Conrad First The Joseph Conrad Periodical Archive

Conrad in Polish Periodicals: The Mirror of the Sea in Wiadomości Literackie (1924)

Agnes Adamowicz-Pośpiech, University of Silesia, Poland

© Agnes Adamowicz-Pośpiech. No part of this text may be reposted or republished without the permission of the author.

[Reprinted from The Yearbook of Conrad Studies (Jagiellonian University, Cracow), forthcoming 2013.]

[6,386 words]


During the years immediately after Poland regained its independence in 1918, the country could boast few literary periodicals. The first issue of Wiadomości Literackie (Literary News) appeared on 6 January 1924 in Warsaw, price 50 groszy. Its title was a literal translation of that of the French journal Nouvelles Littéraires, and had been suggested by a prominent Polish poet, Julian Tuwim (1894–1953) (Czernecki 2004, 13). Although the magazine’s circulation never exceeded 13,000 copies (Maciejewska 1961, 121), its readership was several times greater than this figure. Even so, as Andrzej Paczkowski writes, Wiadomości Literackie had only limited social influence, remaining a journal for intellectuals and the cultural elite (Paczkowski 1980, 262). Typically, each issue consisted of six to eight pages, roughly 27 by 35 cm, and contained more than 20 contributions. Its illustrations and graphics were always carefully chosen and well-matched. Few Polish literary magazines of the twenties and thirties could claim the editorial scope or critical influence of Wiadomości Literackie, whichquickly dominated the literary scene (Hernas 1985, 580) to became what Jerzy Łojek has dubbed “an institution” (Łojek 1988, 116). Though opposed to the right-wing nationalistic press, it allowed for the publication of different views and opinions, for which it was attacked fiercely by the nationalist press.
Notwithstanding its restricted circulation, Wiadomości Literackie exerted influence by virtue of the literary authority of its contributors and the elevated social position of its readers. Contributors included many of leading artists and intellectuals of the period: poets Jan Lechoń (1899–1956), Antoni Słonimski (1895–1976), Julian Tuwim (1890–1949), Marian Hemar (1901–1972), Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (1894–1980); poet and essayist Kazimierz Wierzyński (1894–1969); comic dramatist Bruno Winawer (1883–1944); translator and critic Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński (1874–1941); critics Emil Breiter (1886–1943) and Karol Wiktor Zawodziński (1890–1949); and literary historian and Conrad’s biographer Józef Ujejski (1883–1937). A chiefly literary magazine in the 1920s, it evolved in the following decade into a socio-literary weekly. It got involved in social debates and promoted secularization of public life and culture, the equality of women and conscious motherhood. As Magda Opalski observes: “For a decade, Wiadomości Literackie was Poland’s only literary journal with a national circulation. This monopoly ended in the mid-1930s with the radicalization of Polish politics, which produced a new generation of literary journals (Pion, Prosto z Mostu, and Kultura). Sponsored by the political right, these journals sought to reduce Wiadomości Literackie’s influence. Responding to such pressures, Wiadomości Literackie abandoned its original line supporting Marshal Jósef Piłsudski and became a vocal opponent of Poland’s increasingly authoritarian regime. This internal evolution of the journal’s liberal-democratic, cosmopolitan, secular, pacifist, and anti-fascist agenda is well reflected in Antoni Słonimski’s famous column “Kronika Tygodniowa” (Weekly Chronicle; 1927–1939)” (Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe).
Wiadomości Literackie is now regarded as part of “the avant-garde of Polish liberalism” (Czernecki 2004, 9). As a literary periodical it was journalistically highly dynamic in offering continuous coverage of new topics. (Czernecki 2004, 16). Its focus changed but remained within the area of current issues: first, in world literature and the visual arts; second, in contemporary and classic Polish literature; and third, social and political issues of the day (Maciejewska 1961, 121). As its founder, historian Mieczysław Grydzewski (1894–1970), declared in a manifesto-like editorial on 6 January 1924:

Our journal aims at being informative. Its objective is to re-establish the long-broken connection with European art and culture. It aspires to take part in the mission to pull down the wall which separates us from the centres of modern civilization . . . . It does not represent any aesthetic school. It does not fight for one doctrine or another. Neither does it defend or desire any dogmas which limit the freedom of artistic creation. That is why it advances the ideals of honest work in the name of art . . . , pledges tenacity and ruthlessness in breaking down the wall of obscurantism, lies, hypocrisy and falsity on both the social and artistic fronts (Wiadomości Literackie 1 [6 January 1924], 1).1

