minute, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2010

Date story went live: 11 October 2011