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On Translating "Pan Tadeusz" - An evening with Prof. Bill Johnston

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The Kosciuszko Foundation

15 East 65th Street

New York, NY 10065

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The Kosciuszko Foundation is pleased to host an evening with Prof. Bill Johnston, acclaimed translator of literature from Polish to English, winner of 2012 PEN Translation Prize and Three Percent's Best Translated Book Award. Prof. Johnston will present his most recent translation work: "Pan Tadeusz. The Last Foray in Lithuania," by Adam Mickiewicz. He will talk about historical and cultural significance of the book, challenges in translating the poem and will address questions of what is "Pan Tadeusz," and what can it be for English-language readers of the twenty-first century.


The event is organized in cooperation with the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

Wine reception will follow the talk. The event is free and open to the public. Space is limited. Registration required. In lieu of admission, a donation towards the KF Cultural Fund are appreciated.


The national epic of Poland, Pan Tadeusz is a panoramic view of early 19th century Polish provincial society. Interlacing narrative threads include the homecoming of Pan Tadeusz from his studies in the city; a feud between local families over ownership of a ruined castle; clandestine preparations for Polish participation in Napoleon's anticipated invasion of Russia; and the mystery of Father Robak ("Worm"), a monk whose involvement in each of the different stories seems to draw them together.

Written in elegant rhyming couplets, Pan Tadeusz has become ingrained in the Polish literary consciousness. It has influenced subsequent Polish literature like no other work, and is considered the last great epic poem in European literature. Bill Johnston's translation of this seminal text allows English-language readers to experience the richness, humor, and narrative energy of the original.





Adam Mickiewicz (1798 - 1855) was a Polish poet, dramatist, essayist, activist, and professor. He is regarded as a national poet in Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus. Born into Russian-occupied Lithuania, Mickiewicz was active in the struggle to win independence. He lived most of his life in exile in western Europe where he wrote freely of the occupation and taught Slavic literature. He died in Constantinople, where he had gone to help organize forces to fight against the Russians in the Crimean War.



Bill Johnston is a professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University. His translations include Wiesław Myśliwski's Stone Upon Stone and Treatise on Shelling Beans; Witold Gombrowicz's Bacacay; Magdalena Tulli's Dreams and Stones, Moving Parts, Flaw, and In Red; Jerzy Pilch's His Current Woman and The Mighty Angel; Stefan Zeromski's The Faithful River; and Fado and Dukla by Andrzej Stasiuk. In 1999 he received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship for Translation. In 2008 he won the inaugural Found in Translation Award for Tadeusz Rozewicz's new poems, and in 2012 he was awarded the PEN Translation Prize and Three Percent's Best Translated Book Award for Wiesław Myśliwski's Stone Upon Stone.

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The Kosciuszko Foundation

15 East 65th Street

New York, NY 10065

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