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Opening book collection Polish Culture NL in OBA

Opening book collection Polish Culture NL in OBA

At the end of May 2022, a collection of several hundred Polish books was opened in the Public Library in Amsterdam. Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland, Igno van Waesberghe, traditionally cut the ribbon. It was also the official start of the cooperation between OBA and the Polish Culture NL Foundation in the framework of the House of All Languages in OBA.

About nine thousand Poles live in Amsterdam and our capital also has historical ties with Poland. The Polish language is now the sixth language spoken in the Netherlands. The collection includes both the classics of Polish literature and the latest Polish literature in Polish and Dutch.

Rich literary tradition

Polish literature has a very rich history. The list of outstanding writers is extremely long. It is not without reason that ne fewer than five Nobel Prize winners for literature have come from here.

The best known are the poet Wisława Szymborska and the writer Olga Tokarczuk.

Tokarczuk wrote her magnum opus (900 pages) The Books of Jacob a few years ago. A multi-layered book set in the 18th century, set around the journey of the self-proclaimed leader of the Jewish mystic sect, Jakub Frank. The story takes us from Turkey to the Baltic Sea, crossing seven borders inhabited by followers of the three major religions. The complex relations with the Polish Catholic nobility are described in a brilliant style. The book is controversial among the conservative part of Polish society because it discusses the development of Roman Catholic anti-Semitism.

Panel discussion

Tokarczuk’s book was brilliantly translated by Karol Lesman, who won the Martinus Nijhoff  (the P.C. Hoofdprijs for translators) for it.  Lesman was part of a literary panel with Pieter van Os, Iwona Maczka (translator) and Krzysztof Dobrowolski – Onclin (art historian).

Poland disappeared from the map of the world for over 100 years (partitions) and regained independence only after the First World War. It was the language and literature that made it possible for Poland to maintain its identity and a glimpse into the past, said Dobrowolski.

Collaboration between the writer and translator

Pieter van Os has written a book about the survival story of a young Polish  Jewish woman who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War and eventually ended up in Amstelveen. With his successful non-fiction novel entitled Liever dier dan mens (Hiding in Plain Sight), he won the Libris prize for historical non-fiction books. The book has been translated into German and English, and a Polish translation by Iwona Mączka has now also been published by Poznan  publishers.

Article in the NRC newspaper

Polish books now fill many shelves was the headline of a report in the NRC on a well-attended meeting in the OBA Oosterdok (Amsterdam Public Library).

Projects in preparation

In the autumn, the Polish Culture NL foundation is preparing a number of projects, such as, together with partner OBA, a day dedicated to linguistic diversity, a film festival presenting the achievements of Polish film music composers and, on September 4, a performance of the Grammy Award-winning jazz band Pawlik Trio in Bimhuis.

Photo’s made by Kasia Giska.

Honorary consul for Poland, Mr. van Waesberghe performs the official opening
Translator Karol Lesman at one of his titles in the collection