How does the project work?

Every other year, a German and a Polish translator respectively receive the prize for building bridges with language. The candidates are nominated by a German-Polish jury. The gala award ceremony is organized by Deutsches Polen-Institut and held alternately in Cracow, Poland, and Darmstadt, Germany.

The prize was created jointly by Karl Dedecius, doyen of German translators of Polish literature and distinguished mediator between Germany and Poland and the Robert Bosch foundation in 1981 to recognize outstanding work by Polish translators of German. It was supplemented by a promotional prize for Polish translators in 1992, and has been bestowed as a twin prize for both German and Polish translators since 2003.

The prize winners will be invited to a public event at the Karl-Dedecius Literary Archive at Europa-Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder).

Who was Karl Dedecius?

Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1921, Karl Dedecius is one of the most important figures representing Polish literature and culture in Germany. In 1952, after the end of World War II and his time as a Russian prisoner, he slowly began to build a life in the West. Initially, he only had time to devote to his passion for Polish literature and its translation after finishing a long day at work. But his perseverance paid off in 1959, with the publication of his first anthology, “Lektion der Stille (Lesson of Silence).” He also tirelessly translated the works of Polish authors such as Zbigniew Herbert, Stanisław Jerzy Lec, Czesław Miłosz, Tadeusz Różewicz, and Wisława Szymborska into German.

In 1979, he founded the German Polish Institute in Darmstadt, and remained its director until 1997. In addition to his countless translations, his main projects included the 50-volume “Polnische Bibliothek (Polish Library),” which he worked on for 20 years, and the seven-volume “Panorama der polnischen Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts (Panorama of Polish Literature of the 20th Century).” He completed both in the year 2000.

Karl Dedecius has received numerous honors and awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1990 and the Order of the White Eagle nine years later in Poland. In 2010, the Deutsche Nationalstiftung honored him with its National Prize “as someone who builds bridges between Poland and Germany.” Today, his life’s work is considered the embodiment of German-Polish understanding.

Prize winners 2003 - 2017

2003: Krzysztof Jachimczak and Hans-Peter Hoelscher-Obermaier
2005: Maria Przybyłowska and Olaf Kühl
2007: Tadeusz Zatorski and Martin Pollack
2009: Renate Schmidgall and Ryszard Wojnakowski
2011: Esther Kinsky and Ryszard Turczyn
2013: Jakub Ekier and Bernhard Hartmann
2015: Katarzyna Leszczyńska and Sven Sellmer
2017: Eliza Borg and Lisa Palmes