From the start, Tadeusz Borowski’s poetry indicated that he was a writer of rare talent. The piercing imagery, emotional intensity, and sheer lyrical power of his verses showed that there could be poetry not only after Auschwitz but also within Auschwitz. While his career as a poet was both short and not particularly prolific (for understandable reasons), his distinctive and despairing voice has caused his poetry not only to survive but also to grow in stature over the years.
Borowski’s reputation, however, especially outside Poland, rests more on his short fiction. The two small collections of stories that appeared in 1948 convey both the concentration camps and the immediate postwar world in a wholly unexpected manner. They relate the horrors from the perspective of a prisoner who has learned to do what is necessary to survive and who does not attempt to impose any notions of right or wrong about the individual acts of those caught up within the system. The narrator’s eerie emotional detachment does not soften the picture of the war and its aftermath, but instead conveys the brutality with an immediacy that makes the stories unforgettable.