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23 posts categorized "Esperanto"

25 July 2016

Esperanto and Fair Communication

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On 26 July 1887 the censor’s office in Warsaw approved the publication of a booklet with the title Mezhdunarodnyi iazyk. Predislovie i polnyi uchebnik, translated into English in 1888 as Dr. Esperanto’s International Tongue. Preface and Complete Method (12902.aa.55.(1.)). Since then Esperanto speakers throughout the world have celebrated 26 July as Esperanto Day. The slogan on this year’s posters is Fair Communication. The marriage between Esperanto and Fair Communication has now lasted for over a century.

Poster for Esperanto Day 2016
Fair Communication Poster for 2016 (Designed by  Peter Oliver)

Many people over the centuries have attempted to create their own language, but their reasons for doing so have not always been the same. In the Middle Ages the motive was religious. The 11th-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen invented her Ignota Lingua to speak with the angels. After the Renaissance, the motive was more likely to be philosophical. A typical example was the language created by Francis Lodwick. In 1652 he published his work The Ground-Work, Or Foundation Laid, (or so intended) For the Framing of a New Perfect Language: And an Vniversall or Common Writing. And presented to the consideration of the Learned.

Opening pages of Francis Lodwick's 'Ground-Work'
 The beginning of Francis Lodwick’s, The Ground-Work… (London, 1652).  623.g.4.(1.)

At the time of the French Revolution the emphasis was more on languages with a practical application, and that tendency increased during the 19th century, when inventions such as the steam train and the telegraph led to an explosion in fast travel and new ways of communicating. To all this Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, the author of the 1887 booklet, added a social dimension. As a Jew he had experienced ethnic struggles and violence in his native city of Białystok: pogroms by Russians against the Jews, rebellions by Poles against the Russians, nationalistic self-assertion by the Germans and so forth. What a wonderful thing it would be, thought the teenage Zamenhof, if all men could be brothers and stop killing one another! A naïve hope of course, but if you were living now in Syria or Congo, probably that would be your greatest desire as well.

At all events, the ideals of the brotherhood of peoples and a just form of communication survived throughout the last century and are still relevant today. Naturally these ideals have been promoted by Esperanto speakers, but also by others. Let’s take a look at several books published in recent years.

In 1996 Esperanto speakers in collaboration with other organizations inaugurated a series of symposia named after  Inazo Nitobe, one of the Under-Secretaries General of the League of Nations in the 1920s, who proposed that the use of Esperanto should be debated in the General Assembly. His proposal was vetoed by France, who at that time considered itself to be the keeper of the world’s international language. The Nitobe Symposia are outstanding occasions for a meeting between linguists, communications experts, and high-ranking politicians, who have various approaches to the language problem in international organizations and in international life in general. Participants in the first symposia (Prague, 1996), included linguists and translators alongside representatives of the EU, UNESCO and the UN. The proceedings were published under the title: Towards linguistic democracy: proceedings of the Nitobe Symposium of International Organizations, ed. Mark Fettes and Suzanne Bolduc (Rotterdam, 1998; YF.2006.a.31177). The main topic in all contributions was linguistic democracy, not only between nations but also within nations. At that time the struggle of national minorities was a very pressing issue.

 
Covers of the Proceedings of the Nitobe Symposia
Proceedings of the Nitobe Symposia in British Library's Collections

The same topics came up again in the following symposia. For example, the third symposium was entitled: Towards a new international language order (proceedings, edited by Lee Chong-Yeong and Liu Haitao, published Rotterdam, 2004; YF.2006.a.31175). Since the symposium was held in Beijing, and since the Chinese participants tended to emphasise China’s new role as a major power, speakers at the seminar were more interested in international relations rather than linguistic democracy within countries.

An important contributor to these seminars was Robert Phillipson, joint winner of the Linguapax Prize in 2010, and well known as an advocate for linguistic democracy. His book Linguistic Imperialism (Oxford, 1992; 93/06193) received numerous undeserved criticisms from defenders of the status quo. His second book English-Only Europe? Challenging Language Policy (London, 2003; YC.2007.a.282) was translated into Esperanto with the title Ĉu nur-angla Eŭropo? Defio al lingva politiko (Rotterdam, 2004; YF.2006.a.29602; photo below). For years his arguments have been debated in Europe, but his observations have made little headway among European politicians, who prefer to listen to his opponent Philippe Van Parijs. In his book Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World, (Oxford, 2011; YC.2012.a.10920), Van Parijs prefers to support the use of English at the international level with a tax for those who profit from its use. Van Parijs has been another participant at the Nitobe symposia.

Covers of 'Ĉu nur-angla Eŭropo?' and 'English-only Europe'
The French and Italians have also added their voices to the debate. One of these has been the famous French linguist Claude Hagège, recipient of a number of awards and other honours. He defends the French language in the name of linguistic and cultural diversity, for instance in his book Combat pour le français: au nom de la diversité des langues et des cultures (Paris, 2006; YF.2009.a.32989), where he also defends Esperanto as ‘one of the best allies of plurilingualism’. He repeats this assertion in his interview with Esperanto speaker François Lo Jacomo: Esperanto kaj lingva diverseco: intervjuo kun Claude Hagège (Rotterdam, 2006; YF.2008.a.6597).

Italians such as Andrea Chiti Batelli, for many years an important functionary at the European Parliament, have taken the lead in the struggle to restore the standing of the traditional Greek-Latin-Romance culture within Europe. He wrote the booklet Politika hegemonio kaj lingva hegemonio en Eŭropo (Rotterdam, 1995; YF.2006.a.29616) together with Pierre Janton.

For Esperanto speakers, 26 July is the occasion for reflecting on these events.

Renato Corsetti (Professor Emeritus of Psycholinguistics at La Sapienza University in Rome, former president of the World Esperanto Association, General Secretary of the Academy of Esperanto.)

06 January 2016

Indefatigable Pioneer, Zealous Propagandist, Organizer, Financier, Leader

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 The title of my blog is taken from ‘An Appreciation’ for an extraordinary Englishman, published for his funeral in the winter of 1916. Captain Harold Bolingbroke Mudie, born in January 1880, was accidentally killed in France “while on active service” on January 6, 1916.

Title-page of '“H.B.M”. An Appeciation' with a frontispiece portrait of Mudie
 “H.B.M”. An Appeciation. (Letchworth, 1916) 010854.de.56

The carefully-prepared Appreciation is published in two languages, English and Esperanto, which reflects how important they both were in Mudie’s life. English was his mother tongue in which he received a good education; he used it working as a successful financier. At the age of 22 he discovered another language, Esperanto, and fell in love with it. Soon he became an ardent advocate for the promotion of Esperanto worldwide. In November 1903 he founded the gazette The Esperantist with a financial guarantee from William Thomas Stead. Fourteen issues were published; all of them are now available in Project Gutenberg. W.T. Stead’s editorial, which opens the first issue in 1903, is worth reading. The spirit of the pioneering period of the Esperanto movement, full of hope and belief that the solution for the multilingual diversity of humankind was finally found, is alive there.