Conrad’s work in Wiadomości Literackie

Cartoon of Joseph Conrad by Sava. Wiadomości Literackie, 38 (21 September 1924), 2

Wiadomości Literackie serialized the following translations of Conrad’s work:

1. “Dusza przeciwnika” (“The Character of the Foe” [collected in The Mirror of the Sea]), trans. Józef Brodzki, Wiadomości Literackie 1924: 33;

2. “Conrad w Krakowie w r.1914” (“First News”), trans. Bronisława Neufeldówna, Wiadomości Literackie 1924: 33;

3. “Laguna” (“The Lagoon”), trans. Bolesław Wieniawa-Długoszowski, Wiadomości Literackie 1925: 1;

4. “Książę Roman” (“Prince Roman”), trans. Teresa Sapieżyna, Wiadomości Literackie 1926: 18;

5. “Amy Foster,” trans. Aniela Zagórska, Wiadomości Literackie 1929: 48;

6. “Jutro” (“Tomorrow”),trans. Aniela Zagórska, Wiadomości Literackie 1931: 14;

7. “Historia miłosna: fragment z Lorda Jima” (“A Love Story: an excerpt from Lord Jim”),trans. Aniela Zagórska, Wiadomości Literackie 1932: 39;

8. “Autokratyzm a wojna” (“Autocracy and War”), trans. Teresa Sapieżyna, Wiadomości Literackie 1933: 38;

9. “Tremolino” (“The ‘Tremolino’” [collected in The Mirror of the Sea]), trans. Aniela Zagórska, Wiadomości Literackie 1935: 6.

The first four of these were translated by various hands, with the remainder being prepared by Aniela Zagórska, who supervised Conrad editions from 1920 in Poland and Russia (Conrad 2005, 74). The translations of “The Character of the Foe” and “First News” were published immediately after the death of Joseph Conrad on 17 August 1924 in a special thematic issue devoted to the writer’s memory (see Figure 2).

Wiadomości Literackie 33 (17 August 1924), 1.

These pieces were not selected haphazardly. “The Character of the Foe” was chosen because of its naval theme. Poland, which had regained independence after 123 years of partition during which time it remained landlocked, did not have its own maritime literature. Żeromski’s idée fixe was to give the nation a taste of maritime writing and thereby spur Polish writers to pen more of this type of narrative. In the first stage of his reception in Poland, Conrad was first and foremost a writer of sea stories, which is why Żeromski propagated his art and arranged for the complete translation of his works. In the preface to the first Polish collected edition of Conrad’s works, he argued: “Today young boys in Poland do not have to abandon the country to follow the sea and meet adventure. The Naval School in Tczew has been operating for some time, and the Polish navy is slowly developing. . . . The students of the Naval School, the officers aboard ships, and the youth in general need sea literature. What is the best? Here it is: the works of Joseph Conrad” (Żeromski 1922, xvii).
The second piece, “First News” was picked on the grounds that it depicted Conrad in Poland discovering his father’s legacy. Letters which he thought his father had burnt were safely kept in the renowned Jagiellonian Library. Thus both pieces matched the vision of Conrad being promoted by Żeromski, that of maritime writer and writer-compatriot.
By 1924, Conrad had become a familiar name in Poland with the serialization of a number of his works in other Polish periodicals:

1. Wyrzutek(An Outcast of the Islands), trans. Maria Gąsiorowska, Tygodnik Romansów i Powieści, 1896, nos 1–26;

2. “Placówka cywilizacji” (“An Outpost of Progress”), trans. unknown, Czas (Cracow), 1899, nos 112, 115, 118;

3. Banita (An Outcast of the Islands), trans. Wila Zyndram-Kościałkowska, Kurier Litewski 1913, no 147–58, 160–63, 165–69;

4. “Powrót” (“The Return”), trans. Maria Bunikiewiczowa, Gazeta Wieczorna, June–July 1914;

5. W oczach zachodu (Under Western Eyes), trans.Helena Rogozińska-Pajzderska, Świat,nos 1–43;

6. Murzyn z załogi “Narcyza” (The Nigger of the “Narcissus”), trans. Jan Lemański, Nowy Przegląd Literatury i Sztuki (Warsaw), 1920, nos 2–6; 1921, nos 1–3;

7. Los (Chance), trans. Barbara Beaupré, Czas (Cracow), 1921, nos 177–298; 1922, no. 1;

8. “Il Conte” (“Il Conde”), trans. Leon Piwiński, Przegląd Warszawski, 1922, no. 14;

9. “Anarchista” (“An Anarchist”), trans. Tadeusz Pułjanowski, Przegląd Warszawski, 1923, no. 18.

