Warsaw, Poland – A new digital-first press released the first-ever English translation of Konstanty Buszczyński’s Impressions of America, the 1916 travel memoir of a Polish entrepreneur at the dawn of the 20th century who would later become the first Polish consul of New York.
“We aim to tackle the great untranslated of literature”, said the founder of Kabaty Press Isobelle Clare Fabian, who notes that Polish remains one of the least translated languages in the world and has embarked on a mission to make the never-translated gems of literature available to readers worldwide. “And what better place to start than with a book that’s clearly of interest to English-speakers”.
First published in Polish in 1916 and 1922, Impressions of America by Konstanty Buszczyński had never been translated into English, until now.
Described by American history professor Thomas H. Bender as a vivid travel memoir that “evokes the energy and complexity of the society and culture of the United States in the era of Theodore Roosevelt” and as “a remarkable survey across the continent”, Impressions of America constitutes the first-hand account of American society at the start of the 20th century by Polish entrepreneur, businessman and consul Konstanty Buszczyński (1856-1921).
Manager of a successful company specialising in sugar beet seeds with R&D facilities in the State of Utah named as the first Polish consul of New York City in 1919, Buszczyński travelled extensively across the American continent, putting down on paper his impressions, ideas and analysis of American society and character as a well-connected foreigner in the U.S. at the turn of the century.
Alternating colourful descriptions of Buszczyński’s touristic activities with more in-depth analyses of subjects like the role of religion in the U.S., Impressions of America is now available to English readers, thanks to the work of translator Kasia Beresford, and provides a yet-unsuspected picture of the U.S. through the eyes of a Polish entrepreneur who would later play an instrumental role in the establishment of the Polish diaspora in North America, and in the consolidation of their role in U.S. society.
“In translating Impressions of America, I had to take great care not to make inappropriate assumptions and to try and convey the perspective of an author brought up in a well-to-do family in the 19th century”, Kasia Beresford, in charge of the memoir’s translation, told Kafkadesk.
“Another difficulty was a lack of specificity, which when combined with multiple possible translations of certain words meant I had to research the historical background to feel comfortable that I understood what event the author was referring to”, she added. “For example, when Buszczyński writes about a group of anarchists in Chicago carrying out an attack he uses the word zamach, which has many potential translations: it could be a coup, an assassination attempt, an actual assassination or a bomb attack among other things. It is clear the author has a specific incident in mind, but he does not name it or give enough specific detail to make it easy to identify. I came to the conclusion he was referring to the Haymarket Affair”.
She goes on: “Presumably the author did not include specific details as they would not have meant much to the Polish audience he was writing for, but that certainly made it more challenging for his translator!”