Stanisław Barańczak

Photo by Joanna Helander

Stanisław Barańczak

Setting the Hand Brake

Read by Wojciech Barczyński, recorded by Radiofonia Association
English translation: Stanisław Barańczak

In an empty suburban parking lot, setting the hand brake, 
he wonders what it actually was that brought him here 
and why on earth he was never able not to succumb 
to the clichés of sorrow, familiar to all who practice 
the invisible craft of exile. There always will be a homeland 
of asphalt under the chilly streetlamps, a homeland of rusty crossties 
under a pair of rails, which likewise can count on meeting 
in infinity only; a homeland that comes along and apart, 
that rushes forward with him in the canyons of floorboard cracks 
and lights in strangers' windows, and his veins, and trajectories 
of galactic explosion. What is it that still holds him here, 
pins him down, encloses him in the circumference 
of this and not another skin, planet, suburban parking lot. 
And whence this arrogated, arrogant right to exile, 
as if it weren't true that no one will fall asleep tonight 
on his own Earth. There will be a homeland somewhere: an

 involuntarily chosen 

second of awakening in motion, in the middle of a breathless whisper 
a comma placed by chance, by mistake, for the time being, forever.


English translation: Stanisław Barańczak

Stanisław Barańczak

(b. 1946) – a poet, literary critic, translator of poetry, and one of the most eminent representatives of the New Wave. In the 1970s, an active member of the opposition: a member of the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) and the Flying University of Poznań and Krakow. Long-term editor-in-chief of Krakow’s Student, where he cracked down on worthless literature. In 1981, Barańczak emigrated to the US, where he lectured Polish Literature at Harvard University. One of the most brilliant translators of English literature. Many believe that his translations of Shakespeare outshine the original. Barańczak put his mind to the translation of lighter works, with a perfect example being Fioletowa krowa (Violet Cow): a collection of 333 works of “lighter-hearted poetry” including also lyrics by John Lennon. (ms)
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