Cover of the first issue of 'The Esperantist'
   The Esperantist Issue 1 1903 (British Library P.P.4939.k.)

In January 1906 The Esperantist united with The British Esperantist, published by the Esperanto Association of Britain. Mudie joined its editorial committee, and took part in the first Esperanto congress in 1905.

Issue 1 of 'The British Esperantist' with a masthead image of a winged figure seated on a globe and holding a star
The British Esperantist Issue 1 1905 (P.P.4939.ka)

Then in 1907 Mudie himself became one of three legendary Esperantists (together with John Pollen and George Cunningham) who organized the very memorable Third World Esperanto congress in Cambridge. La Kongresa Libro (012902.eee.22) is one of the most interesting in the history of the Esperanto movement. It includes not only a lovely description of Cambridge and its wonderful colleges, and a translation of ‘God save the Queen’ but gives also menus and advertisements, including ones for whisky and cigarettes called ‘Esperanto’!

Advertisement for 'Esperanto Whisky'
 Viski Esperanto from La Tria Universala Kongreso de Esperanto. Kongresa Libro. (London, 1907). 012902.eee.22

Photograph of John Pollen, George Cunningham and Mudie seated at a table with British and Esperanto flags

Postcard  La Trio por la Tria (from Wikimedia Commons)

In 1903 Mudie was among the founders of the London Esperanto Club. In 1908 he became the first president of the newly-founded World Esperanto Association. A good linguist and an excellent orator, he was also a member of the Lingva Komitato, the precursor of the current Akademio de Esperanto. Alongside these numerous activities he found time to translate from Latin. The British Library holds his translation of Swedenborg, La dogmaro pri la vivo por la Nova Jerusalemo (London, 1908; 3716.de.19), published by the Swedenborg Society.

Even during his holidays he used Esperanto a lot. A very interesting report in two languages is published in The Esperantist vol. 2, nr 6 for 1905 entitled Mia libertempo:

But, for my present readers, it is not well that I should describe this city, but better that I should hasten to beautiful Malta, the fruitful island whose past history has been so bloody and full of interest. Even ere the ship had come to a standstill in the harbour I recognised our energetic comrades, Dr. Busuttil and Messrs. Agius and Dominic Chiantar. These three devoted friends kindly drove me over the beautiful surroundings, and took me into the luxurious hall of the Knights of St. John of olden time, and into various churches. Will they kindly accept my renewed thanks! And ever the same language, intelligible without difficulty! But it was not in Malta that I terminated my Esperantic wanderings, for, after a broiling visit to the interesting Syracuse, I found in Palermo the genial Dr. Nalli, Secretary of the Sicilian Society. He kindly devoted a whole day to me, and proved that he who has not visited Palermo has missed a city of many charms. There also I enjoyed an excellent lunch à la Palermo, while my fellow tourists lost more than two hours waiting in vain at a French hotel.

“As A Leader – noble and large-hearted – he commanded the respect of all his colleagues, who will greatly miss his capacity and calm judgement” (from ‘Appreciation’). Harold Bolingbroke Mudie is buried in the cemetery of Forges-les-Eaux . To commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death, French and British Esperantists are gathering today at his grave in this small town in Normandy. This blog is my poppy laid on his tomb.

Caricature of Mudie sitting in a boat and waving an Esperanto flag
Bolingbroke Mudie. Caricature from 1912 (From Wikimedia Commons)

Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto studies

15 December 2015

The Man who Hoped: Celebrating Esperanto Book Day

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 Type the name “L.L. Zamenhof” into the British Library’s online catalogue and dozens of results will appear: books, articles, journals and scores. As time passes and the centenary of Zamenhof’s death (14 April 1917) approaches, more and items will be added to our collections, as the fascinating personality of the creator of Esperanto and his language keeps attracting the attention of more scholars worldwide.

  LIFEOFZAMENHOFPRIVATDSC_1294Cropped
Portrait of L.L. Zamenhof (from The Life of Zamenhof by Edmond Privat, London, 1931). 010795.a.77

The most recent academic study in the catalogue is Esperanto and its Rivals (Philadelphia, 2015; m15/.11262). Its author, Roberto Garvía, Associate Professor of Sociology at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, starts with the story of George Orwell’s not-so-happy stay in Paris with his aunt Nellie Limouzin and her partner, radical Esperantist Eugene Adam, known as Eugeno Lanti. The second, and longest part of the book is dedicated to Esperanto and the third to its very diverse users worldwide. Part I is dedicated to Volapük  and Part IV to “Ido and its Satellites”.

Another book by Esther H. Schor, Bridge of words: Esperanto and the dream of a universal language (New York, 2015) will join the collection soon. The classic work by Umberto Eco La ricerca della lingua perfetta nella cultura europea (Rome, 1993; YF.2005.a.22144), which dedicates some pages to Esperanto, is also available to readers in English translation by James Fentress as The search for the perfect language (Oxford, 1995; YC.1996.b.4086) and, of course, in Esperanto too, translated by Daniele Mistretta: La serĉado de la perfekta lingvo: en la Eŭropa kulturo (Pisa, 1994;  YA.2001.a.15737).

Many people worldwide have found and keep finding their “perfect language”. For them it is Esperanto. They use it often or even on a daily basis, as Zamenhof intended:  for international communication.  Some Esperantists share their experiences with wider public in blogs and books. The fervent Irish Esperantist, educationalist and environmentalist, Maire Mullarney published Esperanto for hope in 1989; it was republished in 1999 as Everyone’s own language (YK.2002.a.6844), followed by another book, Maire Mullarney argues about language (Galway, 2004). Some authors are seeking a special mission for Esperanto in the modern world. The German Esperantist Ulrich Matthias published a book Esperanto - das neue Latein der Kirche [Esperanto: the new Latin for the Church] (Messkirch, 1999; Esperanto version, Esperanto: la nova latino de la eklezio, Antwerp, 2001. YF.2009.a.26086).

And, of course, we have quite a few biographies of Zamenhof himself. Some of them were translated into English, such as The Life of Zamenhof by Edmont Privat  translated by Ralph Eliott. Others were written in English first, e.g. Zamenhof, Creator of Esperanto by Marjorie Boulton. (London,1960; 10667.m.13). No lack of “secrets revealed” either! La kâsita vivo de Zamenhof [The Hidden life of Zamenhof] (Tokyo, 1978; YF.2007.a.19318) by N.Z. Maimon looks as the ideology of Homaranismo  developed by Zamenhof. 