The Commemorative Issue
The journal’s opening article, entitled “Joseph Conrad” was written by a highly esteemed Polish writer, Stefan Żeromski (1864–1925). Framing a photograph of Conrad, it opened with a eulogy: “One of the most phenomenal artists in literature, Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski, has descended into the grave.” The tone of the whole article was lofty and appreciative. It accentuated the role of the sea in his biography and writing, putting to the fore maritime works such as Typhoon, The Nigger of the Narcissus,andThe Mirror of the Sea, particularly the fragment about storms and ships which appeared in translation elsewhere in this number. It briefly mentioned “land fiction”—The Secret Agent and Nostromo—before passing on to Lord Jim. According to Żeromski and another writer and critic, Wilam Horzyca, Lord Jim was a “symbolic confession”. According to these critics, Conrad had symbolically analysed his own life-choices in the novel, something they interpreted as rejection of national duties (Żeromski 1924, 1).
This specifically Polish interpretation of the novel served as a springboard for Żeromski, drawing primarily on Tadeusz Bobrowki’s Memoirs (1900), to outline Conrad’s Polish ancestry and the biographies of his parents. All in all, less than a quarter of the article was devoted to Conrad himself, with the remainder offering a detailed discussion of Conrad’s family members (Teodor, Robert, and Hilary Korzeniowski, and Stefan Bobrowski). Except for the opening sentence, Żeromski referred to Conrad throughout as Józef Konrad Korzeniowski, seemingly in order to place him firmly within a Polish literary tradition.
Żeromski concentrated on the heroic and tragic past of Conrad’s relatives, and stressed their immense sacrifice in the struggle for Polish independence. To this end Żeromski mentioned another Conrad work which had been translated in this issue—“Poland Revisited,” an article in which Conrad had reported, as Żeromski put it, “in a bitter and cold tone,” his stay in Cracow. The article closed with the relation of Conrad’s visit with his son to the Jagiellonian Library in 1914 and the following quotation from his essay “First News”: “The attention of that young Englishman [Boris Conrad] was mainly attracted by some relics of Copernicus in a glass case”. The tone of Żeromski’s comment seems resentful and bitter: “In this way, holding a bundle of his father’s letters (the last of those who sacrificed their lives), Conrad called his son an Englishman . . .” (Żeromski 1924, 1).
Was the ellipsis at the end the sentence meant to imply an understatement? Doubt? Since, as Zabierowski has noted (Zabierowski 1992, 21), it is a strangely ambiguous comment, only appearing at the end of an article in praise of the writer, it is difficult to tell whether Żeromski was sounding a note of resentment or reproach, or merely expressing sorrow at the death of a fellow-artist. The former explanation is supported by Adam Gillon’s report that Żeromski allegedly called Conrad “that traitor” (Gillon 1966, 37). Another subtle detail corroborating such an interpretation are the verses on Conrad’s funeral by the eminent Polish poet Jan Lechoń, “Na śmierć Józefa Conrada” (On the Death of Joseph Conrad), which appeared at the bottom of the first page of the commemorative issue (see Figure 3).

Jan Lechoń, “Na śmierć Józefa Conrada” (On the Death of Joseph Conrad), Wiadomości Literackie 33 (17 August 1924), 1.

Here, too, three quarters of the poem, a metrically-regular example of an amphibrach—a rare meter in Polish verse, used mainly in elegiac poetry about subjects of high social standing—is a heroizing account of the Cracow funeral of Conrad’s father, Apollo Korzeniowski, who died as a martyr in Poland’s struggle for independence.

