Tadeusz Konwicki 1926–
Polish novelist, short story writer, filmmaker, and journalist.
Konwicki has emerged as a leading literary figure in post-World War II Poland. His work reflects the grim realities of modern Polish life, including the devastating effects and lingering memories of the war and the subsequent Communist domination. Critics have especially praised Konwicki's analysis of what he has termed "the Polish complex," which he develops through characters who are bored with the present, foresee a bleak future, and are haunted by both the romantic idealism and the tragic events of the Polish past. Konwicki assesses Polish history as a series of failed attempts to gain freedom and independence. Because his writings and films project such dismal images of life in Poland, Konwicki has had difficulty having some of his work produced.
Konwicki gained critical acclaim in Poland for his initial works of socialist-realist fiction. With Rojsty, written in the late 1940s but not published until 1956 when state-imposed restrictions on literary content were gradually eased, Konwicki abandoned socialist-realist literature, primarily because of its tendency to portray the triumph of Communism. A satire, Rojsty depicts a young man who desperately wants to become a hero but who dies anonymously while attempting to impede the Soviet invasion of Poland. Konwicki later won international recognition with Sennik współczesny (1963; A Dreambook for Our Time), whose protagonist Oldster, a tormented survivor of World War II, struggles to endure his bleak, godless existence. Based on a theme of Joseph Conrad's, "we live as we dream—alone," Dreambook is related by flashbacks to past experiences through the blurred perception of Oldster. Nightmarish episodes and a reliance on inner monologue give the novel a surrealistic quality. Czesław Miłosz spoke for many critics by calling Dreambook "a major literary sensation." Some critics, however, have found the novel nihilistic and incapable of arousing sympathy.
As with Dreambook, Konwicki won critical acclaim in the West with Kompleks Polski (1977; The Polish Complex), a novel which was officially banned in Poland. The novel portrays a group of Poles waiting in line for a shipment of gold rings from Russia; the people represent various types of Polish personalities and their situations reflect the state of life in contemporary Poland. Critics have found the novel to be a powerful statement on the degrading effects of totalitarian government and a poignant analysis of the Polish condition. The image of the Poles waiting for gold has been read as symbolic of the Polish people anticipating the deliverance of their idealized homeland. The historical digressions in the novel, including accounts of failed uprisings in the past, reveal an unending cycle of thwarted ambitions. Most critics agree that The Polish Complex features Konwicki's finest literary qualities—a skillful use of surrealist techniques, distinctive Polish character types, and an ability to reveal the role of history in shaping the modern Polish psyche.
(See also CLC, Vol. 8 and Contemporary Authors, Vol. 101.)