Original works and translations by Zamenhof are part of our collections, as well as La Unua Libro  and his correspondence (Leteroj de L.L.Zamenhof, Paris, 1948; ZF.9.a.6229). More than 900 photos related to Zamenhof, his works and his family, are collected in the Granda Galerio Zamenhofa published by Adolf Holzhaus (1892–1982) at his own expense (Helsinki, 1973; YA.2001.b.4401).

ZaemnhofBiographiesDSC_1242-OK
Selection of biographies of L.L.Zamenhof from our collections (Photo by Olga Kerziouk)

Our Esperanto Collections are also rich in material about the whole Zamenhof family. Two of Zamenhof’s younger brothers became ardent Esperantists themselves and tried their hand at poetry and translations. Leono Zamenhof (1875-1934) translated Aleksander Świętochowski’s  drama Aspazja into Esperanto as Aspazio (Paris, 1908; also available as an e-book in Project Gutenberg, where more than 50 books in Esperanto are digitised). Feliks Zamenhof, known as Fez, wrote poetry in Esperanto and translated too. A collection of his works Verkoj de Fez: plena Verkaro de Dro Felikso Zamenhof, edited by Edvardo Wiesenfeld,was published in Budapest in 1935. Recently the Polish researcher Marian Kostecki collected and published the poetical works of both brothers in one book, Esperanta verkaro de fratoj Zamenhof (Czeladź, 2006?; YF.2008.a.25231).

FeliksZamenhofDSC_1295
Photograph  of Felix Zamenhof  from Verkoj de Fez. Budapest, 1931. YF.2014.a.2787

L.L. Zamenhof and his wife Klara had three children, Adam, Sofia and Lidia, all of whom perished in the Holocaust. The best known is Lidia, who was a keen teacher of Esperanto and traveller. Lidia became a dedicated follower of the Bahai Faith after meeting the American journalist Martha Root. The tragic life of Lidia Zamenhof, who died in Treblinka, is the subject of the American writer Wendy Heller’s book Lidia: the life of Lidia Zamenhof, daughter of Esperanto (Oxford, c1985; X.950/44270)

Lidia_Zamenhof_(1904-1942)-OK
Photo of Lidia Zamenhof (From Wikimedia Commons)

Recently Zamenhof himself became the hero of a novel by the American writer Joseph Skibell, A Curable Romantic (London, 2010; Nov.2013/1041) – together with Sigmund Freud! Esther Shor published an interesting review in The New Republic.

December 15, the birthday of L.L. Zamenhof, is also known  as Esperanto Book Day. Keen reader Maire Mullarney wrote in her book Everyone’s own language: “Welcomed at first, later detested by dictators, undermined by the jealous, Esperanto grew steadily, and now is in excellent health”. Use the opportunity to visit the British Library and to find more about Lingvo Internacia and its creator.


Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto studies

References/Further reading

Zofia Banet-Fornalowa, La familio Zamenhof.(La Chaux-de-Fonds, 2000). YF.2008.a.17135

Aleksander Korĵenkov, “Homarano”: la vivo, verkoj kaj ideoj de d-ro L.L. Zamenhof. La 2a eldono, korektita kaj ampleksigita. (Kaliningrad, 2011). YF.2011.a.23688

Zbigniew Romaniuk and Tomasz Wiśniewski. Ĉio komenciĝis ce la Verda : pri Ludoviko Zamenhof, lia familio kaj la komenco de Esperanto = Zaczęło sie na Zielonej. (Łódż, 2009).YF.2010.a.417

Henk Thien. La vivo de D.ro L.L. Zamenhof en bildoj. (s.l., 1970) YA.2001.b.4400

Halina dokumento pri la studentaj jaroj de L.L.Zamenhof.  (Osaka, 1977). YF.2008.a.17335

La lastaj Tagoj de d-ro L.L.Zamenhof kaj la Funebra Ceremonio. (Kolonjo-Horrem, 1921). YF.2008.a.12302

 

26 July 2015

Letter from Donbass miners

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“Dear Comrades,” the letter began, “On the 18th anniversary of the October revolution, we send you our greetings.” Dated 10 October 1935 and signed by Soviet Esperantists working in the Donbass region of the Soviet Union, the letter endeavored, via the formulaic ardour of Stalinist homage, to “tell how the miners used to live before the revolution, and how they live now freed from the capitalists, thanks to the Communist party and the genius of the revolutionary leader Lenin, and the wise leadership of our beloved comrade, friend and leader Stalin.”

Translated from Esperanto into English and entitled “From a Russian Miner” (although it was in fact sent not from Russia but from Postyshevo, now Krasnoarmiisk, in Ukraine), this hearty missive appeared in the pages of a 1936 issue of La Laborista Esperantisto (The Worker Esperantist; British Library P.P.3558.ibl.) – the periodical of the British Section of the global Esperantist organization known as Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda (S.A.T.) [World Anational Association]. As the standard inside cover of La Laborista Esperantisto reliably explained, S.A.T.’s primary aim was “to utilize in practical ways the international language, ESPERANTO, for the class aims of the working class throughout the world.”  S.A.T. insisted that Esperanto allowed workers to share ideas and educate one another; to collaborate in pursuit of the revolutionary aims of the worldwide proletariat; and to foster “a strengthened feeling of human solidarity” among Esperantist workers otherwise separated not merely by spatial distance, but also by national borders, languages, and citizenship regimes.

LaboristaEsperantistoDSC_5840
For its own part, “From a Russian Miner” carried the imprimatur of a regional outpost of the Union of Soviet Esperantists. When in 1921 the Union of Soviet Esperantists was established in Petrograd, its founding members devoted themselves to the popularization and deployment of Esperanto as a means of fostering cultural exchange, revolutionary networks, and friendly relations between Soviet workers and their comrades abroad. The global solidarity of proletarian Esperantists would thus advance the global solidarity of the proletariat as a whole.

Throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, Soviet Esperantists sought to realize this broad internationalist goal largely through the increasingly regulated practice of what the Soviets called “workers’ correspondence.” Soviet Esperantists adapted this method of propaganda, committing themselves to flooding foreign news outlets and workers’ associations with carefully crafted missives like the one that appeared in La Laborista Esperantisto in 1936. The point was to extol Soviet achievements and squash anti-Soviet “rumours” propagated by deceitful capitalists – and to do so via the international auxiliary language of Esperanto. Esperantist leaders abroad could then, in the hoped-for scenario, translate and reprint the Soviet Esperantists’ letters in the foreign press, thereby transmitting official Soviet ideology to workers abroad.