The Translations: Methology
My analysis of the translations of Conrad’s texts in Polish serials will follow the premises of Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) whose main objectives are to describe translational phenomena and explain their function and reception in the target culture (Baker and Saldanha 2009, 77–78). A study of this type usually begins by situating the translation within the recipient literary system. The text is then analysed in terms of acceptability, i.e. the degree of correspondence to the cultural, linguistic, and literary conventions prevailing at the time of translation (Toury 1985, 22–24; Toury 1995, 76–78). The founder of DTS, Gideon Toury, assigns priority to the function of translations within a given culture since it is the function that determines the desired properties of the text, and thus governs the process of translation. Hence it is not our aim to evaluate the translation (Bassnett 2002, 20), let alone evaluate an early-twentieth-century text from our modern perspective. Rather, we wish to show how the text functioned within the target culture, and what techniques were used to make it “acceptable” to contemporary audiences.
We will therefore concentrate on the process of manipulating the original that takes place in order to make it accessible to readers. As Theo Hermans has remarked in an essay on literary translation: “From the point of view of the target literature, all translation implies a degree of manipulation of the source text for certain purposes” (Hermans 1985, 11). And Lawrence Venuti justly observes that translation, like all cultural practices, “involves the creation of values, literary and linguistic, religious and political, commercial and educational” (Venuti 2004, 25). However, what makes translation exceptional is that the whole process of value-creation “takes the form of an inscribed interpretation of a foreign-language text, whose own values inevitably undergo diminution and revision to accommodate those that appeal to domestic cultural constituencies” (Venuti 2004, 25). Venuti underscores the overlooked fact that “translation is an inscription of the foreign text with interests and intelligibilities which are fundamentally domestic” (Venuti 2004, 25).

“The Character of the Foe”
“The Character of the Foe” was translated by Józef Brodzki (1886–1964). The translation is complete with minor omissions (see below) and was reprinted in the journal Poradnik Świetlicowy in 1943. Brodzki only translated one other Conrad work, “Geography and Some Explorers” (“Geografia i niektórzy jej twórcy”), in 1924. Two other translations of “The Character of the Foe” were to follow: “Dusza przeciwnika” [The Character of the Adversary] by St. Olgierd in 1925; and “Dusza wojownika” [The Character of the Warrior] by Stanisław Wyrzykowski in 1926. Although we are unable to determine which original version of the text he used, Brodzki’s translation confirms Hermans’ and Venuti’s claims about transforming (manipulating) the foreign text so as to accommodate domestic values. This procedure of “bringing the [foreign] author back home [to the target] reader” is called domestication, which Venuti defines as an “ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to the target-language cultural values” (Venuti 1995, 20). The domestication techniques applied to make Conrad’s text easily “digestible” for Polish readers can be subdivided into four methods: explication, addition, substitution, and omission.

1. Explication
Explication clarifies new concepts to target readers, replacing the unknown idea by a broader descriptive equivalent. There are numerous examples in the translated text when Brodzki explains the source information to the Polish audience, either by repetition or by definition. In some cases, possibly unsure whether Polish readers would understand correctly, he reiterates a phrase, making it more precise:

Whatever craft he handles with skill, the seaman of the future shall be not our descendant, but only our successor. (Conrad 1996, 73; emphasis added)

A przyszły marynarz—wszystko jedno na jakim statku będzie pływał,—nie będzie naszym potomkiem, potomkiem naszego pokolenia marynarzy,—będzie zaledwie jego następcą. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added)

[And the future seaman, no matter what kind of ship he sails in, will not be our descendant, our generation’s descendant, but merely its successor.]

Further on, Conrad recalls the captain of an iron ship:

I remember once seeing the commander . . . of a fine iron ship of the old wool fleet shaking his head at a very pretty brigantine. (Conrad 1996, 73; emphasis added)

The Polish version explains three distinct concepts, describing “iron ship” as “a ship beaten out of iron and steel,” mistakenly identifying a vessel of the “wool fleet” as “a naval vessel, a warship,” and introducing “brigantine” as a “small ship” (using a diminutive) before specifying the type of vessel:

Przypominam sobie, że widziałem kiedyś jak pewien dowódca . . . pięknego okrętu, zakutego w żelazo i stal i stanowiącego jednostkę bojową, potrząsał z oburzeniem głową na widok prześlicznego małego stateczku, typu brygantyny. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

[I recall having seen the commander of a beautiful ship beaten out of iron and steel which was a naval vessel, who shook his head with disapproval at a very pretty small ship, of the brigantine type.]

