Like the majority of Polish writers of his generation, Tadeusz Konwicki went through a period of “mistakes and misjudgments” in his Stalinist youth before he was able to find a more authentic voice of his own. When he entered the literary arena in 1946, however, he brought with him the burden of his past—his experience of fighting Soviet troops in a home army guerrilla unit—which he had to repudiate in a painfully self-denying way in order to reconcile himself with the new political reality. This inner moral conflict caused Konwicki to lead a double life as a writer during the immediate postwar years: While publishing propagandistic literature and reportage, he was secretly writing a novel about his guerrilla experience. He was able to publish that novel, Rojsty, eight years after its completion. The year 1956—the year of the famous “thaw” in Polish political and cultural life—marked Konwicki’s authentic debut; since that time, he remained true to his underlying obsessions and recurring themes.
The constant subject of his novels is the reality of contemporary Poland, but reality seen in a highly subjective way, through the eyes of an individual who obsessively confronts it with his personal memories and with what he knows about his country’s historical past. Moreover, a characteristic device of Konwicki is his frequent use of a first-person narrator who does not fully belong to the reality he describes; thus, his primary task...
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