EsperantpForWorrkers           An Esperanto class for workers, From Esperanto dlia rabochikh:  uchebnik dlia kruzhkov i samoobrazovaniia (Moscow, 1930), p. 56.

By the time “From a Russian Miner” appeared, the Union of Soviet Esperantists was in crisis. On the eve of the Stalinist terror that would devour many of the organization’s members, the problems that bedevilled it  ranged widely. While an analysis of these problems goes beyond the scope of this blog entry, “From a Russian Miner” highlights certain flaws in the Union’s  approach to fostering global proletarian solidarity under the conjoined red star of the Soviet Union and green star of Esperanto.

“From a Russian Miner” adopted the format of a letter, but reads like a singsong recitation of talking points issued from a bureaucratic office. As promised in its opening paragraph, it first enumerates the horrors and indignities of miners’ pre-revolutionary life in tsarist Russia, and then celebrates their  joyful new Soviet life. Living and working conditions prior to the revolution, the letter explains, were miserably inhumane as workers inescapably sacrificed themselves to “create riches for an army of parasites.” Production was not only punishing and humiliating, but also shamefully primitive “as nothing was known of machinery.” Clean drinking water was denied the sickened workers, as was even a rudimentary education.

Work_condition_of_miners_and_workers_in_Don_Basin
Soviet poster "Work conditions of miners and workers in the Don Basin" (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The narrative arc marches stalwartly onward in such fashion to the revolutionary climax: the dawning of the “bright and sunny day” that is the contemporary Soviet Union. The life of the Soviet miner, the letter explains, is one of fresh air, clean water, and nutritious food. Electricity illuminates the workplace and modern machinery powers industrial production. First-aid stations, bathhouses, classrooms, and a Palace of Culture ensure good health and enlightenment. “In comparison with our past life, our present life is scarcely credible,” the letter explains.  “Every miner has his little house surrounded with greenery. He has a vegetable garden, pigs, birds, and perhaps a cow.” All of this is owed, the letter concludes, to the wise revolutionary leadership of Lenin and Stalin.

No doubt the so-called “workers’ correspondence” that Soviet Esperantists transmitted abroad in the 1920s and 1930s did energize and inspire foreign workers, igniting their imagination of everyday Soviet life as a model to be emulated globally. In this way, Esperanto did serve the Soviet Union in pursuit of its internationalist aims. Yet the formulaic missives authorized by the Union of Soviet Esperantists for foreign consumption also obstructed the organization’s stated effort to facilitate relationships between Soviet workers and their comrades abroad. Taking “From a Russian Miner” as a representative example of permissible Soviet Esperantist correspondence in the Stalinist 1930s, it is impossible to overlook not only its unnuanced presentation of an entirely unblemished Soviet life, but also its unrelenting monologic approach. The letter’s gaze focuses resolutely inward while its tone is conspicuously incurious about life abroad. “From a Russian Miner” poses no questions to foreign Esperantists, nor does it invite questions from them. The letter’s portrait of Soviet working life is numbingly generic and depersonalized; the collective workers’ “we” is narratively flattened into the faceless beneficiary of the October Revolution. The letter thumps with triumphal celebration of Soviet achievements, but palpably lacks the human touch of the Soviet citizens who wrote it.

“From a Russian Miner” concludes with a plea for a reply from fellow Esperantists abroad – “a letter by which we can feel the brotherhood and solidarity of the world’s workers.” It asks, in other words, for something that “From a Russian Miner” itself failed to deliver.

Brigid O’Keeffe

Brigid O’Keeffe is an Assistant Professor of History at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.  In June 2015, she joined The Reluctant Internationalists project at Birkbeck College as a Visiting Fellow. During this time, she conducted research at the British Library, using its extensive collection of materials that document the global history of Esperanto and Esperantism.

20 July 2015

From Boulogne-Sur-Mer to Lille

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In a week’s time an important event will take place in the northern French town of Lille. Esperantists worldwide will meet again for their biggest annual gathering, the World Congress of Esperanto  – and this year for the 100th time.

As a curator of Esperanto Collections I am asked more often than I would like: “Is Esperanto still alive? Does anybody speak Esperanto these days?” and other rather annoying questions. I usually congratulate the person on meeting their first Esperantist (i.e. me) and invite them to check our rich Esperanto Collections. Type the word “Esperanto” in our electronic catalogue “Explore the British Library” and you will be surprised to find a lot of books, journals, musical scores in Esperanto (original literature, translations, history of Esperanto clubs, biographies of famous Esperantists etc.) and about Esperanto and Esperantists.

SedHomojkunhomoj                        Cover of Sikosek’s book  Sed homoj kun homoj (Rotterdam, 2005) YF.2006.a.30996

No lack of information about World Congresses of Esperanto either. In 2005, to mark the 90th Esperanto Congress in Vilnius, Lithuania, Ziko Marcus Sikosek compiled  a good guide, Sed homoj kun homoj. Universalaj kongresoj de Esperanto 1905-2005, in which you can find most useful information about the history of the congresses and their chronology. The title of the book comes from the famous speech by L. L. Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto, in 1905 in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, where the first congress took place. It emphasises the fact that during Esperanto  congresses all language barriers fall apart and everybody communicates with each other just as “a human being with human beings”.

The British Library holds various booklets and guides about some World Congresses of Esperanto.  Quite a few of them took place in Britain: the 3rd in Cambridge (1907), the 18th in Edinburgh (1926), the 22nd in Oxford (1930), the 30th in London (1938), the 46th In Harrogate (1961), the 56th in London (1971), the 74th in Brighton (1989).

LLKOxfordMembers of the Organisation Committee for the 22nd World Congress of Esperanto in Oxford (from XXIIa Universala Kongreso de Esperanto...; Oxford, 1930; 12902.aa.62) 

For each congress the Organization Committee (called in Esperanto LKK - La Organiza Komitato, picture of above) prepares a guidebook about the host country (some of these guides are part of our collections – photo below) 

EsperantoKongresajLibroj
Postcards, and sometimes stamps, are issued for each congress. The biggest collection of congress memorabilia is held in the Esperanto museum in Vienna, now part of the Austrian National Library.

EsperantoStamps_of_Lithuania,_2005-18                         Stamp of Lithuania for the 90th World Congress of Esperanto  in Vilnius, 2005 (From Wikimedia Commons)

The Esperanto movement has a rich history of prominent people from many countries who took an active role in organising the congresses. Amongst the pioneers I would like to mention Hippolyte Sebert, the French general and scientist, who learned Esperanto in 1898 and then dedicated many years of his long and active life to the organization of the Esperanto movement and congresses. The British Library holds his early books in French (about artillery, and a treatise about trees in New Caledonia), as well as edition of his letters to Zamenhof during 1909-1913, compiled and edited in Japan (Kial ludoviko abdikis? 1990; YF.2009.a.15613)

Nowadays many people researching their ancestors consult guides and books about the congresses, looking for their family members known to be enthusiastic Esperantists and travellers in their youth (or later years). Here is what the list of participants for the 4th Esperanto Congress in Dresden looked like (from Kongresa Libro;  Dresden, 1908;  YF.2012.a.27394).