2. Addition
This technique was applied for two reasons. First, to clarify and make the original more explicit; and second, to add cohesion to a seemingly chaotic and free-flowing narrative structure. Thus Conrad ends one paragraph with the sentence:

One seems to have known gales as enemies, and even as enemies one embraces them in that affectionate regret which clings to the past. (Conrad 1996, 71)

Yet the Polish translation offers much more:

Zdawałoby się, że się już poznało wszystkie burze, jak się zna swych wrogów osobistych, a przecież w tem czułem roztkliwieniu, z jakiem zwracamy się do przeszłości, mylimy się, plączemy je między sobą (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

[It seems that we have known all tempests as one knows one’s personal enemies, and yet in that affectionate sentimentalizing with which one turns to the past, we confuse them and mix up one with another.]

Conrad’s point is that although we have known storms as adversaries, we nonetheless recall them with affection, as we do all things that belong to the past. But in the Polish version a different point is being made, namely, that although we have known storms as adversaries, we confuse and conflate them in our sentimentalizing attitude towards the past. The translator wants to prepare the readers for the plethora of recollections of various gales at sea so that they will not be overwhelmed by the ostensibly chaotic wave of details; the added sentence plays the role of an introductory hint.
Other type of addition function to make the text more explicit, ridding it of all indeterminacies. This goal is achieved by adding a new image or phrase. Let us begin with a key concept, that of a foe, which forms the basis of the title: “The Character of the Foe.” The idea of gales portrayed as adversaries or enemies is reiterated throughout the text and the storms are personified through association with peculiar mariners who accompanied the author during a voyage. In the Polish version the title is translated as “Dusza przeciwnika”—the soul of the adversary—thereby shifting the key concept from the kind of enemy in question to the enemy’s soul.

“Dusza przeciwnika” (“The Character of the Foe”). The title in Polish is “The Soul of the Adversary”.

Hence the concept of “the soul” had to be inserted into the text in connection with the storms. And, indeed, the translator twice mentions the soul. The first comes in a memory of a conversation with a boatswain:

The note of dread in the shouting voice . . . heard years ago from a man I did not like, [has] stamped its peculiar character on that gale. (Conrad 1996, 79; emphasis added)

Podejrzenie, obawa i lęk w tym głosie krzyczącym . . . usłyszanym przed tylu laty, z ust człowieka, którego przecież nie lubiłem—one to wycisnęły na tej burzy swoje piętno, dały jej charakter, duszę. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 (17 August 1924), 2; emphasis added)

[The suspicion, anxiety and fear in that shouting voice . . . heard years ago from a man whom in fact I did not like—they left their stamp on the tempest, they gave it a character, a soul.]

The second time “soul” is mentioned in the translation it refers to a different object than in the original. In Conrad’s text, the lexeme has a broader meaning and refers to “the world” as a prison:

A hard sou’-wester startles you with its close horizon and its low grey sky, as if the world were a dungeon wherein there is no rest for the body or soul. (Conrad 1996, 79; emphasis added)

In the Polish translation, the reference is narrowed and “the soul” relates only to “the sea” as a jail:

Zwał czarny i niedający się przeniknąć zamyka przed nami horyzont, nisko jak sufit szary, wiszący tuż nad głową, jak gdyby morze było więzieniem, w którem nie ma odpoczynku ani dla ciała ani dla duszy. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

The narrowing down of the lexeme’s frame of reference has one purpose: to get it closer to the previous usage, “the soul of the tempest,” which is very close to the “soul of the sea” since the tempest (storm) is at sea. The Polish version thus intensifies the first usage and justifies the title of the text. In coming at the end of a paragraph, it acquires further rhetorical force.
Extra images constitute another type of addition. These are based on introducing a new metaphor into the text to intensify its meaning. Two such metaphors, of a nutshell and a witch, are added to the Polish version. The former is introduced during the meeting with the captain of the wool clipper:

Nie rozumiem, jak można puszczać się na morze na podobnej łupince” (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

[It’s beyond me how one can set sail in such a nutshell.]

