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Literary and Cultural Relations

Ireland, Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe

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Edited By Maria Kurdi

The lively, informative and incisive collection of essays sheds fascinating new light on the literary interrelations between Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic. It charts a hitherto under-explored history of the reception of modern Irish culture in Central and Eastern Europe and also investigates how key authors have been translated, performed, and adapted. The work of Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, Flann O'Brien, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Martin McDonagh, it is indicated, has particularly inspired writers, directors, and translators. The searching analyses presented here illuminatingly reflect on the far-reaching political and social import of multicultural exchange. It is shown to be a process that is at best mutually defining and that raises questions about received forms of identity, the semiotics of genre and the possibilities and limits of linguistic translation. In addition, the histories compiled here of critical commentary on Irish literature in Hungary or of the staging of contemporary Irish plays in Hungary and in the Czech Republic, for example, uncover the haphazardness of intercultural exchange and the extent to which it is vulnerable to political ideology, social fashion, and the vagaries of state funding. The revealing explorations undertaken in this volume of a wide array of Irish dramatic and literary texts, ranging from Gulliver's Travels to Translations and The Pillowman, tease out the subtly altered nuances that they acquire in a Central European context. By the same token, it is demonstrated that Ireland has been changed by the recent migration of workers from Eastern Europe and that consequently projections of the figure of the emigrant or asylum seeker in current drama warrant scrutiny. This original and combative collection demonstrates, not only that literary exchange between Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Ireland has been prolonged, multifaceted and, above all, enriching, but also that it exposes blind-spots, and forces confrontation with issues of racism, failure of empathy and cultural misprision.

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11 | The Polishing of Heaney.

11 |   The Polishing of Heaney.

Seamus Heaney’s Poetry in Poland: Translations, Reception, Impact

Extract

Jerzy Jarniewicz

Bearing in mind the long-standing Polish-Irish cultural relations, it may be difficult to imagine that the first ever poetry book by an Irish poet in Polish translation was published as late as in 1987. It was, not surprisingly, a collection of poems by W.B. Yeats, who for many years remained the only Irish poet with his own book in Polish. True, a few Irish poets had been translated before, yet their poetry appeared only in anthologies or literary magazines, and, to add insult to injury, in most cases they were introduced as ‘English poets’. The last, third volume of a monumental anthology Poeci języka angielskiego [Poets of the English Language] (1974), devoted to the poetry of the twentieth century, included only four Irish poets: Oscar Wilde, Yeats, James Joyce, and Louis MacNeice, with Wilde and MacNeice incorrigibly referred to as ‘English poets’. In Poland, Irish poetry in English, subsumed into the history of English verse, had a long struggle to gain recognition of its identity. It took many years before the Polish reader realized the distinctness of Irish literature – written, admittedly, in the language of Shakespeare, but set in a different cultural and historical context, which could not be ignored in any serious discussion of its evolution.

If Yeats’s book was the first individual collection by an Irish poet published in Poland, the next one was (predictably, perhaps) a ←201 | 202→poetry book by Seamus Heaney. 44 wiersze, forty four poems in the...

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