With BEA’s move to Chicago, welcoming Poland as the Global Market Forum guest was an obvious choice. While the Windy City may no longer have the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw, Chicago can lay claim to the largest Polish metropolitan area outside of Poland, according to Todd Leiter-Weintraub, reporting on WBEZ Chicago. Quoting historian Dominic Pacyga, Leiter-Weintraub says, “[Chicago] is the Polish home in America.”
But there are other, more bookish, reasons for Poland’s selection as guest of honor for the Global Market Forum, which connects emerging and established international markets with North American publishers and booksellers. “Poland represents a strong publishing market with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, making it the perfect addition to our GMF program,” Brien McDonald, director of publisher and studio relations at ReedPop, says. He pointed to Poland’s rich publishing history in science, education, and children’s.
To that list Chad Post, publisher of Open Letter Books and editor of the Three Percent website, would add contemporary Polish literature. Post, on a panel about promoting Polish literature in the U.S., “Why Poland? Why Now?” at 3 p.m. today in room W178a, says, “It’s as if Polish literature occupies a special place, where it can pull from a number of traditions and create something new—works that are relevant, innovative, and have a very lasting feel.”
The session on Polish literature is part of a full day of programming that takes place today, starting at 10 a.m. with a panel on “Poland’s Book Market: Insights, Trends, and Developments” with Marc Garlinski, CEO and president of the board of MUZA SA publishing group; Wlodzimierz Albin, president of Wolters Kluwer S.A., one of the five biggest publishers in Poland; and moderator Ruediger Wischenbart, director of international affairs at BEA. Other sessions, all held in room W178a, include “Investing in Poland: Risks and Opportunities in an Emerging Market,” 11–11:50 a.m.; “Innovative Global Successes of Polish Multimedia and Transmedia Publishing,” noon–12:50 p.m.; and “The New Golden Age of Polish Books for Children,” 2–2:50 p.m.
While the Polish book market continues to be strong, with 2,000 to 2,500 active publishers at the time of last year’s Polish Book Market report from the Polish Book Institute (Instytut Ksia¸z˙ki), it slipped in 2014, down 7.5%, with a continued drop in income predicted for the next few years. In part that’s due to the introduction of a 5% VAT on books in January 2011. There had been no tax before that.
The Ministry of Education’s introduction of a compulsory but free textbook for primary schools in 2014 cut into educational sales. Because the ministry itself issues the book, it affects both publishers and distributors.
Another reason for a decline in sales mirrors what has happened in many other countries: bookstore closings coupled with the rise of Internet book sales, which have not been enough to make up the difference. Over a five-year period starting in 2010, the number of bookstores in Poland fell by 700, to 1,850.
To bolster book sales, publishers and booksellers’ organizations have promoted legislation for fixed pricing modeled on regulations in France and Germany. Prices would be fixed for 12 months, after which retailers could discount.
But sales fluctuations haven’t affected the breadth or quality of Polish books, which will be front and center at the show. The Polish Book Institute has taken over two booths (1504, 1505), where it is featuring Polish publishers and literature. The institute is also sponsoring events with Polish authors at bookstores and other venues throughout the city. (See sidebar, p. 30.) In addition, the U.S. publisher Aquila Polonica, which is dedicated to publishing books in English about the Polish experience during WWII, is working with the institute to promote two of its most recent books at the show.
Architect Julian Kulski, author of The Color of Courage (2014), recounts his journey from 10-year-old Boy Scout to soldier in the Polish Underground Army and prisoner of war. He will be speaking in room W176bc, tomorrow, 10:30–11:20 a.m. On Friday, 3–3:50 p.m., also in room W176bc, poet and novelist John Guzlowski will speak about his experiences fleeing Germany with his family in the early 1950s and coming to America as displaced persons. In his memoir, Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded, he writes about the horrors the family endured during the war and afterward in America as despised immigrants.
