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Madeline Levine on Miron Białoszewski’s ‘Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising’

November 11, 2015 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Join us for a special literary event with Madeline G. Levine (Kenan Professor of Slavic Literatures Emerita) and Ewa Wampuszyc (Assistant Professor of Polish Language and Literature, UNC-CH). Together they will introduce and discuss Dr. Levine’s translation of Miron Białoszewski’s A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising, re-issued as a New York Review Books Classic.

About the book

The great Polish poet Miron Białoszewski was twenty-two on August 1, 1944, when he went on an errand for his mother and ran into history. With Soviet forces on the outskirts of Warsaw, the city revolted against five years of Nazi occupation, an uprising that began in a spirit of heroic optimism but ended tragically sixty-three days later. The Nazis fought back ruthlessly, reducing Warsaw to rubble while slaughtering some 200,000 people, mostly through mass execution.

Białoszewski’s blow-by-blow account of the uprising brings it alive in all its desperate urgency. Here we are in the shoes of a young man slipping back and forth across German lines, dodging sniper bullets, collapsing with exhaustion, rescuing the wounded, burying the dead. An indispensable and unforgettable act of witness, “A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising” is also a major work of literature. Białoszewski writes in short, stabbing, splintered, breathless sentences attuned to “the glaring identity of ‘now.’ ” His book displays a wild white-knuckled poetry that resists the terrible destruction it records.

Madeline Levine’s revised translation of the book is based in part on the author’s long-lost original manuscript and on a new scholarly edition published in Poland in 2014.

About the speakers

Madeline G. Levine, Kenan Professor of Slavic Literatures Emerita, was a member of the UNC faculty from 1974 to 2010. During her tenure at UNC, she offered survey and specialized courses on Russian and Polish literature, and on a wide range of literary responses to the Holocaust, the Soviet Gulag, and the civilian experience of war. She has translated from the Polish over a dozen volumes of fiction and essays by both already world-famous authors and those she has hoped would become well-known through her work. A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising (Pamiętnik z powstania warszawskiego) by Miron Białoszewski, which was her first book-length translation, appeared in 1977.

Ewa Wampuszyc is an Assistant Professor of Polish Language and Literature in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages at UNC-CH. Her primary research interest is reflected in a current book project on the literary and cinematic representation of Warsaw as a vehicle for interrogating such issues as communist ideology, historical memory, and communal identity. Through the analysis of space and topography in key post-war texts, she explores how authors and directors created a rhetorical space in literature and film where post-war Polish identity was contested, debated, and forged.

<< Please RSVP if you plan to attend, and we will enter your name in a drawing for a free copy of the new edition signed by the translator >>

Co-presented with UNC-CH Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures.


November 11, 2015
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm