Polish Literature 4

After 1989 – between continuity and change

The separation of Poland from the Soviet sphere of influence and the transition to democracy and a market economy in 1989 brought Polish literature, similar to the literatures of other states of the former Eastern Bloc, the final elimination of censorship and political and ideological constraints. With the achievement of full sovereignty in Poland, according to aristmarketing, a cultural practice that had existed since the Romantic era, in which literature served as a vehicle for the national idea and transported values ​​such as freedom, independence and national solidarity, became superfluous. On the one hand, this gave Polish literature new opportunities to develop, but at the same time the question of its importance in a diversifying and rapidly changing society arose.

The magazine “brulion” founded in 1987 (1987-1999; German: “grease book”) achieved great importance for a young generation of authors. Eclectic in form, anarchic in tone and ideologically unspecified, it expressly opposed any mission of literature. In addition, it reacted to the changed market conditions and advertised its authors, sometimes scandalous, in radio and television programs. Her main focus was on poetry, but essay writing, prose, dramatic forms, reviews, interviews and commentaries also found their way into the magazine. As a mirror of increasing social diversification, »brulion« also offered space for subcultural phenomena such as feminism, techno music, graffiti art and New Age. From the mid-1990s onwards, it withdrew to an increasingly conservative social and political stance and ceased its publication in 1999. The published authors include the poets Jakub Ekier (* 1962), Marcin Baran (* 1963), Jacek Podsiadło (* 1964), Marcin Sendecki (* 1967). Other important impulses for Polish poetry come from the hermetic texts by Andrzej Sosnowski (* 1959), which are rich in original metaphors, the poems by Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki (* 1962), which take up elements of Polish baroque poetry, and the minimalist poetry Krystyna Miłobędzkas (* 1932) which only became known to a wide audience around the year 2000.

Since the 1990s, there has been a tendency in prose towards literature from the “little homeland”. In particular, Danzig (Paweł Huelle, Stefan Chwin) and Breslau (Marek Krajewski) with their German cultural heritage became central locations. Detective novels by authors such as Katarzyna Bonda (* 1977), Gaja Grzegorzewska (* 1980), Remigiusz Mróz (* 1987) soon became popular with the public. The debut novel of the 19-year-old Dorota Masłowska in 2002 became an enormous success with audiences and critics, »Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną« (German »Schneeweiß und Russenrot«). Often misinterpreted as a jargon-heavy portrait of subcultures in metropolitan high-rise estates, the novel turns out to be a linguistically finely crafted grotesque on closer inspection. Masłowska’s debut paved the way for other young authors such as Michał Witkowski (* 1975), whose novel »Lubiewo« (2007; German »Lubiewo«) describes the gay milieu in Wroclaw in the 1970s and 1980s, Mirosław Nahacz (* 1984, † 2007) with his intoxicating adolescent novels (“Bombel”, 2004; German “Bombel”) or Sylwia Chutnik (* 1979), which is often assigned to feminist literature (»Kieszonkowy atlas kobiet«, 2008; German »Weibskram«). Since the 1990s, Olga Tokarczuk has developed into a formative figure. Her texts are inspired by the analytical psychology CG Jung and have been repeated with magical realismLatin America compared. Conventional time- and spatial planning broken through and myth, (Polish and European) history and the fantastic stand side by side on an equal footing. The Nobel Committee certified Tokarczuk’s works a passion for “crossing boundaries as a way of life”.

This passion is also inherent in Andrzej Stasiuk’s texts. They describe, often in the form of travel reports, border and peripheral areas of Poland and Europe. In contrast to traveling through space and time works Tokarczuk remain Stasiuk texts but always the observation of the present obligation (“Opowieści galicyjskie,” 1995; German “Galician Tales”; jointly with the Ukrainian author * Yuri Andrukhovych (1960) wrote “Moja Europa “, 2000; German” Mein Europa “;” Dojczland “, 2007; German” Dojczland “). Fantasy literature is one of the most popular genres. Andrzej Sapkowski deserves special mentionwith his five-part novel »Saga o Wiedźminie« (1994–1999; German »Witcher Saga«) and »Trylogia husycka« (2002–2006; German »Narrenturm-Trilogie«), in which the story of the Hussite Wars is enriched with fantasy elements. While Sapkowski describes fantasy worlds, Jacek Dukaj’s (* 1974) novels often immerse themselves in Polish history of the 20th century: “Wroniec” (2009), for example, is set against the background of the martial law proclaimed in Poland in December 1981.

Even beyond fantasy, dealing with one’s own history is a recurring motif, whereby topics are often taken up that were officially taboo in communist Poland. So settled Szczepan Twardoch (* 1979), his novels in the interwar period and discussed among others the Polish anti-Semitism ( “Krol”, 2017; German “The Boxer”) and questions of national identity of Silesians (“Morfina,” 2012; German »morphine «). Another popular topic is the exile to Siberia (Zbigniew Domino, * 1929, † 2019; Andrzej Czcibor-Piotrowski, * 1931; † 2014). Alternative historical novels such as Dukajs are also widely used »Lód« (2007), which tells an alternative history of Poland (and Europe) from 1908–1924, Łukasz Orbitowski (* 1977) »Widma« (2012) on the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 or Ziemowit Szczerek (* 1978) »Rzeczpospolita zwycięska «(2012), about a course of the Second World War that deviated from the real events.

Literary (travel) reportage is traditionally well represented. Wojciech Tochmans (* 1969) texts about Africa, Jacek Hugo-Bader’s (* 1957) reports from his trips to Russia or Lidia Ostałowskas (* 1954; † 2018) reports on ethnic minorities, subcultures and the fate of women in Poland in the 1990s and 2000s in the tradition of the texts by Hanna Krall and Ryszard Kapuściński, two Polish pioneers of the genre, which are also widely read abroad.

For the theater, the turning point and the dissolution of established structures initially meant a crisis. Organizational and financial problems meant that numerous theaters resorted to a classic repertoire of Polish and international authors and current stage works from Poland were rarely performed. The production of stage texts also turned out to be correspondingly low in the 1990s. This only changed from 2000 onwards with the increasing consolidation of the Polish theater landscape. Many of the theater texts that have been written since 2000 show a tendency towards current, socially and politically relevant topics. One of the outstanding figures is Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk (* 1964) whose work is characterized by an unusual range. It contains texts about the Holocaust (»Walizka«, 2008; German »Der Koffer«) as well as about the RAF founder Ulrike Meinhof (»Śmierć człowieka wiewórki«, 2007; German »Der Tod des Eichhörnchenmenschen«) or the 1984 dated Communist State Security Service murdered Polish priest Jerzy Popiełuszko (»Popiełuszko«, 2012). Another important author is Tadeusz Słobodzianek (* 1955), whose play “Nasza klasa” (2008; German “Our class”) about the fate of the Polish-Jewish people from 1925 to our time became a theatrical event in Poland.

Polish Literature 4