Wschodni Express is a series of meetings, panels and debates with writers, artists and intellectuals from Eastern Europe and a publication series connected with East of Culture – Different Sounds, printed by Workshops of Culture in Lublin.
One of the major obstacles in developing intercultural cooperation and overcoming stereotypes about the cultures of Eastern European countries is the language barrier. While it isn’t a substantial threat to other fields of cultural practice (music, visual arts), it affects the reception of literature and broadly defined exchange of ideas. In this context, it is therefore vital to ensure a good flow of the current thought, writing and literature translated into national languages. Such a function is fulfilled by the series “Wschodni Express” established at Workshops of Culture. For the last several years, it has been introducing to Poland the most current prose and poetry from the Eastern Partnership countries.
The name of the series Wschodni Express (lit. Eastern Express) refers to the famous Paris-Constantinople train that in its heyday crossed nearly entire Europe and to such literary projects as Literature Express Europe 2000 and the Ukrainian periodical Potysah 76 – “Pociąg 76″ (Train 76) dedicated to the Central-East European culture. As its name suggests, the series aims at introducing Polish readers to the latest literary texts from Poland’s eastern neighbours, addressing the issues most relevant to the societies of Eastern Europe. This mission stems from Lublin’s location near the east border of the European Union. It is a logical continuation of the long-established activity of Lublin’s literary and publishing communities in familiarising Polish readers with the culture of its eastern neighbours; Wydawnictwo Literackie, the quarterly “Akcent”, the quarterly “Kresy”, “Kultura Enter” magazine.
In 2021, Wshodni Express published seven new books: Wasyl Słapczuk’s “Ten sam kurz drogi”, Juris Kronbergs’ “Wilk Jedno Oko”, Zoltán Mihály Nagy’s “Szatański Pomiot”, Marius Burokas’ “Tu mieszkał Jonasz”, Kateryna Babkina’s book “Nikt tak nie tańczył, jak mój dziadek”, Uładzimier Arłoŭ’s “Porucznik Piatrowicz i chorąży Duch”.
All covers have been designed by Ewelina Kruszewska.
Wasyl Slapczuk “Ten sam kurz drogi”, translated from Ukrainian by Wojciech Pestka
The book takes a deep look inside human existence and attempts to bring order to the world, redefine the meaning of what is good and evil, then establish the line beyond where a person starts losing their humanity and becomes an aggressive, dangerous beast. The protagonist, a writer and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, goes through a midlife crisis, which prompts him to go to a sanatorium where new acquaintances and experiences force him to reflect on himself.
Wasyl Słapczuk | Ukraine b. 1961 in Novyi Zboryshiv in Volhynia) – poet, prose writer, literary critic, literary scholar, translator. He served in Afghanistan, where he was gravely wounded. He has penned several novels, collections of poems and short stories, two of which have been published in Polish: “Woman from Snow” (2012) and “Knyha zabutti︠a︡” (The Book of Oblivion, 2014) which was shortlisted for “Angelus” Central European Literature Award. He has authored collections of literary criticism, essays and books for children, and has translated Polish poetry by Krzysztof Sawicki and Wojciech Pestka. Furthermore, he has won over twenty literary awards, including Shevchenko National Prize and Józef Łobodowski Literary Award. Słapczuk has received the decoration of honour “Meritorious for Polish Culture”.
Juris Kronbergs “Wilk Jedno Oko”, translated from Latvian by Olga Wiewióra
“The One-Eyed Wolf will not lose his race with death. Not yet. But his situation is looking rather grim, if not entirely dark. The theme of light losing to darkness is also repeated. One eye reflects an individual perspective that can be important or not, accurate or disfigured, divine or primitive – but it’s mine.”
prof. Krzysztof Zajas (from the introduction)
Juris Kronbergs | Latvia (9 August 1946 – 6 July 2020) – a Latvian poet and translator who spent his life in Sweden. He studied Scandinavian and Baltic languages as well as the history of literature at the University of Stockholm. He debuted in the middle of 1960. His works veered between two cultures – Swedish and Latvian. His translations of 20th and 21st-century literature include selected poems by the Nobel Prize winner Thomas Tranströmer and Ulf Eriksson’s novel Creatures of Glass / Varelser av glas (Janis Roze, 2010). Kronberg’s work has become one of the best examples of rebellion in Latvian literature of the 1960s. He was a chairman of the Latvian PEN Club, worked as an interpreter for the Swedish parliament and served as a cultural attaché at the Latvian embassy in Stockholm. He died on 6 July 2020.
Zoltán Mihály Nagy “Szatański Pomiot”, translated from Hungarian by Daniel Warmuz
A story about a young Hungarian girl from Transcarpathia whose life was overshadowed by the turbulent history of the region marked by the entrance of the Russians towards the end of WW2 and deportations of the Hungarian population to the USSR and their forced labour. Shamed by Soviet soldiers and scorned by rural communities, Eszter, in spite of all fears, decides to give birth to her illegitimate child and fight for the love of her life
Zoltán Mihály Nagy | Hungary (b. 1949) – poet, prose writer, editor and one of the more important representatives of Hungarian literature in Transcarpathian Ukraine. He received The Attila József Prize (2005) and The Sandor Marai Prize (2021). He debuted with the volume of poetry “Dolgok igézetében (1983). He gained recognition in Hungary with his “A sátán fattya” (1991), continued with Tölgyek alkonya (1996) and A teremtés legnehezebb napja (2004). He lives in Popovo / Csonkapapi on the Ukrainian / Hungarian border.
