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Nachlass Henryk Bereska

Henryk Bereska (1926-2005) - "a constant mediator in the dialogue between Eastern and Western Europe", "the first Transatlantic passenger" (laudation during the award of the Book Institute Transatlantyk Prize, 2005)

Inventory of the legacy of Henryk Bereska

Henryk Bereska was born in Katowice-Szopienice. He grew up in the circle of three cultures: Polish, German and Silesian. He was bilingual at home, with a passion for the Silesian dialect and the multicultural competence necessary for the translating profession. After the war he settled in East Berlin, where he studied Slavonic and German philology at Humboldt University. It was then that he met Tadeusz Borowski, for whom he translated journalistic texts. After graduation he was for a short period of time editor and translator at the Aufbau publishing house. In 1955 he left the publishing house for political reasons and continued to work as a freelance translator.

Bereska translated into German more than 100 books - classics of Polish prose and drama, including: Andrzejewski, Brandys, Czapski, Grochowiak, Iwaszkiewicz, Kochanowski, Lec, Lem, Miłosz, Mrożek, Myśliwski, Nałkowska, Norwid, Nowak, Redliński, Różewicz, Szaniawski, Witkacy, Wyspianski and Zagajewski. He also published anthologies of Polish short stories, fairy tales, aphorisms and lyric poetry. He was most fascinated by humour and the grotesque in Polish literature.

From 1963 he published his own literary works - poems and aphorisms - in magazines and anthologies, which later also appeared as separate books, including: "Lautloser Tag", "Berliner Spätlese", "Auf einem Berg aus Sand". In addition, he wrote journalistic texts about the social and political reality in the GDR, full of reflections on the condition of man entangled in time and history.

For his contribution to the dissemination of Polish literature abroad, he was honoured, among others, with the ZAIKS (1967) and Polish PEN-Club (1994) awards, an honorary doctorate of the University of Wrocław (2004) and the "Transatlantyk" award. (2005).

Henryk Bereska was not only an award-winning translator and original poet, but also a promoter of young Polish authors (Cisło, Ekier, Huelle, Jastrun, Kielar, Podsiadło, Siwczyk, Sommer, Sosnowski, Szlosarek, Tokarczuk) as well as initiator and participant of numerous Polish-German events, e.g. "Ship of Poets" on the Oder River (1995/1996).

Henryk Bereska donated the first part of his legacy to the archive in 2004. Currently, the collection comprises approximately 20 linear metres of documents, organised and processed in an electronic inventory. These include typescripts of translations of prose, poetry and plays, reviews of Polish literature written for German publishers, correspondence with authors and publishers and private correspondence, biographical materials, documentation of numerous trips to Poland and of the translator's social and political activities.

Interesting websites: