The Ladyman

The 6th Queer Issue of Words Without Borders is out this month, with a strong showing from Central and Eastern Europe.

The Serbian piece by Dragoslava Barzut is heart breaking, the opening of Zuzana Kepplová’s Slovak piece  made me laugh, and the Czech piece by another Zuzana, Brabcová, cuts to the quick:

“Pokusíte-li se opřít o své blízké, bude to, jako kdybyste se opřeli o zteřelé dveře do sklepa: sletíte rázem po schodech, hlavou dolů na beton.” / “If you try and lean on your nearest and dearest, it will be like leaning on a rotten cellar door: you’ll just hurtle headlong down the stairs until you hit the concrete below.” (English translation by Julia and Peter Sherwood).

All these queer women are amazing, but it’s the Polish “ladyman” who really got my attention. Not that you meet him as such; you just hear about him through the voices of his neighbours. Marian Pawlikowski’s long fingers are skilled as a pastry chef and a plumber, and the fringes on his scarf are never out of place. His working-class neighbours would defend him tooth and nail,

“Because as soon as you get near Banach Street on the number 25, you’ll see, it’s like being in another country—all kinds of people walking around—dark skin, and, you know, slanty eyes . . . We’ve got everybody here. And we’ve got Mr. Pawlikowski, too, who’s a man just like me, because that’s the truth, but he could also be a woman. And that’s that. You get it?


Well then I can’t help you.”

Sean Gasper Bye, the translator, is also a theatre director, and you can feel it in the dramatic tension of the writing.

Sylwia Chutnik, the author, has published her Kieszonkowy atlas kobiet (“Pocket Atlas of Women”) in 2008, telling the stories of four inhabitants of a Warsaw tenement, including Marian Pawlikowski. Her Warszawa kobiet (Women’s Warsaw) in 2011, is a feminist guidebook to some of the more interesting parts of Warsaw with the history of the women who lived there.

The image below is my photo of physicist Marie Skłodowska-Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel prize, painted on the Warsaw tenement where she used to live.


Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in books, literature

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

advent Alice in Wonderland American And Other Stories Antonia Lloyd-Jones Arabic Argentina Beowulf Berlin Best Translated Book Award Bible books Brazil Brazilian Portuguese British British Library Buddhism Catalan Children's Books China Chinese Christmas Christmas Carols Contemporary Czesław Miłosz Danish Dari David Hackston Dublin Literary Award English Estonian Fantasy Farsi Fiction Finland Finland 100 Finlandia Prize Finnish Flemish Free Word Centre French George Szirtes German Greek Hebrew Herbert Lomas Herta Müller history Hungarian Iceland Idioms Illustration India international International Translation Day Irish Gaelic Italian J. R. R. Tolkien Japanese Jenny Erpenbeck Johanna Sinisalo Korean Language language learning Languages Latin Literature Lola Rogers Lord of the Rings Mabinogion Man Booker International Prize Maori Maria Turtschaninoff Moomins New Year Nobel Prize Nobel Prize for Literature Norwegian Old English Olga Tokarczuk Owen Witesman Oxford English Dictionary Penguin PEN Translation Prize Persian Philip Boehm Phoneme Media Poetry Poetry Translation Centre Polish Portuguese Pushkin Press Queer Romanian Rosa Liksom Russian Salla Simukka Second World War Short Stories Sofi Oksanen Spanish Stanisław Barańczak Suomi100 Susan Bernofsky Svetlana Alexievich Swedish Switzerland Thomas Teal Tibetan Tove Jansson transation Translation translator Translators Without Borders Valentine's Day Wales Warsaw Welsh Wisława Szymborska Witold Szabłowski Women in Translation Month words Words without Borders writing YA

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow found in translation on
%d bloggers like this: