Poland Literature

According to sourcemakeup, the optimistic and unscrupulous vitalism that characterized Polish poetry in the 1920-30s was soon contrasted by a greater need for reflection, a sense of uncertainty and a more demanding search for the purposes of life (in the face of the joy of life of the “scamandrites” ); at the same time the lively, sparkling, discursive style of Tuwim or Słonimski was replaced, also in adherence to Western examples, by the tendency towards greater conciseness and density of expression, and above all the desire to re-evaluate the autonomy of speech and its metaphorical meanings. At first the reaction to what was, or seemed to be, selfish light-heartedness, seemed to be wholly centralized in the poetic movement of the “avant-garde” which was based in Krakow and led by Tadeusz Peiper (born in 1891); in reality it was much larger and anything but exclusively linked to literary churches. And, of course, similar premises yielded quite different results. Among the poets who were close to Peiper emerged Julian Przyboś (born in 1901), Jalu Kurek (1904), Adam Ważyk (1905). The poetry of the former, always intent on limiting himself to what is essential, soon resulted in a hermeticism at times actually full of dynamic vigor; the second brought Futurism with it from Italy and remained entangled in it for a long time; Ważyk, on the other hand, although willing to follow the lure of surrealism, went ever closer to classical forms. Freed from its purely literary aspects, this movement and other similar ones revealed the affirmation of a new consciousness that was no longer content with reflecting life, but he presumed to direct it, and that therefore he also placed the accent on the social problem. However, this does not mean that the greatest and most combative representative of “proletarian” poetry, Władysław Broniewski (see in this App.), Always maintained his own poetic and ideological independence; and Mieczyslaw Jastrun (see in this App.) also remained rather independent, who was soon revealed as the most genuine poetic talent to emerge from the labor of those years.

In prose these innovative tendencies and revolutionary ambitions are even less sensitive. First of all, all the writers who had previously established themselves continue their activities in full: W. Berent (historical tales: Nurt, Corrente, 1934 and Diogenes w kontuszu, Diogenes with the Polish mantle, 1937); J. Kaden Bandrowski (Mateusz Bigda, 1933); Zofia Nalkowska (Granica, Limite, 1935); J. Wiktor (Wierzby nad Sekwan ą, Willows on the Seine, 1933) and others. Not a few are those who give their best in this period: Z. Nowakowski (Rubikon, 1935); J. Parandowski Niebo w plomieniach, The sky in flames, 1936); H. Naglerowa (Krauzowie i hymns, The Kraus family et al, 1936); J. Wittlin who, until then almost exclusively a poet, published his masterpiece in 1935 (Sól ziemi 1935, tr. It. Salt of the earth, 1939). Finally, we must add a series of young narrators of which M. Choromański (Zazdro ść medycyna, Jealousy and medicine, 1932) has been translated into many languages; M. Kuncewiczowa (see in this App.) Achieved great success with the novel Cudoziemka (La straniera, 1935); Poland Gojawiczyń ska (born in 1898) established herself with the short story Dziewcz ę ta z Nowolipek (The girls of N., 1935) and H. Boguszewska with Cale ẓ ycie Sabiny (The whole life of S., 1934). The fruit of several generations, this rich narrative has no common characteristics that counter-distinguish it. It prevails to dwell on a minute psychological analysis. There is no need to speak of a social tendency in the pre-war novel. The novel Kordian i cham (K. and the plebeian, 1932) by L. Kruczkowski (see in this App.), Which had clearly posed the problem of the peasants, did not find, apart from some very young ones, worthy followers.

The events of September 1939 suddenly stopped all cultural activity. But the interruption doesn’t last long. The clandestine organization does not neglect cultural needs. In addition to the organization of schools of all levels, this is ensured by the illegal press, including periodicals expressly dedicated to art and literature, poetic anthologies and even some novels. Better, even if still difficult, are the cultural conditions of those Poles who stay abroad during the war years, and create different cultural homes there: in France, England, Russia, Palestine, Italy and America. The literary harvest of these centers offers great interest not only for the circumstances in which it was collected, but also for its intrinsic value. Suffice it to mention the poems of A. Słonimski, K. Wierzyński, M. Pawlikowska, I. Baliński; the historical novel Srebrne orly (Silver Eagles) by T. Parnicki (Jerusalem, 1944-5), the war reports by Ks. Pruszyński (see in this App.), And by A. Fiedler (on the Polish aviators who defended London in 1940: Dywyzjon 303,1942, which had three clandestine editions in Poland), and finally the various interesting anthologies of the poems of the combatants (Nasze granice w Monte Cassino, Le nostra frontiere a Monte Casino, Rome 1945).

