European Voices: A Reading and Conversation with Polish Author Grażyna Plebanek
On Wednesday, November 6, we hosted Grażyna Plebanek, author of the highly acclaimed and best-selling novels Pudełko ze szpilkami (Box of Stilettos, 2002), Dziewczyny z Portofino (Girls from Portofino, 2005), and Przystupa (A Girl Called Przystupa, 2007). Her visit to Boston coincided with the American publication of her latest novel, Illegal Liaisons (Nielegalne związki, 2010), by New Europe Books.
A native of Poland, Grażyna Plebanek lives in Brussels, Belgium, which provides the setting for Illegal Liaisons, the story of an aspiring writer, Jonathan, who puts his career on hold to follow his wife, Megi, to Brussels. In Brussels, Jonathan spends his days caring for his children and teaching writing to his adult students—roles he does not choose but at which he curiously excels—while Megi tends to seemingly more important EU Commission matters. Torn between domestic responsibilities and professional ambitions, Jonathan is drawn into an illicit affair, which provides the book’s subject matter. Yet the affair, for all its titillating nature, is not as interesting as the questions it provokes around conflicting loyalties, to oneself and one’s heritage, shifting gender roles (and shifting identities) in contemporary Europe, etc.
The conversation, which ultimately touched all of the questions above, Plebanek’s own experiences as a Polish citizen living and working in Brussels in addition to Jonathan’s, as well as on more technical matters of translation, was moderated by Anna Zielinska-Elliott, senior lecturer in Japanese and head of the Japanese Language Program in BU’s Department of Modern Languages & Comparative Literature, also a native of Poland. Anna Zielinska-Elliott is a translator of modern Japanese literature into Polish and has published over 10 translations of novels, stories, and plays by Murakami Haruki, Mishima Yukio, Yoshimoto Banana, and others. Her research interests include modern Japanese fiction and translation theory. In addition to a new translation of Murakami’s short stories, she is currently working on two projects, one on gender in Murakami’s novels and the other, a literary guide to Murakami’s Tokyo.