Dresden1908UK
These days the programme of 100th World Congress of Esperanto is easily available to all on the Internet.  At the moment 2485 Esperantists from 82 countries have joined the congress in Lille. Some will join on arrival. If you happen to  be in Lille between 25 July and 2 August 2015 pay attention to the languages spoken on the streets, hotels, in public transport.  You have a lot of chances to meet your first Esperantist and find out how very much alive and kicking the language is! And, as very recent events show, citizens are ready to be taken into custody and pay fines, as during the protests against the renaming of Esperanto Street in Kazan, the Russian Federation.

“Important event”, I said? Yes! It proves that the neutral “artificial” language, created in 1887, lives and prospers, bringing joy and all kind of social activities to its users (picture below from the 4th congress in Dresden in 1908), and starts to attract more researchers to study this  unique socio-linguistic phenomenon in depth.

Dresdeno1908
Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto Studies



15 December 2014

"I raised a fire in my heart": remembering Eroshenko

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On 15 December each year Esperantists worldwide celebrate the birthday of L.L. Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto. Traditionally it is also celebrated as Esperanto Literature Day  – as  books have been written in Esperanto from its start in 1887. Many books have also been translated into Esperanto and, as original literature in Esperanto grew decade after decade, translations from Esperanto into other languages started to follow.

Many libraries worldwide collect Esperanto books. One of the biggest collections of Esperanto items  is in the Austrian National Library. The Esperanto Collection of the British Library is one of the finest in the world: it has British publications from the beginning of Esperanto received  by legal deposit as well as purchased and donated books and journals from many countries. It is a growing collection used by researchers from all over the world.

My own way into Esperanto started with a book. In 1973 the Ukrainian publishing house for children Veselka (‘Rainbow’) published a book by  Nadiia Andrianova-Hordiienko Zapalyv ia u sertsi vohon’ (‘I Raised a Fire in My Heart’, the first line of Eroshenko’s poem Ekbruligis mi fajron en kor’, written in Esperanto). It is fascinating story about the life and work of the blind Esperantist, traveller and writer Vasili Eroshenko (1890-1952). I was so taken by the history of his extraordinary life and his travels with the help of Esperanto that in the autumn of the same year I enrolled on an Esperanto course in my home town of Khmelnitskyi, Ukraine.

Painted portrait of Vasilii Yaroshenko by Tsune_Nakamura,_1920,_oil_on_canvas_-_National_Museum_of_Modern_Art,_Tokyo_-_DSC06549Portrait of Vasili Eroshenko by Tsune Nakamura (1887-1924)  (from Wikimedia Commons)

Years passed, and I met the author  in Kyiv, who signed the book for me. In 1988 for the first time I walked the streets of London – the same ones as Vasili Eroshenko during his 6-month stay in London in 1912. Later I found books by Margaret Lawrence Blaise (1878-1935), pioneer of the Esperanto movement in Britain, in the British Library (her book The Esperanto Manual was very popular and had a few editions). She and her Belgian husband Paul Blaise hosted Eroshenko during his first 10 days in England when he arrived from Moscow by train via many European cities to London Charing Cross. Eroshenko’s  arrival and stay in London were documented in British, Russian and Esperanto papers, as for example in The Daily Herald: “A Blind Russian, a member of a Moscow orchestra, having received six months’ furlough, has come to London, being passed on from town to town by Esperantists, and is engaged in learning English”.

The British Library holds about two dozen books by and about Vasili Eroshenko, published in the former Soviet Union (Serdtse orla, translations into Russian; Belgorod, 1962; 11769p.22 and a biography by Aleksandr Kharkovskii, Chelovek, uvidevshii mir (Moscow, 1978; X.908/85973)), in modern Ukraine (Kazky ta lehendy, translations into Ukranian; Kyiv, 2006; YF.2010.a.26418) and in Russia, as well as in China and Japan, where Eroshenko lived for many years and is very well known.

In Japan the publishing house Japana Esperanto Librokooperativo published a whole series of lovely books of short stories and tales by Eroshenko (written originally in Esperanto or Japanese):  Lumo kaj Ombro (Light and Shade;  1979; YF.2008.a.6621), La tundo  ĝemas. El vivo de  Ĉukĉoj  (The Tundra is Groaning, From the Life of Chukchi; 1980; YF.2007.a.9371), Cikatro de Amo (Love’s Scar; 1996; YF.2007.a.9358); Malvasta kaĝo (Narrow Cage; 1981; YF.2007.a.9374); Stranga kato (A Strange Cat;  1983; YF.2007.a.9372); La kruĉo de la Saĝeco (The Jug of Wisdom; 1995; YF.2008.a.6620) and others (see picture below).   

A selection of editions of Eroshenko's works in different coloured covers, each with a portrait of Eroshenko
An interesting study about  Eroshenko’s tales appeared recently in a book Developmental fairy tales. Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture by Andrew F. Jones (Harvard, 2011; YC.2011.a.7404). In Chapter 5 the author analyses the friendship between the great Chinese writer Lu Xun and Vasili Eroshenko and Eroshenko’s story ‘A Narrow Cage’ (Lu Xun translated Eroshenko’s story from Japanese into Chinese). Eroshenko himself features in Lu Xun's short story 'A Comedy of the Ducks'.

A group of three standing and three seated men, Eroshenko seated centre with Lu Xun to his righr                   Eroshenko with Lu Xun (Lu Sin) in 1922 (A photograph taken in Beijing at the Esperanto Society by Marco Sotgiu)

The oldest book in our collections which mentions Eroshenko dates from 1914 and comes from the pen of a keen helper of blind people, William Phillimore (1844-1934). In  his essay  La Graveco de Esperanto por la Blinduloj (The Importance of Esperanto for Blind; London, 1914; 875.r.6) he tells the story written by Eroshenko himself about his first travels abroad and published in  La Ondo de Esperanto (January 1913) as an example of great use of Esperanto for blind people.

  Cover of 'La Graveco de Esperanto por la Blinduloj'
Cover of La Graveco de Esperanto por la Blinduloj by W.Phillimore.

