Echoes of the Holocaust

Echoes of the Holocaust

From a box found hidden below the Warsaw Ghetto, comes a collection of poems that will be discussed in Sydney on August 9.

Marcel Weyland, translator of Władysław Szlengel’s What I Read to the Dead: Poems from the Depths of Hell, will speak 12.30 – 2 pm at the Great Synagogue Auditorium, 166 Castlereagh Street Sydney.

Marcel Weyland was born in Lódż, Poland in 1927.

He came to Australia as a war refugee in 1946, has graduated and practised as an architect, and has since also obtained a law degree. He is held in high regard as translator and interpreter of Polish poetry.

His previous translations were Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz, published by Verand Press in 2004 and by Begell House, New York in 2005, Echoes, Poems of the Holocaust, Verand Press 2007 and The Word: 200 Years of Polish Poetry, Brandl & Schlesinger 2010.

Marcel Weyland was awarded the Order of Merit by the Polish Minister for Culture in 2005, and in 2008 the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Concurrently with the publishing of this book he was honoured by the President of Poland with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.

He lives in Sydney with his wife, artist Philippa Keane. They have five children, 21 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Refreshments: Kosher sandwich lunch – admission $5.

RSVP: email or phone (02) 9390 5168 by Friday 3rd August 2012.

A landmark in Australian publishing

In his forward to What I Read to the Dead, John Kinsella, a founding editor of the literary journal Salt and international editor of The Kenyon Review, said:

Marcel Weyland’s translation of poetry and prose by Polish Jewish poet Władysław Szlengel is a landmark in Australian publishing.

It is essential in bringing to Australian readers a remarkable voice not only of witness, but also of passionate and committed cultural and spiritual resistance. Nazi persecution of Polish Jews is tracked from before the war through to the horrific destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto.

This is a poetry so necessary, so remarkable, that it is painful to read and experience. It should be.

Weyland superbly captures the equivocations of Władysław Szlengel’s voice, as it moves from the wishful to the ironic, from the playful in the face of persecution and torment, the spirit of a people undimmed no matter the horror they collectively and individually experience, to death-confronting witness. And in doing this, Szlengel never lessens the gravity of the persecution in his telling. Through the poet, the voices of those suffering speak, as if he might have all voices going at once through the meeting-house of his poetry.

This is a traumatic documentation in poetry, but one that impels us to consider who we are, and what our responsibilities to each other are. The final piece in the collection is a stunning and deeply disturbing piece of poetic prose that comes from the very edge of death, of murder on murder.

It ends: Read it. This is our history. This is what I read to the dead. And we should read it. As Weyland shows us in his introduction, even the survival of these poems is in itself an incredible story of endurance.

These poems are a form of endurance against impossible odds, in the face of impossible hatred. Weyland allows a poet who is significant in so many ways to speak out across time and language and distance, to bring it close, as close as it must be.


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