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During the ceremony at Warsaw’s Polish Theatre (Teatr Polski), Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill received the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award 2018. A native Irish poet, essayist, literary critic, author of screenplays and children’s books, she received a statuette and a cheque for fifty thousand US dollars, endowed by the PZU Foundation –Strategic Partner of this year’s edition of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award. Conferred since 2013, it is Poland’s only award of its kind with a truly global reach that emphasizes the presence, role and importance of Polish literature – and, more broadly, of Polish culture – on the international arena.
The Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award is a distinction in the field of world literature – above all in poetry, conferred for outstanding artistic and intellectual achievements, inspired by the ideals that exemplified Zbigniew Herbert’s creativity: independence, love of freedom, his opposition to lies, inequality and oppression. For many generations of Poles, it is the poems of the author of the “Report From the Besieged City” that were and remain a moral signpost and source of hope.
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, this year’s Award Laureate, was chosen by an international Jury composed of poets, essayists, translators and publishers: Yuri Andrukhovych (Ukraine), Edward Hirsch (USA), Michael Krüger (Germany), Mercedes Monmany (Spain) and Tomasz Różycki (Poland).
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill thanked Katarzyna Herbert, the Foundation, and members of the Jury for awarding her the Prize.
The decision of the honoured committee to honour me with the Zbigniew Herbert Award, is for me not only an enormous honour, but a ratification and justification of my life’s work, writing, as I hoped to do. The proof of the existence of a woman’s emotional and intellectual existence, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in Irish and in poetry – said the laureate.
A laudation in honour of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and on behalf of the Jury of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, was given by Tomasz Różycki.
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill writes in Gaelic, not unlike her most outstanding English-speaking colleagues, she is a great contemporary world class poet, for whom the curse of the Gaelic language presented no obstacle. (…) The Gaelic language, Ireland’s original language, is a minority language; one of those small languages, that through much of its history had the misfortune of having a giant as its neighbour, this ever-present giant being English. (…) I believe that Zbigniew Herbert would find the fact of belonging to such a minority, defending – a seemingly – lost cause, most satisfying – commented Tomasz Różycki.
Cultures fascinated Herbert, especially ‘history’s underdogs’; those conquered by stronger neighbours. It is this reason that encouraged him to study cultures, of Languedoc and the Etruscans, whilst of course remembering, that the Poles were effectively also nearly wiped from the face of Europe. I am convinced that he would find the choice, of and author writing in a language of a small nation with a painful history and a heroic struggle for survival, most appealing. I am also personally happy to see the award bearing his name in the hands of a woman for the first time – concluded Katarzyna Herbert, the poet’s widow and the foundation’s founder.
The evening was enriched by the performance of Irish singer Eilis Kennedy, singing traditional Irish ballads, which – as Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill emphasised in her speech – moulded her poetic sensitivity in her childhood, and are deeply entwined in her poetry.
The ceremony was also attended by Ryszard Krynicki, laureate of the Zbigniew Herbert Award 2015, who chose and read a selection of poems by the author of Mr. Cogito.
The Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award 2018 Partners include: The Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Instytut Adama Mickiewicza), the Warsaw based Arnold Szyfman Polish Theatre (Teatr Polski im. Arnolda Szyfmana), the Irish Embassy, and Poland’s National Library (Biblioteka Narodowa). Polish Radio (Polskie Radio) is this years media partners.
The PZU Foundation is the Strategic Partner of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award 2018.