Monday, 8 August 2016

"Poe, Grabiński, Ray, Lovecraft. Correspondences, Parallels, Comparisons" - international conference held in Poland

Savez-vous ce qu’il y avait derrière? Un mur énorme, noir, massif comme le roc. Il en fut de même d’une autre, puis d’une autre encore : j’étais prisonnier d’une ville toute en façades, sans bruit et sans autre vie que celle des flammes bleues, épouvantablement ardentes et pourtant ne brûlant pas. 
-- Jean Ray, La Choucroute

Two months ago while on vacation in the region of Katowice and Cracow, I've had the privilage of attending the international conference "Poe, Grabiński, Ray, Lovecraft. Correspondences, Parallels, Comparisons" held in Sosnowiec at the Institute of Romance Languages and Translation Studies of the University of Silesia. I first heard about the conference when I was invited by Claudio Salmeri, one of the organizers and conference co-secretaries, to participate as a presenter. Initially, I had high ambitions of preparing some materials on Jean Ray in French and to finally to dive deeper into his works - something I had on my mind for quite some time. I had to decide against getting involved as the first half 2016 continued busy for me with regards to my professional career and my ambitions for reskilling and my presence at the conference was very doubtful. 
Nevertheless, I was eager to engage in helping to spread the news about the event. The conference was held in four languages: Polish, English, French and Italian. The entire programme can be downloaded hereMultilingual international conferences on the subject of horror, gothic, or weird fiction are not very common in Europe, let alone in Poland, therefore, due to its international character, this particular conference deserves to be covered on Confusio Liguarum
I will focus here on those presentations that have particularly drawn my attention and on day 2 only, as it was this day that was fully dedicated to presentations delivered in English, French and Italian. 


One of the highlights of the conference was Arnaud Huftier's (Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis) presentation on Jean Ray (Jean Ray: “l’Edgar Poe belge” ou le “Lovecraft flamand”). Arnaud Huftier is a notable Ray scholar and editor, mostly known for his enormous book "Jean Ray, l'alchimie du mystère".

In his presentation Huftier challenged the frequently used terms that are widely used for Ray: Belgian Poe and Flemish Lovecraft. One cannot agree more with Huftier as to the fact that both terms are quite off the mark. As the speaker pointed out, as one of the arguments against the usage of the former term, the stories by Ray completely lack the first-person maniacal narrator very characteristic Poe's works and other authors writing in this tradition, such as Thomas Ligotti. As for the comparison to Lovecraft, Huftier has remarked that only five of the author's numerous stories provide a hint of the menace coming from beyond space and time. He concluded his plenary presentation with the analysis of Ray's story La choucroute.
I was eager to hear about Jean Ray's output in Flemish (Jean was a bilingual writer producing works in French and Flemish), so I allowed myself to have an exchange with the speaker. I have a considerable collection of Ray's works in French, but due to the language barrier, I've  never had a chance to savour any of the man's output in the other language. It was a bit disappointing to learn that out of the 6500 stories penned by the Belgian writer only a small portion of the works were published in Dutch, most of them consisting of faux-supernatural for younger readers with paranormal element explained at the end.

It was a real pleasure to meet with Mariagrazia Pelaia, the Italian translator of "the Motion Demon" by Stefan Grabiński. I was surprised to learn that Pelaia's translations were prepared nearly 20 years ago, but remained unpublished until 2015. It is thanks to her translations and most notably thanks to Andrea Bonazzi's charismatic work as a translator and propagator of Grabiński that we can now observe an increase of interest in Italy around the works of the Polish master of horror fiction.
Pelaia, in her presentation, justified the choice of words for collection's eponymous story, translated by her as "Il demone del moto" ("moto" being the force behind the movement rather than the action of the movement itself) instead of the previously used title "Il demone del movimento", with the latter constituting a verbatim translation. Pelaia's presentation deftly tackled other linguistic nuances of her translation. The presentation was based on her afterword "Il demone del moto e la talpa di galleria" contained in the volume:

I've also managed to have numerous fascinating conversations with Francesco Marroni (D'Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara) who analysed the subject of evil and abysmal time in the works of Poe and Lovecraft. Marroni is an outstanding speaker and drew some most interesting parallels between both writers' works.

Karolina Kwaśna (Uniwersytet Jagielloński) prepared a comparison between Maciej Płaza's translations of Lovecraft's stories contained in Polish editions "Zgroza w Dunwich" (The Dunwich Horror) and "Przyszła na Sarnath zagłada" (The Doom that Came to Sarnath). She focused on the shift in Płaza's use of words between these two volumes collecting Lovecraft's works, where the latter volume is dedicated to his earlier more Dunsanian and dreamlike pieces. Following her presentation I couldn't help it but try out these polished translations myself. Płaza is an extremely talented translator Polish readers should be proud of.

Andrea de Carlo (Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”) delivered a very perceptive analysis of the symbolical significance of mirrors in the works by Stefan Grabiński, whilst Luca Ambrogiani (City University of New York) tackled the subject of the end of the world and language itself in the works of Poe and Lovecraft.

Last but not least, Claudio Salmeri (Silesian University), did a fine job presenting the reception of Stefan Grabiński's oeuvres in Italy, covering both translations and reviews of his works. Few people know that the first language to which Grabiński was ever translated is Italian (translator Enrico Damiani). On the right is the cover of "I narratori della Polonia d'oggi" (1928), a book containing a brief introductory note and excerpts from the stories “Il treno fantasma” (Błędny pociąg) and “Segnali” (Sygnały). 

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