“Kajtuś, Kaytek, Korczak” – Interview with Antonia Lloyd-Jones

August 12, 2012

by Mikołaj GlińskiKaytek the Wizard

“Although Harry Potter faces adversity from cruel adults too, his world does not share the painful reality of Kaytek’s existence. Korczak wanted to help difficult children find ways to express themselves, and to overcome their troubles, so his aims were not purely to entertain”, Antonia Lloyd-Jones, the translator of Janusz Korczak’s Kaytek the Wizard talks about the differences between Kaytek and Harry Potter, and divulges her recommended Korczak reading for the world’s bankers

Culture.pl: Could you say something about your first encounter with the works of Janusz Korczak? Was it when you were still a child or later in life?

Antonia Lloyd-Jones: I was totally unfamiliar with the works of Janusz Korczak until I had learned Polish, as an adult. The first book of his that I read was King Matt the First in Richard Lourie’s translation. Unfortunately Korczak is not well known in the English-speaking world, either as a children’s author or as a pioneer of educational methods. My first real knowledge about him came with Andrzej Wajda’s 1990 film.

Culture.pl: I think reading Korczak in Polish is already quite a challenge. I mean especially his use of spoken language, ellipsis, language of children, jargon, etc. Maybe it’s just the Korczak idiom. Anyway, sometimes I’m just not quite sure if I get the sense right. It seems to require the right interpretation on the part of the reader. Do you also find him difficult as a writer?

A. L.-J.: Absolutely. His language is often quite ambiguous, and definitely presents the translator with a challenge, especially his dialogue. This is partly the result of his aim to reflect children’s speech genuinely, and to reproduce the words spoken to him by the children in his care. As I wrote in my Afterword, while he was writing Kaytek the Wizard he consulted with the children and changed the text according to their suggestions and wishes. As the publisher was keen for the translated book to be accessible to modern American children, I quite often had to make decisions about the meaning and expression that would meet their needs.

Culture.pl: What were the biggest problems with translating Kajtuś Czarodziej?

A. L.-J.: The biggest problem was with the name “Kajtuś”. English does not have an equivalent for the name Kajetan, and the diminutive “Kajtuś” would have been unpronounceable and unrecognizable to American (or other English-speaking) children. The hero is not actually called Kajtuś, but Antek, and only gains his nickname when a soldier passes by, sees him smoking, and says “Look at little Kajtuś, puffing away like an old man.” As Korczak’s original readers would have known, “Kajtuś” was a generic term used to address any little boy. So there were several considerations to take on board. The publisher and I discussed lots of possibilities. For some time I used the working name “Willy” (“Willy the Wizard”), purely for practicality, never as a Read the rest of this entry »