Polish poetry translated by Karl Dedecius at the UG


'Karl Dedecius is one of the key figures who paved the way for Polish-German rapprochement after the cataclysm of World War II,' explains dr hab. Miłosława Borzyszkowska-Szewczyk prof. UG, from the Institute of German Philology UG, and the president of the Günter Grass Association in Gdańsk. Within the framework of the Karl Dedecius Year, the Institute of German Philology UG is organising a recitation competition for secondary school students from Pomerania.

The competition entitled 'Karl Dedecius' Poetic Panorama' is addressed to secondary school pupils from the Pomeranian Voivodeship and is organised by the Institute of German Philology UG with the participation of dr hab. Marion Brandt prof. UG and dr Ewelina Damps. The project is co-financed by the German Consulate General in Gdańsk and the Johann Gottfried Herder Foundation UG, and its partners are the European University Viadrina, the Herder Centre in Gdańsk, the Günter Grass Association in Gdańsk.

The competition was organised on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Karl Dedecius, German translator and populariser of Polish literature. - 'It is largely thanks to his translations and promotional activities that Polish poetry has a strong position among German readers,' explains dr hab. Miłosława Borzyszkowska-Szewczyk, prof. UG. - 'Dedecius changed the world during the Cold War, divided by the traumas of war and the Iron Curtain. He used literature as an instrument of change,' she adds. Dedecius translated texts by over 300 poets and prose writers, including Mickiewicz, Miłosz, Szymborska, Różewicz, Lec, Herbert and Wojtyła. He corresponded with many and even maintained friendly relations with some.

Dr hab. Miłosława Borzyszkowska-Szewczyk, prof. UG, emphasises that Dedecius' name should be mentioned in the same breath alongside Günter Grass, Siegfried Lenz, Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, Klaus Bismarck or Christian Graf von Krockow. - 'They all grew up in the Polish-German borderland,' she adds. - 'By translating and promoting Polish literature, he overcame the dominant image of Poles in post-war West German consciousness - as a nation of peripheral culture and Vertreiber - as those who expelled Germans from their homes and small homelands in the East.'

He published several dozen anthologies and volumes of individual writers. He was also the editor of the 50-volume series Polnische Bibliothek (Polish Library), covering Polish literature from the Middle Ages to the present day. His 7-volume Panorama der polnischen Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts (Panorama of Polish Literature of the 20th Century) is considered his opus vitae.

Germanists emphasise that the figure of Karl Dedecius and his life work need to be remembered. - 'Especially at present, when nationalist tendencies are intensifying in the world around us and the stereotype of the German enemy is being revived in the Polish public discourse,' emphasises dr hab. Miłosława Borzyszkowska-Szewczyk prof. UG.

The recitation contest on the occasion of Karl Dedecius' birthday jubilee aims to promote reading among young people, to arouse their interest in translating Polish literature into German, and to popularise his work. It is also important to support acting talents and promote talented students.

The contestants will be asked to present a chosen poem in two language versions: both in the original and in Dedecius' translation. Evaluating the submitted works in terms of, among others, their interpretation, clarity of message, expression of emotions and linguistic correctness, the jury will select 15 finalists who will present two poems in the theatre hall of the Faculty of Philology of the University of Gdańsk or via MS Teams. The prizes for the winners will be books and participation in theatre and translation workshops related to the theme of the competition.

A recorded performance should be sent to the following email address: eliza.szymanska@ug.edu.pl as a file or via WeTransfer by 30.04.2021.

Rules of the competition and application form

Ewa Cichocka / Press Office of University of Gdańsk