The Polish Literary Top 10
Science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, who died a decade ago in Kraków, continues to be one of the most popular Polish authors in the U.S. But that could change if the Polish Book Institute and the Polish Cultural Institute New York have their way. They want to introduce a new generation of Polish authors to an American audience through readings and signings.
Ten authors and illustrators, many in pairings with bestselling American writers like Sara Paretsky, creator of the V.I. Warshawski mystery series, and journalist Sebastian Junger, best known for The Perfect Storm, will give talks throughout Chicago, May 10–13. Among the venues are 57th Street Books, the Chopin Theater, Morton Grove Public Library, Myopic Books, Open Books, Unabridged Bookstore, the University of Chicago, and the University Club of Chicago. (A complete schedule is available at www.booksfrompoland.org.)
Poet and translator Krystyna Da¸browska shared the Wisława Szymborska Prize for her second collection, White Chairs. She also received a prize as a 2013 emerging writer from the Kos´cielski Foundation, which said her poetry “pinpoints everything about our existence that is left unsaid, passed over in silence, or involves an inexpressible search for its hidden meanings.”
Author and journalist Artur Domosławski is the author of numerous books, including Latin American Fever, Death in Amazonia, The World Is Not for Sale, and Rebellious America: Seventeen Dialogues on the Dark Sides of the Freedom Empire, which received the Beata Pawlak Award in Poland. His most controversial work is a biography of the renowned literary journalist, Ryszard Kapus´cin´ski: A Life (Verso).
Małgorzata Gurowska and Joanna Ruszczyk are the designer and journalist team behind The Locomotive (Centrala bilingual edition), based on Julian Tuwim’s famous Polish poems for children. Their graphic reinterpretation for adults depicts train wagons full of Jewish people, soldiers, gays and lesbians, animals, as well as inanimate objects accompanied by political commentary that poses questions about Poland’s national identity, racism, and anti-Semitism.
Novelist Dorota Masłowska is sometimes referred to as the enfant terrible of Polish literature. In 2002, she shook up Polish literary life with Snow White and Russian Red (Grove/Black Cat), which looks at the lives of young people from a housing block, who live from party to party in a world of drugs and sex. Masłowska’s second novel, The Queen’s Peacock, is written in the rhythms and rhymes of a hip-hop song.
Zygmunt Miłoszewski is an award-winning journalist and the author of a bestselling crime series featuring prosecutor Teodor Szacki. His first novel, The Intercom, was adapted to the screen by director Juliusz Machulski. His novel Entanglement (Bitter Lemon), set in modern Warsaw, investigates a murder with murky links to Poland’s Communist period and received the High Calibre Prize for the Best Polish Crime Novel. It was followed by A Grain of Truth (Bitter Lemon), the second in the Teodor Szacki trilogy. The final book will be published by Amazon Crossing in 2016. (See interview in tomorrow’s Show Daily.)
The award-winning husband and wife design team Daniel Mizielin´ski and Aleksandra Mizielin´ska are the authors of several books for children and adults: H.O.U.S.E. (Harper Design), What Will Become of You?, Maps (Big Picture Press), and the Welcome to Mamoko book and activity series. Their books have been published in 20 countries.
Novelist Magdalena Tulli’s debut novel, Dreams and Stones (Archipelago), was hailed as one of the most extraordinary works of literature to come out of Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of communism. Her novel Moving Parts was nominated for the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and Flaw was shortlisted for the 2007 Nike Prize, Poland’s most prestigious literary award.
Memoirist and biographer Agata Tuszyn´ska is one of Poland’s most admired writers and historians. Her new memoir, A Family History of Fear, tells the story of growing up after WWII in Communist Poland and learning at the age of 19 that she was Jewish. The book was nominated for the Prix Medicis in France and will be published by Knopf next week. Among her awards is a Xavier Pruszynski PEN–Club Award for outstanding achievements in the field of documentary and fiction.