Yet no such image occurs in the original:

Fancy having to go about the sea in a thing like that! (Conrad 1996, 74; emphasis added)

This metaphor of a nutshell recurs three times in the translation. In the first, it is extended and made even more detailed:

Nie wiem, czy jednocześnie uprzytomniał sobie rozmiary swojej kabiny, a może bezwiednie asocjacja nasuwała mu obraz takiej łupiny od orzecha na falach rozhukanego morza. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

[I’m not sure if he thought of the size of his cabin, and maybe he inadvertently associated it with the shell of a nut on the waves of raging seas.]

He may have thought of the size of his cabin, or unconsciously, perhaps – have conjured up a vision of a vessel so small tossing amongst the great seas. (Conrad 1996, 74; emphasis added)

In the second, the Polish version replaces the neutral “craft” of the source text with an expressive image of a “nutshell”:

W parę lat później ów młody porucznik . . . mógłby mu może powiedzieć, że człowiek, który spędził wiele lat na dużych okrętach, potrafi jednak znaleźć wiele przyjemności przebywania na takiej małej “łupince” (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

[Some years later, that young lieutenant . . . could have told him that a man who spent many years on big ships may yet find much delight aboard such a small “nutshell”.]

Some years later, the second mate . . . could have told his captain that a man brought up in big ships may yet take a peculiar delight in what we should both then have called a small craft. (Conrad 1996, 74; emphasis added)

And again:

Na takiej łupince ma pan przynajmniej pewność, że przy byle niepogodzie wyrzuci pana od razu z kojca! (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

[Aboard such a nutshell you can be at least sure that in any heavy weather you get instantaneously flung out of your bunk!]

Why, you get flung out of your bunk as likely as not in any sort of heavy weather. (Conrad 1996, 74; emphasis added)

In each case, the neutral phrasing of the original (“a thing”, “a vessel”, “a craft”) has been replaced by the nutshell metaphor, thereby intensifying the image and making it more definite and precise. In so doing, the translator may have assumed that the target audience would not distinguish between a brigantine or any other type of vessel, for the simple reason that such terminology did not exist in the Polish language.
The other image inserted into the text by the translator is that of a witch:

Nic nie jest bardziej podobne do czarownicy z rozpuszczonemi włosami – od burzy podzwrotnikowej przy księżycowem świetle. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 (17 August 1924), 2; emphasis added)

[Nothing more resembles a witch with disheveled hair than a subtropical gale by moonlight]

For a true expression of disheveled wildness there is nothing like a gale in the bright moonlight of a high latitude. (Conrad 1996, 78; emphasis added).

Brodzki evidently understood the word “disheveled” literally as hair hanging in loose disorder and added the collocation with the witch.

3. Substitution
Substitution is the most obvious domestication technique for making foreign texts more accessible to target readers. It aims at situational or cultural adequacy by recreating a context more familiar or culturally appropriate from the target reader’s perspective than that used in the original. The translator replaces potentially unknown and/or exotic images and concepts with recognizable ones:

Some [gales] cling to you in woe-begone misery; others come back fiercely and weirdly, like ghouls bent upon sucking your strength away . . . . (Conrad 1996, 76; emphasis added)

The Polish version substitutes leeches for demons:

Są takie, które przywiązują się do wspomnień, jak pamięć o najokropniejszej nędzy, inne nawracają, żarłoczne jak pijawki, poto aby wyssać całą energję. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2; emphasis added).

[There are such [tempests] which cling to your reminiscence as a memory of the worst misery; others come back gluttonous as leeches in order to suck your energy away.]

The common basis for this replacement may have been the fact that both creatures suck human blood. Yet the image Conrad creates is that of a supernatural evil spirit that feeds on human corpses and lures the unwary into abandoned places. In its connotations of terror and mystery, it triggers associations with works of folklore such as The Thousand and One Nights. By contrast, the translated text offers leeches, a thoroughly natural phenomenon. Though repellent for some, these bloodsuckers have been used in medicine since antiquity, creating very different connotations for the readers of the translation. By domesticating the original image, the translator changes the complex intertextual dimension and reduces its exotic character.
The Polish translation also replaces wildcats with dogs, possibly because the image of a pack of hungry stray dogs attacking beggars or vagabonds is more familiar in Polish literature. As such, it creates connotations that, while different, are less pronounced than in the previosu examples:

[S]ome are unvenerated recollections, as of spiteful wild-cats clawing at your agonized vitals . . . . (Conrad 1996, 76; emphasis added)

Są i takie, które są wspomnieniami zachowanemi w pamięci z pogardą jak psy jakieś wściekłe . . . . (Wiadomości Literackie 33 (17 August 1924), 2; emphasis added).

