Tadeusz Konwicki: A Personal View

Part of the Studies in Russia and East Europe book series (SREE)


When I arrived in Lublin, in Eastern Poland, in 1976, a British Council lecturer, I knew I had come ‘home’, it was so much like my past. Thirty years earlier I had literally come home to England from India, to a huge cold army house in the home counties, which my father, then Quarter-Master Captain, had secured for us by whatever means. It had dry rot and a damp shrubbery, huge icicles hung from the gutters, and I immediately got severe bronchitis because, the doctor said, India had ‘thinned my blood’. But I made friends quickly, and loved the big rooms and the lawn I could ride round on my bike. There was still rationing and there were soldiers all over the place. Coming ‘home’ to Lublin in 1976, a city where I was to spend the next three years, a city I had never seen before but which seemed to me to express, in its quiet way, the essence of central Europe, I found uniformed soldiers in the streets, rationing, long queues, people muffled in rather shabby winter clothes, and a flat with a surreal gas cooker with taps which fell off instantly at the slightest touch. There were electric sockets trailing out of the walls and ceiling, and a bath that took three years to empty. It was October, and a cold wind was blowing from the East. It has been blowing, for me, ever since.


Personal View Polish Complex Christmas Tree Lunatic Asylum Polish History 
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  1. 1.
    Tadeusz Konwicki, tr. David Welsh, A Dreambook for Our Time (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976, rep. 1983).Google Scholar
  2. 1a.
    Tr. Richard Lourie, The Polish Complex (Harmondsworth: Penguin books, 1984).Google Scholar
  3. 1b.
    Tr. Richard Lourie, A Minor Apocalypse (London: Faber and Faber, 1988). The dates of the Polish editions (Sennik współczesny, Kompleks polski, Mała apokalipsa) are 1963, 1977, 1979 respectively; and of the first editions in English 1969, 1982, and 1983. A Dreambook for Our Time has an introduction by Leszek Kołakowski; The Polish Complex, by Joanna Rostropowicz Clark; and A Minor Apocalypse, by Richard Lourie.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Tadeusz Konwicki, Salto (Zespół Kadr, 1965), starring Zbigniew Cybulski and Marta Lipińska. The film is mainly the fantasy of the protagonist, one of the many ‘returners’ coming ‘home’ after the War: though at the very end of the film we are offered a different, more plausible explanation for his bizarre behaviour. Never overtly political, Konwicki’s film is a devastating critique of the surreal ‘dance’ (‘Salto’) of postwar Poland to a tune called by others.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Charles Baudelaire, La Vie Antérieure, in Charles Baudelaire, Oeuvres Complétes (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1968, p. 51). Baudelaire’s exoticism is here at its most extreme: but the last line makes clear his tormented, Konwickian relationship with memory and desire: he invokes ‘Le secret douloureux qui me faisait languir.’Google Scholar
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    T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, in The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot, London: Faber and Faber, 1969, p. 78.Google Scholar
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    Sir William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity, London: Chatto and Windus, 1973, p. 25.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    ‘Skaz’ is a term from the Russian Formalist theoreticians, denoting the textual use of pseudo-oral narrative devices. Cf. Vladimir Mayakovsky (tr. G. M. Hyde), How are Verses Made? The Bristol Press, Bristol, 1990, p. 107.Google Scholar
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    Sylvia Plath, Daddy, in Ariel, Faber, London, 1965.Google Scholar
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    Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969, andGoogle Scholar
  11. 19a.
    Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1961.Google Scholar

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© School of Slavonic and East European Studies 1992

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