The memory of Vasili Eroshenko is alive: there is a small museum in his native village Obukhovka in Russia, the Charitable Foundation in Ukraine bears his name, conferences are organised to mark his anniversaries and study his works and ideas (like these virtual conferences in Russia Eroshenko i ego vremia – Eroshenko and his time), and new publications and translations appear regularly in various languages.

Every Esperantist has their own story to tell about “becoming an Esperantist”. I owe my fondness to the language and ideas of Zamenhof to a book about a life of one extraordinary man – Vasili Eroshenko.

Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto Studies

References

Concise Encyclopaedia of the original Literature in Esperanto 1887-2007. (New York,  2008), pp. 107-113. YC.2008.a.12495

Kerziouk, Olga. Eroŝenko en Anglujo. In: La Brita Esperantisto, Autuno 2010, p. 7-14. ZK.9.a.8223

05 November 2014

Hero of Montevideo: Ivo Lapenna in memoriam

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Photograph of Ivo Lapenna seated at a table

On 10 December 2014 Esperantists worldwide will be reflecting on the 60th anniversary of the Montevideo Resolution. This resolution in support of Esperanto was passed by the General Conference of UNESCO in Montevideo, Uruguay, on 10 December 1954, and authorised the Director-General “to follow current developments in the use of Esperanto in education, science and culture, and, to this end, to co-operate with the Universal Esperanto Association in matters concerning both organizations”. The Montevideo Resolution would not have been possible without enormous efforts by a great enthusiast for the international language, Ivo Lapenna (photo above with kind permission from the Lapenna Foundation). 

The conference in Montevideo produced poems about its heroes and anti-heroes in Esperanto (by William Auld, Kalman Kalocsay, Reto Rosetti, Marjorie Boulton  and Geraldo Mattos). Photographs from the conference  and poems about it are to be found here. The “anti-hero of Montevideo” - Danish philologist Andreas Blinkenberg, who opposed the acceptance of the resolution -  lives on forever  in Esperanto poetry and spoken language (blinkenbergo).

Ivo Lapenna was born on 5 November 1909. A native of Split (then the part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), he received a very good education and in 1933 gained his PhD in Law in Zagreb and later became a professor of International Law at Zagreb University. During the Second World War Lapenna worked for the Resistance Forces. In 1949 he emigrated from Yugoslavia to Britain via France, became a British citizen in 1962, and worked as a professor of law in London. He was also a qualified teacher of the cello.

Photograph of Ivo Lapenna playing the celloIvo Lapenna playing cello (With kind permission from the Lapenna-Foundation)

The British Library holds books written and edited by Ivo Lapenna in various languages. The oldest of these was published in Croatian in Zagreb, then in Yugoslavia: Ujedinjene Nacije (‘The United Nations’; Zagreb, 1946; 8012.aa.23). Books about law in English followed in the 1960s: State and Law: Soviet and Yugoslav theory (London, 1964; 8184.d.47/1) and Soviet penal policy: A background book (London, 1968; X.208/864). By the time of writing the last book Ivo Lapenna held the title of “Reader in Soviet Law, London School of Economics and The School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London”.

Lapenna learned Esperanto as a teenager in 1928 and was an energetic and outspoken promoter of the language all his life. In 1955 he became General Secretary of the Universala Esperanto Asocio (UEA/World Esperanto Association) and between 1964 and 1974 served as its President. He was not re-elected during the 59th World Congress of Esperanto  in Hamburg in 1974, which created a lot of friction among Esperantists. Lapenna himself called the events in Hamburg “the communist putsch”. His colourful and complicated personality continues to provoke discussions in the Esperanto world up to the present day. Although Esperanto was planned by Zamenhof as a “neutral language” for all, the World Esperanto Association was functioning in the real world, and during the Cold War tensions among various national Esperanto associations sometimes rose very high. Even the article about Ivo Lapenna in the Esperanto-language Wikipedia (Vikipedio)  gives a warning about the “non-neutrality of the article”.  

There are, however, a few things that all Esperantists do agree about Lapenna: he was an outstanding orator and the first author of a book about the art of oratory in Esperanto. His Retoriko (‘Oratory’; Paris, 1950) was republished several times (the British Library holds the second and third editions: Rotterdam, 1958; X5/5240 and Rotterdam, 1971; YF.2011.a.24046).  

Some of Ivo Lapenna's books from the British Library collection

Most of the books written and compiled by Lapenna, among them the monumental encyclopedic work (written in collaboration with Ulrich Lins and Tazio Carlevaro) Esperanto en perspektivo: faktoj kaj analizoj pri la internacia lingvo (‘Esperanto in Perspective: Facts and Analyses about the International Language’; London-Rotterdam, 1974;) are in Esperanto and about Esperanto. The British Library Esperanto Collections hold the following books:

Elektitaj paroladoj kaj prelegoj (‘Selected Talks and Lectures’; two editions: Rotterdam, 1966; YF.2005.a.664; and Rotterdam, 2009; YF.2010.a.877);

Kritikaj studoj defende de Esperanto (‘Critical Studies in Defence of Esperanto’; Copenhagen, 1987; YF.2006.b.2670);

Hamburgo en retrospektivo : dokumentoj kai materialoj pri la kontraŭneŭtraleca politika konspiro en UEA (‘Hamburg in retrospective: documents and materials about the anti-neutrality political conspiracy in the UEA’; 2nd edition; Copenhagen, 1977; YF.2008.a.11937);

La Internacia Lingvo: faktoj pri Esperanto (‘The International Language; Facts on Esperanto’; London, 1954; F9/8716);

Aktualaj problemoj de la nuntempa internacia vivo (‘Current Problems of Contemporary International Life’; Rotterdam, 1952; YF.2010.a.16344).

Some of his books were translated into other languages. The whole bibliography of the original works and their translations is available in: Concise Encyclopedia of the Original Literature of Esperanto  by Geoffrey Sutton (New York, 2008; YC.2008.a.12495).

After his retirement Ivo Lapenna moved to Denmark. Even the date of his death – 15 December 1987 – the year of the 100th anniversary of La Unua Libro  – is linked to the love of his life, Esperanto: Zamenhof was born on 15 December. Books and pamphlets in his memory appeared soon after his death: Memore al Ivo lapenna (‘Ivo Lapenna in Memoriam’; Copenhagen, 1988; YF.2010.a.9052);  Eseoj memore al Ivo Lapenna (Essays in memory of Ivo Lapenna; Copenhagen, 2001; awaiting shelfmark). In 1984 the Lapenna Foundation was created in Copenhagen, aiming to keep alive the memory of Ivo Lapenna’s outstanding life, to promote the international language Esperanto, and to contribute to respect for human rights worldwide.

Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto Studies

25 July 2014

Through the world a mighty voice is ringing…

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On 26 July Esperantists world-wide will celebrate Esperanto Day. On this day in 1887 the first manual of Esperanto, known as La Unua Libro, was published in Warsaw. It took the enthusiasts for a new world language 18 years to organise the first international congress in Boulogne-sur-Mer in France in 1905 (photo from Wikimedia Commons below).

Photograph of delegates at the First International Esperanto Congress seated in front of a buliding
Each year after 1905 a World Congress of Esperanto, known in Esperanto as Universala Kongreso, was held in a different country (and often  continent). On 26 July 2014 the 99th World Esperanto Congress  will open in Buenos Aires (Bonaero in Esperanto), Argentina.

The British Library holds various materials from many congresses. British Esperantists were amongst the most enthusiastic pioneers of the Esperanto movement. No wonder that the Third World Congress of Esperanto (after the second in Geneva in 1906) took place in Cambridge.   Three very remarkable men known as “La Trio por la Tria” (The Three for the Third) were in charge: Dr George Cunningham of Cambridge; Colonel John Pollen, President of the British Esperanto Association, and Mr Harold Bolingbroke Mudie, the Vice-President of the London Esperanto Club. The British Library holds a few books about this congress, amongst them  Kongresa Libro (London, 1907; 012002.eee.22) with a description of colleges and other remarkable places in Cambridge for non-British visitors, a translation of “God save the King” (“Gardu la Regon Di’!”), names of people who financially supported the congress (the sum of £1,925 was secured to guarantee the event), and a list of participants who joined the congress before July 1907 (from K.B.R. Aars from Kristiania in Norway to Mr Zinovjev el Poltava, Ukraine, then in the Russian empire). The English-language booklet The Third Esperanto Congress (London, 1907; YF.2012.a.27398) has 32 black-and-white photographic illustrations by Ian Wilson from Glasgow. The one below, captioned “At the Fitzwilliam Museum”, depicts the arrival of Zamenhof (right) and the Mayor (left).

Photograph of Zamenhof and the Mayor of Cambridge arriving at the Fitzwilliam Museum in a horse-drawn carriage
In 2005 the Universal Esperanto Association published a well-illustrated book about the history of Esperanto congresses in 1905-2005: Ziko Marcus Sikosek, Sed homoj kun homoj. Universalaj Kongresoj de Esperanto 1905-2005 (Rotterdam, 2005; YF.2006.a.30996). The title translates as  “But people with people”  and comes from Zamenhof’s  famous speech in Boulogne-sur-Mer. In 1913 the successful 9th Congress, with 1,203 participants, was held in Bern, Switzerland (see the special stamp below). The documentation from this congress, entitled Naua Universala Kongreso de Esperanto (YF.2013.a.209979), was published in 1914 in Paris.

  Commemorative stamp for the 9th Esperanto Congress with an image of a man holding a globe  with a super imposed green star
The 10th World Congress was planned for Paris and the preparations were going ahead throughout 1913-1914. More than three thousands Esperantists joined. Postcards depicting the main venue for the congress, the Palais Gaumont, were duly published. The delegates from various countries, including Dr Zamenhof and his family, all subjects of the  Russian empire,  started their journey to Paris by the end of July 1914.  Then the First World War erupted.  

Coloured postcard in purple and yellow showing landmarks of Paris Chromolith postcard for  the 1914 Congress in Paris (from Wikimedia Commons).

For the next four horrible years “a mighty voice” of hope that “all mankind at last will live as brothers” (poem “The Hope” by Zamenhof written in 1893, translated by Terry Page) was drowned by the noise of guns and human cries. Tomorrow thousands of Esperantists of all nationalities will sing again in Buenos Aires the anthem La Espero (The Hope): En la mondon venis nova sento

You can see fragments from the  Congress of Esperanto in Stokhholm  in the documentary film by Sam Green  The Universal Language.

Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto Studies

17 January 2014

A Hundred Items of Joy

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Dr Marjorie Boulton, born in 1924,  is well known to students of literature for her textbooks on literary studies: The Anatomy of Poetry (1953, BL shelfmark 11869.d.38), The Anatomy of Prose (1954, 11867.n.12), The Anatomy of Drama (1960, 11866.g.37), The Anatomy of Language  (1968, 012212.bb.1/103), The Anatomy of the Novel (1975, X.980/31289) and The Anatomy of Literary Studies (1980, 80/18342) – all published in London by Routledge & Kegan Paul. She is the author of 16 books in English.


Photograph of Marjorie Boulton

Marjorie Boulton in 1997 (Picture by Inga Johannson from Wikimedia Commons)

Yet Marjorie Boulton started out as a poet. Her first book was a collection of poems, Preliminaries (London, 1949; W28/9314, copy signed by the author). In the same year she discovered Esperanto and soon became one of the most accomplished poets in that language. She produced many books in Esperanto to the great delight of Esperanto speakers from Albania to Zimbabwe. It is no exaggeration to say that she is one the most loved and widely-read figures in the Esperanto movement. She is also very much praised by all cat-lovers for of her humorous poems and stories about these animals, such as Dekdu piedetoj (‘Twelve Little Paws’, [Stoke-on-Trent], 1964; YF.2008.a.36769).

The British Library holds 19 of her books in Esperanto: poetry, dramas, translations, lectures, textbooks, biographies. Amongst the poetry collections we find her first book Kontralte (‘In Contralto’, Tenerife, 1955; YF.2008.a.18897), Cent ĝojkantoj (‘A Hundred Songs of Joy’, Burslem,1957; 12900.c.8), Eroj kaj Aliaj Poemoj (‘Fragments and Other Poems’, Tenerife,1959; YF.2008.a.19522), Rimleteroj (‘Letters in Rhyme’,  with William Auld, Manchester, 1976; YF.2010.a.22936) and others. Marjorie Boulton also penned the biography of the creator of Esperanto:  Zamenhof: Creator of Esperanto (London, 1960; 10667.m.13).

With understandable trepidation we received a gift to the Esperanto Collections of more than 100 titles from Marjorie Boulton’s private library at the beginning of 2014. The donated books could be divided into three main categories: textbooks and dictionaries; poetry and fiction (original and translations); books for children. Some really rare items from the pioneer period of Esperanto movement will be added to our extensive collection, among them William Sol Benson’s Universala Esperantistigilo in 10 lessons (‘Universal method for making you an Esperantist’, Newark, 1925-1927, picture below by Rimma Lough) and Esperanta radikaro (‘Roots of Esperanto’, Paris, 1896) by the pioneer French Esperantist Théophile Cart, as well as Esperanta  Ŝlosilo (‘Key to Esperanto’) in Persian (Tabriz, 1930).