[There are those which are recollections kept in memory with contempt like ferocious dogs.]

4. Omission
Omission is the most frequently used technique in Brodzki’s translation. It may be applied for several reasons: because a part of the text is difficult to translate; because the translator feels that a given concept/paragraph will be difficult for the reader to understand; or because the translator decides that something bears little importance for the entire text.
Brodzki’s most striking and extensive deletion is the passage in which Conrad analyses the geographical names of various capes:

It was near the Cape—The Cape being, of course, the Cape of Good Hope, the Cape of Storms of its Portuguese discoverer. And whether it is that the word “storm” should not be pronounced upon the sea where the storms dwell thickly, or because men are shy of confessing their good hopes, it has become the nameless cape—the Cape tout court. The other great cape of the world, strangely enough, is seldom if ever called a cape. We say, “a voyage round the Horn”; “we rounded the Horn”; “we got a frightful battering off the Horn”; but rarely “Cape Horn,” and indeed, with some reason, for Cape Horn is as much an island as a cape. The third stormy cape of the world, which is the Leeuwin receives generally its full name, as if to console its second-rate dignity. These are the capes that look upon the gales. (Conrad 1996, 73–74)

Brodzki may have left out this fragment because he regarded it as an unimportant digression. He may have wanted to simplify the apparently disordered flow of ideas and make it easier for readers to follow. Additionally, he may have regarded it as “inside knowledge” of English mariners, which would have been obscure to Polish landlubbers.
Whatever the case, the elimination ruptures a fine net of intratextual references (or cohesion), since the capes are mentioned for a second time later in the essay. Readers of the original can easily link both references and situate the seemingly unconnected vignette of three capes in its place. Rather than simplifying the narrative for readers, Brodzki has made it more tangled. Indeed, the omission forces him to add some information when the capes reoccur in the story:

Burza zdarzyła się gdzieś w pobliżu przylądka, który zawsze pozbawia się jego nazwy, jak naprzykład obcina się połowę nazwy Przylądkowi Dobrej Nadzieibyło to więc gdzieś obok Hornu. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 (17 August 1924), 2; emphasis added).

[The tempest occurred somewhere close to the cape, which is always shorn of its name—as, for instance, when we delete half of the name of the Cape of Good Hope—so it was somewhere off the Horn.]

It was off that other cape, which is always deprived of its title just as the Cape of Good Hope is robbed of its name. It was off the Horn. (Conrad 1996, 78)

A different reasoning, it would seem, lay behind Brodzki’s elimination of nautical terms and detailed maritime descriptions. When Poland regained its independence in 1918, it had spent more than a century as a partitioned and landlocked country without navy or merchant marine. For this reason the Polish language had only a limited lexicon of maritime terminology. Brodzki thus leaves out nautical terms which he found difficult to translate and which might have been unintelligible to the readers:

The solemn thundering combers caught her up from astern, passed her with a fierce boiling up of foam level with the bulwarks, swept on ahead with a swish and roar: and the little vessel, dipping her jib-boom into the tumbling froth, would go on running in a smooth, glassy hollow, a deep valley between two ridges of the sea, hiding the horizon ahead and astern. (Conrad 1996, 75; emphasis added)

Z tyłu dopędzały nas potężne, uroczyste jakieś i ryczące zwały bałwanów, przewalały się szumiącą pianą, kłębiły się obok, sycząc i wyjąc. (Wiadomości Literackie 1924, 2)

[We were caught from the back by solemn and roaring waves which passed her [the ship] with swooshing foam.]

