At this sort of event the audience is, on the one hand, rather specialized—we are talking about culture after all—and on the other hand quite predictable, drawn from among a small, easily quantifiable group of regulars—we are talking about culture after all. A few are recognizable public figures, almost famous, though the fame of literary critics, translators, even poets is a bit different from that of actors, athletes, or singers. Even the most celebrated poet can visit a crowded marketplace without worrying that he will be obsessively accosted, while picking out a handsome ear of corn, by a group of local youths professing their admiration and undying devotion.
Cultural gatherings are also sure to draw a number of academics—steadfastly observing the principle never to veer from their narrow area of specialization. A meeting with a French writer is attended by Romanists, a meeting with a Hungarian writer by Hungarianists. If the relevant languages are not taught at the university in a given city, then discussions with their leading artists often sit empty, if they happen at all. At a recent meeting with a Croatian writer, one such specialist, a lady in the front row—in answer to the translator about whether she needed to translate the Croatian author’s replies—glibly proclaimed, “Of course not! What for?” At the next week’s meeting with a leading Lithuanian writer, somehow I didn’t see this woman.
—translated from the Polish by Justin Wilmes
Maciej Miłkowski, born in Łódź, Poland, is a writer, translator, and book critic. He has translated over fifteen books from English, in both fiction and nonfiction. His first collection of short stories, Wist, was published in 2014 by Zeszyty Literackie. He hosts a program on literature for the internet radio station Studnia. His stories have been translated into Dutch, English, German, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Russian. He resides in Kraków.
Justin Wilmes is Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at East Carolina University. His work focuses on post-Soviet cinema and culture, Polish literature, and translation.