Louis Michael Iribarne

We mourn the sudden passing of Louis Michael Iribarne, born in San Francisco in September 1940, died in Victoria, British Columbia, on December 5, 2020.  A writer, translator and professor, he was above all a man devoted to family. Beloved husband of 56 years, Louis is survived by his wife Thekla and two children Lucien and Jeanne (with partner Thom). He had a close and joyous relationship with his two grandchildren, Felix and Freya.  Though separated by distance, Louis’s sister Maxine and brother Richard remained in his thoughts, as well as his niece and nephews.

Born to a Basque shepherd and a feisty Australian, Louis worked his way through university, beginning at the University of Notre Dame, Stanford University, and finishing with a Ph.D. in Slavic literatures from the University of California (Berkeley). There, he met the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz and translated several of his major works into English. In addition to Miłosz, Louis translated the works of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Witold Gombrowicz, and the science fiction writer Stanisław Lem.  He was devoted to translating, always seeking to convey the spirit and energy of the original, and to teaching young people. For many years, he was a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. He also leaves behind his own many works, including a trilogy of novels, Yokohama, never fully finished to his own exacting standards.

We remember him best aboard his canoe and kayak on the open waters, free and full of vitality, ready for adventure.  In lieu of flowers, donations to Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF Canada (Doctors without Borders) are gratefully accepted.

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Condolence Messages

  1. My deepest condolences to Thekla and family on Louis’s passing.

  2. Prof. Iribarne was always my favourite professor at the U of T
    Teacher + guider of the mind expanding Polish Film Studies course
    Which determined that i must also take his Russian Film course
    i was one of those young people he taught – and transformed
    Thekla, Lucien + Jeanne
    so sorry. stay strong.

  3. Dear Thekla, Lucien & Jeanne & family, I send my love to you all during this sad time of grief! Louis was a vibrant soul with a curiosity & enthusiasm & energy for everything he did in Life! ! He made me seem slow… & I live in overdrive. I always admired his passion for nature & music & his pride & adoration for all of you! My fondest memories of him were listening to him singing along with his Italian Opera during a lovely dinner served by you, Thekla! It was pure live entertainment, of the best kind. His energy was sooo invigorating. I also enjoyed hiking with him & Lucien…. & wondered how to keep up with him. He was so fit & strong & flew up the mountain like he had owned it! I learned something from him, in every conversation. You are the most beautiful family & I’m sorry for your loss! He leaves behind .., quite the legacy. I can see & hear him teaching others on the other side in the heavenly realm. He was a “larger than life personality“ & missed his calling in Hollywood… a real treat to know. That photo of him captures HIS SPIRIT PERFECTLY. His body has passed but his ENERGY WILL BE ALL AROUND YOU! You are all in my thoughts & heart, NOW & ALWAYS! 💙Thank you Louis & Thekla for the gift of Lucien & Jeanne to the world & to me. They are the coolest most awesome people … the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! 😇🙏

  4. Dear Lucien , I am so very sorry to hear of the passing of your father. Having read his obituary, I see why you are the wonderful man that I came to know over the years that you were in our lives. He lived a full and exciting life and I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers as your mourn his passing.
    Sincerely, Sharon( Carol’s sister)!

  5. Dear Lucien and family,

    Please accept our deepest condolences on the passing of your father. On behalf of Jim and our family, we hope your treasured memories will sustain you during these difficult days of loss.

    Peace to your hearts,
    Therese Bowler ( Carol’s sister)

  6. My condolences to my amazing friend Lucien and his family. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Iribane but I want to say I am so priviledged to be his son’s good friend. Mr. Iribane, you raised amazing children and your son has been a rock for me since the day we met. Rest In Peace Mr. Iribane.

  7. I am heartbroken to learn of your loss. Lucien and family – you are in my prayers as you navigate the deep waters of grief. I know you will find comfort in your sweet memories and in the love which surrounds you.

  8. Louis was my M.A. thesis advisor in 1990-91, and we’d been in contact periodically since then, last around 2012 when I was involved in some events arount the Miłosz centennial and was doing what I could to convince a few potential publishers to keep _Insatiability_ in print. I’d guess that that translation influenced my decision to study Polish literature more than anything. I was thinking of getting in touch again to talk about Miłosz, when I stumbled upon his obituary.

    I posted this remembrance on my Facebook page—

    I was saddened to learn this morning of the passing of translator, scholar, and friend, Louis Iribarne on December 5, 2020. Louis supervised my M.A. thesis on Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) at the University of Toronto in 1990-91.

