Mass for the Imprisoned

Should this be an offering for my imprisoned let it be in an improper place low very low without marble music gold incense white best at a clay pit beneath an unruly willow when rain turns to sleet …

Monologue on Rakowiecka Street

Introductory Note: On April 13, 1985 the Warsaw police arrested Czeslaw Bielecki, one of the most talented young Polish writers. They were unusually brutal and as a result Bielecki was immediately put in a prison hospital. At first he was accused of “activities on behalf of a hostile foreign organization,” …

Voice of Exile

The Land of Ulro opens with a warning: “Dear Reader, this book was not intended for you, and I feel you should be forewarned before you enter its bizarre tangle.” It was conceived, the author tells us, as “an act of perfect freedom,” the “personal whim” of a writer who …

The Revenge of the Mortal Hand

Of the poetic voices to come out of Poland after 1945 Wislawa Szymborska’s is probably the most elusive as well as the most distinctive. She defies the usual categories (“classicist,” “political”) used to describe writers on the Polish postwar literary scene. Moreover, she is isolated both in her writing and …

The Polish Wake

When in 1977 a group of Polish dissidents managed to establish a semiclandestine publishing network called “Nowa,” Tadeusz Konwicki was one of the first writers to send them a manuscript—his new novel The Polish Complex, now published in English translation. This book, soon followed by Konwicki’s The Little Apocalypse,[^*] became …