The much-coveted “Found in Translation” award has gone to Danuta Borchardt for her rendering of Witold Gombrowicz’s Pornografia. The annual prize champions the finest translation of a work of Polish literature into English.
Gombrowicz (1904-1969), who was considered the enfant terrible of Poland’s prewar literary scene, has been steadily winning over new fans over the last decade, not least thanks to Borchardt’s translations.
The translator, who worked for many years as a psychiatrist, says she was drawn to the writer by his “down-to-earth attitude toward life and literature”.
Pornography is set during the Second World War, but as is typical of Gombrowicz, the novel takes a distinctly idiosyncratic approach to the period. Two aging intellectuals, sick of the brutalities of occupied Warsaw, travel to the country in search of respite. They soon become fascinated by a pair of village youths, and attempts are made to engineer an amorous entanglement between the younger pair. Things do not go smoothly, and the realities of war soon break in on the scenario.
Famously, Gombrowicz was abroad when war broke out in 1939. He never returned, but his diaries – published illicitly by the underground – acquired cult status amongst the Solidarity generation.