The most prestigious distinction for an eminent ambassador of Polish literature abroad, granted by the Book Institute, was awarded this year to Professor Tokimasa Sekiguchi, an outstanding promoter of Polish culture in Japan.
"I am a Japanese importer of Polish culture to Japan, though this is not a lucrative job. If someone were to ask me why I do it since it does not bring me any income, I would answer that by making Polish culture available to the Japanese, I repay a debt of gratitude to my Polish friends who brought me up and educated me, starting from my first stay in Krakow in 1974-1976," said the laureate.
Dariusz Jaworski, the director of the Book Institute and the chairman of the Transatlantyk Award Jury, emphasised that the people of Japan have in their hands - thanks to the indefatigable work of the laureate - the key to exploring the Polish soul and understanding Poland, which is not possessed by many other nations, often living much closer to our country.
"The breadth, scale, and versatility of the translation output (from Kochanowski, through Mickiewicz, to Gombrowicz and Lem) make Professor Sekiguchi not only a translator, but also an ambassador of Polish literature in Japan," declared a member of the Jury, Dr Dariusz Karłowicz.
Tokimasa Sekiguchi (born 1951 in Tokyo) took up Romance and comparative studies at the University of Tokyo in the 1970s and Polish studies at the Jagiellonian University. Between 1992 and 2013, he taught Polish culture at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) and since 2011, he has been the head of Polish Studies at the university. In 2013, he decided to take early retirement in order to devote himself fully to his translation activities.
Professor Tokimasa Sekiguchi initiated the Classics of Polish Literature series in 2013. He is also co-organiser of the "Forum Poland" in Japan, bringing together all those interested in Poland - researchers representing various fields of science, artists, and representatives of the Polish community. In 2008, he initiated, jointly with the International Cultural Centre in Krakow, travelling seminars Dziedzictwo pograniczy (“The Heritage of the Borderlands”) for Japanese scholars of various fields of interest in Poland and Central Europe. The seminars take place every two years and focus each time on a different Central European border region (six editions have taken place so far: Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Slovakia-Hungary, Upper and Lower Silesia, Czech Republic-Moravia-Slovakia).
Professor Tokimasa Sekiguchi is a great friend of Poland and Poles, an indefatigable promoter of Polish culture in the Land of the Rising Sun. His work for our country has been recognised by the Polish authorities: he has been awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2020), Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2009), Silver Medal for Merit to Culture Gloria Artis (2015), to name a few.
Among the works of Polish literature translated into Japanese by the professor are such masterpieces as: Treny (“Laments”) by Jan Kochanowski, Ballady i romanse (“Ballads and Romances”) and Dziady wileńskie (“Vilinius Forefathers' Eve”) by Adam Mickiewicz, Matka Joanna od Aniołów (“Mother Joan of the Angels”) by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s plays, Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda(“Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy”) by Witold Gombrowicz, and Lalka (“The Doll”) by Bolesław Prus, for the translation of which the author was awarded Japan's most important Literary Award, Yomiuri, in 2017. The complete bibliography of Professor Tokimasa Sekiguchi's translations consists of almost 50 entries.
Professor Sekiguchi's translation work was also recognised with the ZAiKS (Polish Society of Authors and Composers) Literary Award for Translation of Polish Literature in 2018 as well as the Fryderyk Chopin Society Award in 2019 for outstanding achievement in promoting the composer's work (the professor translated two volumes of Chopin's correspondence, to date only published in Japanese and French).
A special interview with Professor Tokimasa Sekiguchi is available on the website instytutksiazki.pl [LINK]
The Transatlantyk Award was awarded for the seventeenth time this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated travel difficulties, the award ceremony will take place during a gala to be organised by the Book Institute in 2022, at which the next year's winner will be announced. It is also planned to present the award to last year's winner, Professor Ewa Thompson.
Transatlantyk Award is an annual award from the Book Institute for an eminent ambassador of Polish literature abroad. The winner may be a translator, a publisher, a critic, or an animator of cultural life.
The award was presented for the first time in 2005 during the Conference of Polish Literature Translators. It was awarded to Henryk Bereska, the translator of such giants of Polish literature as Jan Kochanowski, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Jerzy Andrzejewski, Stanisław Wyspiański, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, and Tadeusz Różewicz. The award is worth 10,000 euros; moreover, the winner receives a commemorative certificate and a statuette designed by Łukasz Kieferling.
So far, this prestigious award was given to such outstanding personalities as Anders Bodegård, Albrecht Lempp, Ksenia Starosielska, Biserka Rajčić, Pietro Marchesani, Vlasta Dvořáčková, Yi Lijun, Karol Lesman, Bill Johnston, Laurence Dyèvre, Constantin Geambaşu, Lajos Pálfalvi, Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Hendrik Lindepuu, and Ewa Thompson.