Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Polish Complex marks a dramatic change from the kind of writing which first earned for Konwicki a literary reputation in Poland. In 1954, his Socialist Realist novel Wadza (power) appeared and won the State Prize for Literature. Two years later he published Rojsty (1956); marshes), a book which he had actually written in 1948 but which could not be published until censorship restrictions were eased. Rojsty points in the direction of The Polish Complex; it satirizes a young man who is trying to become a hero fighting the Soviet invasion of Poland. Rojsty marks a turning point in Konwicki’s value system; he had sided with the Communists for a time because he believed that industrialism was the wave of the future for Poland, but he became disillusioned with socialism and turned in other directions. Rojsty was the first work to show the kind of writing that would make Konwicki a major literary figure.

Sennik wspoczesny (1963; A Dreambook for Our Time, 1969) brought Konwicki an international reputation. Almost immediately it was hailed as a major literary sensation. Konwicki depicts in the book a nightmarish world of torment, fear, evil, guilt, and alienation. A terrifying book, it has a surrealistic aura and a pessimistic view of life. These qualities also obtain in The Polish Complex, which was officially banned in Poland. First published in the samizdat, the novel shows the dismal realities of everyday life in Poland—the boredom, the disillusionment, the sense of a bleak future that seems shared by everyone. What makes the book perhaps even more devastating than Konwicki’s earlier work is that the problems are not idiosyncratic; they cannot be dismissed as one person’s peculiar combination of circumstances and identity, but are endemic to the country. Furthermore, the shaping of individual character by national history is inevitable and inescapable. Thus the condemnation is all the stronger.

Konwicki’s subsequent works have continued his vivid portrayal of a grim Polish reality and strong condemnation of the moral and spiritual condition of the country through techniques of fragmentation and collage. The Polish Complex confirmed that Konwicki is a powerful and intense writer whose reputation on the international scene is well justified.