Stanislaw Baranczak: Writer and dissident who helped fight injustice in Poland and was acclaimed for his poetry translations

The poems he wrote in Poland in the 1960s and '70s ridiculed the absurdity of the communist system and its artificial language

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The Independent Online

Stanislaw Baranczak was acclaimed by many as Poland's outstanding poet, translator and dissident. A former Harvard lecturer, he had suffered from Parkinson's disease, which forced him to resign from Harvard in 1997 after 16 years there.

The poems he wrote in Poland in the 1960s and '70s ridiculed the absurdity of the communist system and its artificial language. He co-founded the Workers' Defence Committee in 1977 following a brutal crackdown on protesting workers. He was fired from his job at the Adam Mickiewicz University in his native Poznan and his writings banned.

In 1981 he signed a three-year contract as lecturer at Harvard but chose to stay on in Poland as the country's communist leaders imposed martial law against the Solidarity movement, before eventually moving to the US.

He translated many authors from Polish to English –and vice versa, including works by Shakespeare, John Donne, Emily Dickinson, WH Auden, Seamus Heaney, TS Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Bob Dylan. He also translated from Russian and Lithuanian.

He had the rare talent of preserving the spirit and the beauty of the language of the original, and in 1996 he shared the US PEN Translation Prize with Clare Cavanagh for rendering into English a collection by his Polish compatriot, the Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska.

He is survived by his wife Anna, a Harvard preceptor in Slavic languages and literature.

Stanislaw Baranczak, poet, translator and critic: born Poznan, Poland 13 November 1946; married Anna Brylka (one daughter, one son); died Newtonville, Massachusetts 26 December 2014.

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