Antoni Libera

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  • fot. Ela Lempp

(born 1949) – writer, translator, world-class expert on the work of Samuel Beckett, director of his plays staged in Poland and abroad. So far, Antonia Libera has written one novel, Madame (1998), which won first prize in the first year of a new publishing competition announced by the acclaimed Kraków firm, Znak. Libera’s debut was recognised as a great literary event, the book was an instant best seller and attracted foreign publishers, including – remarkably – the Americans. Madame not only came out in the USA, but was warmly received by the leading opinion-formers (it had positive reviews in papers including The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times), and also caught the eye of the Hollywood producers. No one knows for sure if a film of this novel will ever be made, but one thing is certain – if Madame is screened, the richest aspects of the book will fall by the wayside. Because Antoni Libera’s novel, which grew very gradually and was carefully sculpted over many years, is an unusually skilful piece of writing, full of literary allusions, paraphrases, refined ideas and subtleties. In terms of style it is undoubtedly the grandest work of fiction of the recent era. The novel is set in the gloomy reality of communist Poland in the late 1960s. The narrator describes his school years and his passion for an older woman; beautiful and mysterious, she taught him French (the “Madame” of the title). Although it fleshes the novel out, the development of the romantic plot is quite restrained. It is difficult to tell if the teenage hero is actually in love with his teacher, or just admires her as a creature from “a better world”, scented with French perfume, distinguée superbly educated and full of alluring charm. Madame is also – at least partly – a political novel, one of the most extreme settlings of accounts with the communist past, passionately expressed by a writer who has never come to terms with the fact that for forty years he functioned in a world that he could not recognise as his own.

“I am often asked if Madame is autobiographical. I answer, yes and no. In what sense do I mean yes? In that it is unquestionably my experience. I really was deprived of faith in the power of my own era. I was deeply convinced, and I still am, that I lived in a rotten era – at least my youth was spent in one. But even from a rotten era something bright can emerge, something worth noticing and describing – as long as you do something with it, as long as you process it, of course.” (Antoni Libera)

Bibliography

  • Madame, Kraków: Znak, 1998.
  • Błogosławieństwo Becketta i inne wyznania literackie, Warszawa: Sic!, 2004.
  • Godot i jego cień, Kraków: Znak, 2009.

Translations:

Catalan:

  • Madame, trans. Anna Rubió and Jerzy Sławomirski, Barcelona: Proa, 2002

Czech:

  • Madame, trans. Helena Stachová, Praga: Paseka, 2005

Dutch:

  • Madame, trans. Esselien 't Hart, Amsterdam: Prometheus, 2002

English:

  • Madame, trans. Agnieszka Kołakowska, Edinburgh: Canongate, 2000, 2002; Melbourne: Text, 2001; Nowy Jork: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000

Finnish:

  • Madame, trans. Päivi Paloposki, Helsinki: Tammi, 2003

French:

  • Madame, trans. Grażyna Erhard, Paryż: Buchet Chastel, 2004
  • Godot et son ombre [Godot i jego cień], trans. Véronique Patte, Lozanna: Noir sur Blanc, 2012

German:

  • Madame, trans. Karin Wolff, Monachium: dtv, 2000, 2001, 2002

Greek:

  • I daskála ton galliko'n: mythistórima, trans. Fo'ntas Kondýlis, Ateny: Patákis, 2002 

Hebrew:

  • Mada'm, trans. Anat Zaydman, Tel-Aviv: Yediot, 2004

Hungarian:

  • A Madame, trans. Pálfalvi Lajos, Budapeszt: Európa Kvk, 2000

Italian:

  • Madame: romanzo, trans. Vera Verdiani, Mediolan: Longanesi, 2002
  • La benedizione di Beckett e altri racconti [Błogosławieństwo Becketta i inne opowiadania], trans. Alessandro Amenta, Lugano: Cascioeditore, 2012

Lithuanian:

  • Madame: romanas, trans. Vyturys Jarutis, Wilno: Strofa, 2005

Norwegian:

  • Madame, trans. Jan Brodal, Oslo: Gyldendal, 2002

Portugese:

  • Madame, trans. Teresa Fernandes Swiatkiewicz, Porto: Civilização, 2006

Russian:

  • Madam, trans. S. Makarceva, Moskwa: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2004

Slovak:

  • Madame, trans. Jozef Marušiak, Bratysława: Lúč, 2001

Slovenian:

  • Madame, trans. Nikolas Jež, Lublana: Cankarjeva Založba, 2003

Spanish:

  • Madame, trans. Katarzyna Olszewska Sonnenberg and Sergio Trigán, Barcelona: Tusquets, 2002

Swedish:

  • Madame, trans. Anders Bodegård, Sztockholm: A. Bonnier, 2001

Turkish:

  • Madam, trans. Bahriye Çagnur Alyüz, Dogan Kitap, 2005