Marius Burokas “Tu mieszkał Jonasz”, translated from Lithuanian by Agnieszka Rembiałkowska
The volume contains poems from all four volumes of Marius Burokas’ poetry ( “Ideogramos”, “Būsenos”, “Išmokau nebūti”, “Švaraus buvimo”) and new poems, thus far only published in literary magazines. The selection showcases the evolution of the poet’s style and presents themes he uses in his work. The book offers two perspectives: it includes poems that the translator considers interesting for the Polish reader in terms of the topics and artistry and poems that the author himself considers worthwhile. It’s Burokas’ first publication in Polish.
Marius Burokas | Lithuania (b..1977 in Vilnius) – a poet, writer, translator and editor-in-chief of the online magazine of Lithuanian literature “Vilnius review”. He’s the author of four poetry volumes ( the most recent “Švaraus buvimo” was published in 2018 and awarded at Wiosna Poezji (Spring of Poetry) Poetry Festival. His volume of poetry in English, “Now I Understand” was published nu Parthian Books in 2018. In the same year, he also published a volume of poetry in Ukrainian, “Найменшіречі”, Buroas’ poetry has been translated into Polish, Russian, Slovenian, English, German, French, Dutch, Ukrainian. Marius Burokas translate American, Canadian and Australian poets, among others. He’s been a member of the Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators.
Kateryna Babkina “Nikt tak nie tańczył, jak mój dziadek”, translated from Ukrainian by Bohdan Zadura
“My grandfather danced the best” is s series of stories about five families whose children meet at school on 1 September in the first year of Ukraine’s independence and remain friends for life.
“Then, a tall girl blinked resolutely and released the hand of her classmate who had managed to forget his anxieties, such was the extent of everything which was new and inconceivable, and she moved her thin fingers along Lilitchka’s collar. From the collar, she unfastened a plastic mouse, a shiny grey brooch with touches of pink, and held it on her open palm for the weeping boy to take. ‘This is for you’, she said. “A gift. Please, stop crying. Stop right now’. Then it seemed he stopped. Maybe not right away, but he definitely did.”
Kateryna Babkina | Ukraine (b.1985 in Ivano-Frankivsk) – a well-known Ukrainian writer, journalist, screenwriter and culture manager. She has published several volumes of poetry, debuting with St.Elmo’s fires (2002), the novel “Sonia” (nominated for the Ukrainian BBC’s Book of the Year 2013), a collection of short stories and books for children. She also writes film scripts and has written the play – “Hamlet Babylon” which was performed in Kiev, Geneva and Vienna. Her work has been translated into English, Czech, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Romanian, Russian and Hebrew. Workshops of Culture have published her short stories, “Szczęśliwi Nadzy Ludzie / “Happy Naked People” (2018) and the novel “Sonia”.
Andrij Lubka, “Twoje spojrzenie, Cio-cio-san”, translated from Ukrainian by Bohdan Zadura
One December evening, a drunken judge in his black BMW fatally runs over the protagonist’s wife on a street in Uzhgorod. After the hit-and-run perpetrator is acquitted, Mark Zadrożny decides to serve justice and take matters into his own hands. Andrij Lubka’s new novel begins as a social thriller, disclosing the corruption of the contemporary Ukrainian country. But as the story develops in several time frames, the original perspective changes dramatically.
“My Raulka was killed by a judge and this country, which permits such a thing to happen. The country where everything is possible. Where those who proclaim law, sow lawlessness. Let them hear and see me. I have paid for this message with my life.”
Andrij Lubka | Ukraine (b. 1987 in Riga) – is one of the most interesting Ukrainian young writers of the current generation; a poet, prose writer, essayist, translator, and columnist. The winner of many literary awards, among them “Debut” (2007) and “Kyiv Laurels” (2011), a recipient of the Gaude Polonia scholarship granted by the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Poland (2010, 2012) who has taken part in many literary festivals around the world from Rio de Janeiro do Istanbul. Lubka’s work has been translated into Polish, English, German, Serbian, Portuguese, Russian, Belarusian and Czech. In 2017, his novel “Carbide” was nominated for Angelus Central European Literature Award, while his collection of stories “Pokój do smutku” received the Kovalev Foundation (USA) award for prose. One of the stories in this volume was turned into a film.
Uładzimier Arłou “Porucznik Piatrowicz i chorąży Duch”, translated from Belarusian by Bohdan Zadura.
The uniqueness of this book lies in both its diversity and uniformity. The ballads that cover centuries and include a compilation of contemporary and historical figures, from the executioners in the author’s hometown of Polotsk, through to renaissance artists from Padua, Don Juan and other contemporary Ukrainian poets who share the common interest of the author himself – a poet and historian, traveller and archaeologist of his own life. The reportage-like verism combines with oneirism, lyricism with irony and sarcasm, while a sense of humour is often broken by tragedy. Reading the book takes us on a fantastic and fascinating journey around history and the contemporary world.
Uładzimier Arłou | Belarus (b.1952 in Polotsk) – one of the most popular Belarusian poets; a historian and prose writers. After graduating from the Belarusian State University in Minsk with a diploma in history, he worked as a teacher and journalist. From 1988, he worked with the publisher “Mastackaja literatura” and joined the Belarusian Popular Front. In 1996, he was fired from his job with the publisher for “publishing historical literature of dubious quality, among others”, supported Democratic candidates in presidential elections, and in 2007 his works were removed from the school curriculum. He has been active in the Belarusian PEN Club and the independent Union of Belarusian Writers. He has published over 20 volumes of prose and several books of poetry. In 2018, he received the Jerzy Giedroyć Award. His books have been translated into many languages. Two selections of his short stories and a volume of poetry have been published in Polish.