After the liberation of Poland, literary activity resumed with an elementary impetuosity. The public is thirsty for reading and the writers are waiting for the possibility of giving birth to what they have long prepared, or are quickly finishing. A very short distance from the expulsion of the Germans, numerous magazines are already appearing in Krakow, Łódź and soon also in Warsaw (the most important is Twórczo ść, Creation, edited by K. Wyka) and literary weeklies, the first volumes of short stories and even some collections of poems. Directly or indirectly, everything that is published concerns the fate of the years that have just passed. The matter is all hot with grief, regret, suffering, victorious affirmations. The limits between art and document are hardly noticeable. The painful narratives of life in concentration camps are certainly not simple documents (S. Szmaglewska, Dymy nad Birkenau, Fumo su B., 1946), nor are the works on resistance by well-known writers pure art (Z. Nałkowska, Medaliony, 1947 ; Poland Gojawiczyńska, Krata, Inferriata, 1945). The most interesting and valuable works belong to a group of young writers who have best been able to reconcile the needs of art with realistic documentation. I mean: the stories Noc (Notte, 1946) by J. Andrzejewski (see in this App.) And Z kraju milczenia (From the country of silence, 1946) by W. Żukrowski (b. In 1916); the moving representation of the heroic destiny of Warsaw by K. Brandys (Miasto niepokonane, La città invitta, 1946); the stories (see the Szekspir collection, 1948), in which A. Rudnicki investigates the fate of the Jews with warm humanity, and finally the novel Droga do domu (The road leading to the house, 1946) which, even for its construction, differs more from the simple representation of lived facts. The postulate of a “new realism”, advanced even before the war and now repeatedly proposed, appears superfluous in the face of these tales that are impregnated with reality even where they seem fantastic. On the other hand, some works conform to it that revive the political and social ferments of the last years of the pre-war periodMury Jerycha (The walls of Jericho, 1946) by T. Breza (see in this App.) And Rzeczywysto ść (Reality, 1947) by J. Putrament (b. 1910). Above all contemporary narrators he continues to rise for the classic sharpness of his visions and his style J. Iwaszkiewicz (see the first Appendix): Stara cegielnia, The old brick kiln, 1946; Nowa milo ść. The new love, 1946; Nowele w łoskie, Italian short stories, 1947.

More than in the prose, the relations with pre-war literature appear sensitive in the lyric. The poets have overcome the five-year storm with their own physiognomy basically unchanged, but with a deeper and richer experience of life and art. This applies not only to the three best poets among young people (on the other hand we must not forget that even the now very old L. Staff is still in the breach): M. Jastrun (Rzecz ludzka, Human Thing, 1946), A. Ważyk (Wiersze wybrane, Selected Verses, 1947) and Cz. Miłosz (Ocalenie, Salvezza, 1945), but also for a spirit as bizarre and unequal as KJ Galczyński (see in this App.).

In the drama the strong gap between the high level of performances continues to surprise (not only a large part of the pre-war theaters soon started operating again – even in Warsaw it was completely renovated, thanks to A. Szyfman, the “Polish Theater” – but now the number of permanent theaters is much higher than that of the pre-war period) and the very scarce original production.

In fact, there is little to mention: a comedy (Dwa Teatry, Due theaters) by J. Szaniawski which for thirty years has represented a large part of Polish theater on its own; an interesting drama about Rembrandt (Powrót syna marnotrawnego, The return of the prodigal son, 1947) by R. Brandstetter; Rozdro ż e mi łosci (The crossroads of love, 1946) by J. Zawieyski.

Poland Literature

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