Copies of 'Universala Esperantistigilo'

Marjorie Boulton collected dictionaries of Esperanto in various languages. Very valuable are terminological dictionaries, which show the persistence of generations of Esperantists in their desire to develop the language in all spheres of human activity. We received various terminological dictionaries; some of them are parts of the annual publication Jarlibro de la Internacia Esperanto-Ligo (‘Yearbook of the International Esperanto League’): Aeronautika terminaro (‘Aeronautical terminology’) for 1941; Filatela terminaro (Philatelic) for 1945; Kudra kaj trika terminaro (Sewing and knitting) for 1947. Even Armea terminaro  (‘Army terminology’, Rickmansworth, 1940) and Militista vortareto (‘Military dictionary’, Paris, 1955) found their way into Marjorie Boulton’s library.

Connoisseurs of original poetry and fiction in Esperanto will be delighted by the addition to our collections of the poetry collection Dekdu poetoj (‘Twelve poets’, Budapest, 1934) and by the availability in the very near future of original poetry in Esperanto written in many countries, such as, for example, the poetry collection Spektro (‘Spectrum’, Tirano, 1992) by an Albanian Esperanto poet, Enkela Xhamaj, or a short story by V. Zavyalov, published in Saratov (Russia) in 1915.

Bright, colourful books for children come from China. These were all published by Ĉina Esperanto-Eldonejo (Chinese Esperanto-Publishers) in the 1980s (picture below). In addition you will be able to read the famous adventures of Tintin in Esperanto: La Aventuroj de Tinĉjo. La Nigra insulo (Esperantix, 1987).

Covers of Esperanto children's books


The donation (a tiny part of the Dr Boulton’s large private library) provides a small glimpse into her life as a fervent collector of books. It would  be appropriate to finish my blog about this valuable acquisition by quoting fragments of Marjorie Boulton’s own poem Riĉeco (‘Richness,’ translated by D. B. Gregor) in which she marvels at the variety of human experiences and richness of every human being:

To understand another life, we’d need
To live again at least a second span,
And even then our knowledge but deludes.
If only we could know, could know indeed!
Our puny knowledge does not more than scan
The richness of mankind’s vicissitudes.


A hundred thanks for a hundred delightful items!


Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto Studies

13 December 2013

From the Parnassus of the Peoples

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 As the year 2013 numbers its last days in the calendar, I would like to say a few words about a very special anniversary not widely known. Yet it should be commemorated and cherished as a great manifestation of human spirit and hope, and especially remembered on 15 December – the birthday of L.L. Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto, also celebrated worldwide as Esperanto Book Day.

Antoni_GrabowskiPHOTO-OKThe book to be celebrated today was published 100 years ago by the great idealist, polyglot and prolific translator Antoni Grabowski (1857-1921, portrait (right) from Wikimedia Commons).  Antoni Grabowski was a chemical engineer and the author of the first Polish chemical dictionary Słownik chemiczny (1906). He is known as “the father of Esperanto poetry”, although his main contribution to the development of literary language in Esperanto was his work as a translator. Modern writers, such as the prolific Icelandic Esperanto poet Baldur Ragnarsson, trace their fascination with Esperanto poetry to Antoni Grabowski.

I wonder how often you would find poems by Thomas Moore, Richard Wagner, Paul Verlaine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Aleksandr Pushkin, Taras Shevchenko, Adam Mickiewicz, Sandor Petofi – to name just a few – under one cover ? Not often, I guess. Antoni Grabowski, prominent Polish pioneer of Esperanto, achieved precisely this: he united them all in a book called El Parnaso de Popoloj (‘From the Parnassus of the Peoples’). He himself translated 116 poems, from 30 languages, into a language itself only 26 years old. The modest-looking book was published in Warsaw in 1913 (BL shelfmarks: 1913 edition:F5/3998; facsimile reprint from 1983 YF.2008.a.112020)

Grabowski-tablica-OK

Memorial plaque to Antoni Grabowski in Wroclaw (from Wikimedia Commons)

Do people still write poetry in Esperanto? Yes, they do. As soon as the new language was created and the first manual published in 1887  it started to inspire poetical souls in many nations. And it never ceased to inspire. Another interesting phenomenon is now observed worldwide: poetry originally written in Esperanto is more and more translated into other, “proper” languages. I came back in October from Kolomea not only with love and admiration for this small Galician town full of history and culture, but with a lovely book entitled Verda Antologio. Part 1. Poezio ('Green Anthology, part 1. Poetry'; awaiting shelfmark), published in Ukraine in 2013. For the first time this anthology presents to readers 33 Esperanto poets (including Antoni Grabowski, of course) from the 19th-21st centuries in Ukrainian translations.

How to celebrate Esperanto Book Day? Here are just a few  suggestions: by reading some poetry in Esperanto (the first collection of Esperanto poetry, edited by Antoni Grabowski, La liro de la Esperantistoj [The Esperantists’ Lyre] (1893), has been digitised by the Austrian National Library  or by listening to the original poem by Antoni Grabowski on YouTube.

During the terrible years of World War One in Warsaw Antoni Grabowski, ill and separated from his family, survived by translating the Polish epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz Pan Tadeusz (1834).

SinjoroTadeo1955ILLUSTATRATION-OK

Illustration by Andriolli  from an edition of Sinjoro Tadeo (Warsaw, 1955) 11588.r.17.

The translation Sinjoro Tadeo was first published in Warsaw in 1918 ( YF.2004.a.24909). “It profoundly influenced the style and vocabulary of later poets, and it is for this reason that Grabowski, although primarily a translator, is important for the study of early original Esperanto literature, both poetry and prose,” writes Geoffrey Sutton. On Esperanto Book Day the first stanza of Sinjoro Tadeo addressed by Mickiewicz to his homeland Litwa (translated into English as Litva or more often Lithuania, to describe the historical region in Eastern Europe) resounds in my mind:

Litvo! Patrujo mia! simila al sano;
Vian grandan valoron ekkonas litvano
Vin perdinte. Belecon vian mi admiras,
Vidas ĝin kaj priskribas, ĉar hejmen sopiras.

Litva! My country, like art thou to health,
For how to prize thee he alone can tell
Who has lost thee. I behold thy beauty now
In full adornment, and I sign of it
Because I long for thee.

(English translation by Maude Ashurst Biggs. From Master Thaddeus, or The Last foray in Lithuania (London, 1885) 11585.cc.18)

Further reading:
Banet-Fornalowa, Zofia. Antoni Grabowski: eminenta Esperanto-aganto (Warsaw, 2001) YF.2006.a.29512
Sutton, Geoffrey. Concise Encyclopedia of the Original Literature of Esperanto 1887-2007. (New York, 2008). YC.2008.a.12495


Olga Kerziouk, Curator Esperanto Studies