Polish Books in America - Polish Bookshelf 2019
This year the Polish Book Institute (PBI), following up on the success of the "Polish Bookshelf" program in Great Britain, has inaugurated the program in the United States. The program centers on making Polish books, in translation, available to American readers through city libraries.
Book presentation in the Main Library Building in Philadelphia
The institute sent lists of available books to collection managers at the Philadelphia Free Library and the Brooklyn Library System. Mr. Paul Artrip of the Philadelphia library selected over 80 titles, and nearly 200 books were requested by Ms. Izabela Barry of the Brooklyn Central Library. These were ordered by the Book Institute and delivered as a gift to the respective libraries at the beginning of March. Interestingly, both librarians also asked for some of the titles in the Polish language to enrich the collections of branches located in neighborhoods with a Polish speaking population. The books will soon appear in the on-line catalogues of both libraries. Among the titles are: Polish literary classics, modern literature, cookbooks, science fiction, poetry, children's books and more. Those who would like to see a listing of the available titles may do so under: www.polishcultureacpc.org/books/list.html
To inaugurate the program Mr. Krzysztof Koehler, deputy director of the Institute and a poet and author in his own right, came to the United States. On March 6 he gave an interesting presentation at the Brooklyn Central Library about the Found in Translation Award given annually to an outstanding translation published in the previous year. The award is a platform for promoting contemporary Polish literature by supporting and showcasing emerging writers and translators. Also speaking at this forum was Jennifer Croft, who won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her translation from Polish of Olga Tokarczuk's Flights.
In addition to her commentary on her work she also read short selections from two of her books. The meeting ended with a question and answer session.
On the following day Mr. Koehler arrived at the neo-classical main building of the Philadelphia Free Library on Logan Square. Here, Citizen Diplomacy International (CDI) a local organization for promoting good relations between the United States and other countries and cultures, arranged a lecture and reception to welcome the "Polish Bookshelf" program to Philadelphia. After a greeting by CDI's director Siobhan Lyons, the podium was given to the featured speaker, Poland's ambassador in Washington, Piotr Wilczek. His presentation addressed the difficulties that Polish writers have in transcending borders to become known and appreciated outside their home countries. Mr. Koehler spoke about the value of the relationship between translators and authors. After answering many questions the speakers joined the audience for a friendly social evening.
Among the many persons attending several Polish-American organizations were represented: Polish Heritage Society (Tiffany Loomis), Associated Polish Home (Hon. RP Consul Deborah M. Majka), Philadelphia Chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation (Andrzej Zlotnicki and several board members), Jagiellonian Law Society (Elizabeth M. Zechenter) and Poles in America Foundation (Peter J. Obst). It was gratifying to see that many American supporters of the Free Library and members of CDI also came out to hear the presentation and speak with the Ambassador Wilczek and PBI Deputy Director Koehler. The staff of CDI deserves much credit and praise for organizing this event and in bringing Polish books to Philadelphia.
Jennifer Croft, Izabela Barry, Krzyszto Koehler (in Brooklyn)
(l. to r.) Peter J. Obst, Ambassador Piotr Wilczek, Hon. Consul Debbie Majka, CDI Director Siobhan Lyons, Krzyszto Koehler (in Philadelphia)
CDI Director Siobhan Lyons
Ambassador RP Piotr Wilczek
Deputy-director Polish Book Institute (Instytut Ksiazki) Krzysztof Koehler
(center) Ambassador RP Piotr Wilczek and members of the Kosciuszko Foundation Philadelphia Chapter
(l. to r.) Peter I. Bogucki and Hon. RP Consul Debbie Majka
(l. to r.) Publisher Vincent Rospond and Deputy-director PBI Krzysztof Koehler