Polish poet, translator Stanislaw Baranczak dies | Lifestyle.INQ
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Stanislaw Baranczak. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Polish poet, translator Stanislaw Baranczak dies

Stanislaw Baranczak. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
Stanislaw Baranczak. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s outstanding poet, translator and dissident and a former Harvard lecturer Stanislaw Baranczak has died at his US home, Poland’s leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza said. He was 68.


Since the 1990s, Baranczak suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which made him quit his Harvard job in 1997 after 16 years there. He died in Newtonville near Boston early Friday, the newspaper said.


Poland’s Culture Minister Malgorzata Omilanowska said that Baranczak’s death is a “great loss to Poland’s culture.”


“He paid a great price for his views, for his unwavering attitude,” Omilanowska said. “He dedicated his whole life to literature, to poetry. His work will always be an important part of Poland’s culture.”


His poems written in Poland in the 1960s and ’70s ridiculed the absurdity of the communist system and its artificial language. He co-founded the Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR) in 1977, following a brutal communist crackdown on protesting workers. For his activity he was fired from his job at the Adam Mickiewicz University in his native Poznan and his writings were barred from print in Poland.


In 1981 he got a three-year contract as lecturer at Harvard but stayed on, as Poland’s communists imposed martial law against the Solidarity freedom movement that year.


He translated many authors from Polish to English and from English to Polish, including works by Shakespeare, John Donne, Emily Dickinson and Bob Dylan. He also translated from Russian and from Lithuanian. He had the rare talent of preserving the spirit and the beauty of the language of the original.


In 1996 Baranczak shared the U.S. PEN Translation Prize with American Clare Cavanagh for putting into English a collection by Poland’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska.


Baranczak is survived by his wife Anna, a Harvard preceptor in Slavic languages and literatures.