Academic journal article The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.)

The First Conrad Translation: An Outcast of the Islands in Polish

Academic journal article The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.)

The First Conrad Translation: An Outcast of the Islands in Polish

Article excerpt

THE VERY FIRST TRANSLATION of a Conrad novel was Wyr^utek, a Polish rendering of A.n Outcast of the Islands^ which began to appear in Tygodnik Romansow i Pomesci [The Weekly of Romances and Novels] on 2 January 1897, only ten months after its publication in England. Whether Conrad ever knew anything about this translation is not known; it is unmentioned in his extant letters to his Polish correspondents. However, he must have seen some Polish translations of his works, since in an interview with Marian D^browski in 1914 he was extremely critical of them: "To begin with I was never even asked for permission to translate my books and besides, the translations are extremely poor. It is real agony for me to read things that were written in English in my native language ... And the Polish translations are so careless, so unfaithful to the original. ... the Polish [translations] always irritate me" (Dabrowski in Najder, ed., 1983: 200.) As far as the first Polish translation of An Outcast of the Islands, as Wyrzutek, is concerned, Conrad was justified in complaining of inaccuracy.

The bibliographical record of Wyrzutek has been plagued with error. In 1932, Piotr Grzegorczyk identified the anonymous translator as Maria G^siorowska, but placed the translation in the wrong journal, claiming that it was published in the weekly Tygodnik Mod i Powesci [The Weekly of Fashions and Fictions] (Grzegorczyk 5). The bibliography in Ludwik KrzyzanowskTs Centennial Essays (1960) repeated this error, as did Theodore G. Ehrsam (1969), and it is repeated again in the currently most comprehensive and up-to-date Polish bibliography of Conrad by Wanda Perczak.1 This oversight has meant that this work, the first of all Conrad translations, has been difficult to locate. As a result, it has received no close attention.

Both weeklies were published at the same time; they were similar in character; and their titles differed by only a word. The readers of Tygodnik Mod were, however, mostly women, while Tygodnik Romansow i Pomesci, a popular and readily accessible weekly published from 1867 until the end of the century, enjoyed a general readership. Its publisher advertised it as "the most regular [magazine] coming out every Saturday, containing 16 columns of two slips tightly printed in Garamond."2 According to the publishers, "every issue of the magazine includes an original novel by one of the most adequate Polish authors, one or two novels excellent and involving translated from foreign languages, as well as a weekly chronicle of the literary, artistic, political, and scientific events that took place last week, in our country and abroad" [emphasis added].

Most of the authors published in Tygodnik Romansow are now long forgotten. Conrad's first translation could be read in the context of Polish translations of works by Theodor Zobellitz, E. Ekstein, Wilhelm Bergsöe, H. Zschökke, or by Polish writers such as Wiktor Gomulicki and Helena Romowska. Eliza Orzeszkowa, who in 1899 violently denounced Conrad for having "abandoned" his country, had published articles in the weekly thirty years earlier.3 Those few authors still remembered include the French poet François Coppée (1842-1908), the French dramatist and drama critic Jules Lemaître (1853-1914), and the Italian novelist Antonio Fogazzaro (1842-1911).

Many novels were serialized in Tygodnik Romansow before they appeared as books. For example, Fogazzaro's first and highly successful novel, Malombra (1881), was published in book form in Polish in 1901, four years after its serialization. This suggests that the publisher intended to test the reception of works for eventual book publication. This may help to explain how Conrad's novel found its way into the weekly: both to satisfy readers' tastes for exotic adventure and to alert them to new trends in the larger literary world. Subscribers received complimentary copies of the books by Polish writers published in Tygodnik Romansow. The magazine's publisher, Samuel Lewental, was the son-in-law of the famous financier and social activist Matias Berson, himself involved in social and cultural issues. …

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