Brodzki similarly omits the terms boatswain, leeward, windward, nor’-west wind, and sou’-wester (Conrad 1996, 77–79).
The omission of one particular aspect of maritime terminology, namely, the types of winds, is worth examining since it is emblematic of the entire group and throws light on the nature of problems faced by Conrad’s Polish translator. Brodzki deletes the specific names of the winds and transforms the text into a general description:

Są uderzenia wiatru białe, są i czarne, są podmuchy, noszące w sobie zniszczenie, są i takie, które przychodzą nieoczekiwanie, chociaż nic na niebie nie zwiastuje ich przybycia. Niema, doprawdy, dwóch wiatrów, które byłyby do siebie podobne. (Wiadomości Literackie 33 [17 August 1924], 2)

[There are white gusts of wind, there are black; there are gusts which wreak havoc; there are also those which come unexpectedly, although there is nothing in the sky to foreshadow their coming. Indeed there are no two identical winds.]

The original, by contrast, gives the precise name for each wind:

The inky ragged wrack, flying before a nor’-west wind, makes you dizzy with its headlong speed that depicts the rush of the invisible air. A hard sou’-wester startles you with its close horizon and its low grey sky . . . . And there are black squalls, white squalls, thunder squalls, and unexpected gusts that come without a single sign in the sky; and of each kind no one of them resembles another. (Conrad 1996, 79; emphasis added)

This enumeration is significant since it recapitulates the whole text and forms a coda, reverberating with Conrad’s main point: there are different types of storms and not a single one resembles another.
Moreover, the key word “storm” is translated throughout the text as “burza” (tempest) instead of the more technical “sztorm” (storm). It points to Buzski’s inability, probably typical of any landsman at that time, to differentiate between “burza” or “sztorm”. As such, it unintentionally exemplifies the very degradation of maritime language about which Conrad elsewhere complains:

“The fleet anchored at Spithead”: can any one want a better sentence for brevity and seamanlike ring? But the “cast-anchor” trick, with its affectation of being a seaphrase—for why not write just as well “threw anchor,” “flung anchor,” or “shied anchor”?—
is intolerably odious to a sailor’s ear. I remember a coasting pilot . . . (he used to read the papers assiduously) who, to define the utmost degree of lubberliness in a landsman, used to say, “He’s one of them poor, miserable ‘cast-anchor’ devils.” (Conrad 1996, 15)

Thus Conrad’s English text, saturated with the nautical terminology of a professional seaman, becomes in its Polish counterpart an essay that could have been penned by any landlubber. The specific maritime nuances with which the text is peppered and which make it unique are in most cases obliterated in the translation. And it it should be stressed that it is not, strictly speaking, the fault of the translator, but a peculiar linguistic legacy of Poland’s history of occupation and partition.

All in all, the methods used to domesticate Conrad’s text comprised explication, addition, substitution, and omission. These changes, however, should not be perceived as limitations. On the contrary, they served well to introduce his naval fiction and were a necessary procedure at the early stage of his reception in Poland. They are in line with the Retranslation Hypothesis formulated by Antoine Berman who argued that “translation is an ‘incomplete’ act and that it can only strive for completion through retranslations”(Berman 1990, 1). He claims that a failure marks all translations. It is understood both as an incapacity and a resistance of the original to being translated. According to Berman this failure is the most visible in the first translation (Berman 1990, 5), while retranslations constitute “way of or a space for accomplishment” (Berman1990, 6). Generally the translation by Brodzki is very effective and it conveys the major features of Conrad’s text through simpler sentences, paraphrases and neutral language. As Paul Bensimon declares there are fundamental differences between first translation and retranslation. “[First translations] are ‘introductions’ seeking to integrate one culture [with] another, to ensure positive reception of the work in the target culture. Later translations of the same originals do not need to address the issue of introducing the text: they can instead, maintain the cultural distance” (Bensimon 1990, ix). Brodzki’s (first) translation fulfilled exactly that goal: it secured positive reception of Conrad’s naval story. In course of time new translations appeared but then Polish language had developed its own nautical terminology to render the highest kind of justice to Conrad’s nuanced yarns.



1. Unless otherwise stated, all translations from the Polish are my own.


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AGNIESZKA ADAMOWICZ-POŚPIECH teaches Modern English Literature and Translation Studies at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. She is the author of Joseph Conrad: Biography and Interpretation (2003) and Conrad’s “Lord Jim”: Interpretations (2007) as well as a number of essays on Robert Browning, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, William Golding, and Conrad. Her research focuses on British Modernism, the contemporary English novel, and Descriptive Translation Studies. She is currently working on Polish translations of Joseph Conrad.

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