    Louis Iribarne was one of very few people who wrote a doctoral dissertation under Czesław Miłosz at U.C. Berkeley—a study and complete translation of Witkacy’s great experimental novel, _Insatiability_. Translation-based dissertations were very unusual at that time, but translation was a passion of both Miłosz and Iribarne, and the department accepted it. The dissertation was published with a condensed version of the study and the full translation by University of Illinois Press, and he published a second edition of the translation with Northwestern University Press.

    Some of Louis Iribarne’s other translations include Czesław Miłosz’s _The Land of Ulro_ and _The Issa Valley_; Witold Gombrowicz’s plays, _The Marriage_ and _Operetta_; _Tales of Pirx the Pilot_, _More Tales of Pirx the Pilot_, and _The Chain of Chance_ by Stanisław Lem. He also translated a few works of Bruno Schulz with an introduction that appeared in the journal, _Cross Currents_ in 1987.

    Louis Iribarne retired from the Slavic Department at the University of Toronto in 1998 and moved out to British Columbia to spend more time canoeing. When we were last in touch around 9 years ago, he’d been working on an enormous novel involving conflicts such as the San Francisco dock workers’ strike and student protests at Berkeley.

    Aside from Louis’ translation of _Insatiability_, one of my favorites has always been this translation with Australian poet David Brooks of Czesław Miłosz’s poem, “Campo dei Fiori.”


    My deepest condolences to Thekla, Lucien, Jeanne, and to Louis’ family

  9. Tamara Trojanowska

    My heartfelt condolences to Louis’s family. He impacted my life in ways more than one. He was one of the first people I visited on the U of T campus after landing in Canada in September of 1987. I was fortunate to have him as a member of my Ph.D. committee (and consequently as both a sharp and generous reader of my work), never imagining that I would be stepping into his shoes in the Slavic Department when he retired in 1998. These were very big shoes to fill! I will always cherish the memory of entering his office with his library intact and the notes for his courses left for me to use. I am profoundly sorry to learn about his passing.

  10. Marie Therese Mallet

    Toutes nos sincères condoléances à Teckla ,à ses deux enfants et petits-enfants.
    Nous sommes ses cousins du Pays Basque, en France.
    Mikaël aimait beaucoup la famille de son père, il avait passé d’agréables vacances ,à deux reprises, chez nous.
    Nous sommes très tristes. Nous pensons beaucoup à vous. Maite et ses deux soeurs Iribarne

  11. I am shocked and saddened to learn of Louis Iribarne’s death. I took many courses with him as both and undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Toronto. For a time he was my Ph.D. dissertation advisor. I have so many vivid and pleasant memories of him. My condolences to Tekla and his children.

  12. I am saddened to learn of Prof. Iribarne’s passing. Although I never directly studied with him as a graduate student at the University of Toronto, I have clear memories of his vitality and positive spirit. In particular, I remember a talk he gave about translating Czeslaw Milosz’s novel The Issa Valley. Some of his observations have stayed with me and continue to inform my own practice of translation. My deepest condolences to his family.

  13. To add to my condolences above, I have started a new video series on Polish literature and Tamara Trojanowska was a guest on our first program, and we have decided to dedicate this first episode of “Encounters with Polish Literature” to Louis’ memory. He and his translations are mentioned a few times in the discussion and receives a memorial credit at the end. The episode may be seen at https://youtu.be/Te3cJnew1CI

  14. Many years ago, I also had the wonderful good fortune of taking 2 courses with Prof. Iribarne – both Polish and Russian cinema. He was an extraordinary teacher, filled with passion that spread throughout the class to all the students! I have never forgotten him or his wonderful enthusiasm. Thanks to him, I saw many unique films that shone a light on history and culture that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. Over the years, I have thought of him often. Sending condolences to his family and friends.

  15. I am so sorry to learn of the passing of Louis Iribarne. Though I didn’t know him well, I remember him vividly. One particular memory I have is when film scholar David Bordwell, who had just published a book on Eisenstein, came to UofT and we constructed a roundtable to discuss the director and the book. I recall Professor Bordwell being so taken with the erudition of Professor Iribarne; he told me as much after the roundtable. Louis had that way of impressing people, not by intellectual grandstanding, but simply letting his expansive knowledge shine through. He will be missed by former students and colleagues alike.

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