Top US award given for translation of Polish epic poem

Indiana University comparative literature professor Bill Johnston has received the 2019 National Translation Award for his English translation of the 19th-century Polish epic poem Master Thaddeus. Johnston heads the university's Polish Studies Center.

Johnston has won numerous distinctions for translations of Polish literature. He first came to Poland on a language scholarship to Warsaw University while a student at Britain's Oxford University. In later years he lived in Krakow and Wroclaw, from 1983 to 1991 he was an English lecturer for the Warsaw-based British Council.

The award is accompanied by a USD 2,500 grant.

Master Thaddeus is a rhymed epic work by Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz. First published on June 28, 1834, in Paris, it is considered to be the last great epic poem in European literature and part of the Polish cultural heritage. The poem is compulsory reading in Polish schools and has been translated into 33 languages. In 1999, eminent Polish film director Andrzej Wajda made a screen version of the poem. In 2014, it was included on Poland's list of UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme.