Tadeusz Konwicki Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Tadeusz Konwicki (kawn-VIHK-ih) launched his literary career with Przy budowie (1950), an example of the “fact literature” wedged between fiction and journalism that was characteristic of Socialist Realism of the late 1940’s and the early 1950’s. At this early stage of his career, he also published two more books, each of which can be defined as a long short story.

After the publication of his novel Wadza, however, he devoted himself to longer genres, among which the novel occupies the central place. It should be noted, though, that his later novels lean more and more toward a peculiar kind of fiction bordering on nonfiction, in whichnarrative sections are interspersed with essayistic ones. (This blend of fiction and essay has been increasingly popular among Polish prose writers.) Two of his books published in the 1970’s and the 1980’s, Kalendarz i klepsydra (1976; the calendar and the hourglass) and Wschody i zachody księyca (1982; Moonrise, Moonset, 1987), should be classified as nonfiction, since their core consists of the writer’s diary; the diaristic notation of events serves, however, merely as a starting point for essayistic reflection and narrative anecdote.

Konwicki is also a prolific screenwriter and a director in his own right. In addition to screenplays written for other directors, he has written and directed four films—Ostatni dzie lata (1958; the last day of summer), Zaduszki (1961; Halloween), Salto (1965), Jak daleko stąd, jak blisko (1971; how far it is, and yet how near)—each of which was a much-discussed event in modern Polish cinema; scripts for these movies have been published in book form. Konwicki returned to the cinema after a ten-year absence to direct Dolina Issy (the Issa Valley), which he adapted from Czesaw Miosz’s novel of the same title.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The publication of A Dreambook for Our Time in 1963 marked the moment when Tadeusz Konwicki became universally considered one of the most prominent novelists of postwar Poland. This novel, having met with rave reviews in Poland, was soon translated into several foreign languages and established Konwicki’s international renown. A period of relative relaxation in the cultural policies of the Polish regime, initiated in 1956 and continued throughout the early 1960’s, made it possible for the writer to enjoy, at least for a while, both a wide readership and tolerance on the part of the authorities; he was even awarded a few state prizes for his novels and films. After the mid-1960’s, however, Konwicki, increasingly disappointed with the theory and practice of communism, experienced a growing number of censorship troubles and gradually assumed a dissident stance. After a state publisher’s attempt to censor extensive parts of his novel The Polish Complex in 1977, the writer decided to publish his book beyond the reach of censorship, as a special issue of the underground journal Zapis.

Konwicki’s next novel, A Minor Apocalypse, was written from the start with the same method of publishing in mind. Despite their underground beginnings, both novels are undoubtedly the most widely known to date among Konwicki’s books, both in Poland and abroad; critical opinion views them as controversial but highly original and revealing reflections of Polish reality in the 1970’s. Among Konwicki’s earlier novels, Wniebowstąpienie (ascension) and The Anthropos-Specter-Beast in particular, although less known in the West, enjoy a high reputation among Polish critics and readers.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Coates, Paul. “Shifting Borders: Konwicki, Zanussi, and the Ideology of ‘East-Central Europe.’” Canadian Slavonic Papers 42 (March-June, 2000): 87-98. Discusses Konwicki’s film How Far from Here—How Near?

Miosz, Czesaw. The History of Polish Literature. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. A good overview.

Mozejko, Edward. “Models of Represented Reality in the Prose of Tadeusz Konwicki.” Canadian Slavonic Papers 39 (September-December, 1997): 487-495. Discusses the nature of “reality” in Konwicki’s fiction.

Review of Contemporary Fiction 14 (Fall, 1994). A special Konwicki issue that contains articles by Dorata Sobieska, Gary Gildner, Edward Mozejko, and Maria Janion and Karen Kovacik (coauthors).

Rostropowicz, Joanna. Introduction to The Polish Complex, by Tadeusz Konwicki. Translated by Richard Lourie. New York: Penguin, 1984. Provides background to and analysis of Konwicki’s work.

Tighe, Carl. The Politics of Literature: Poland, 1945-1989. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1999. Discusses Konwicki as a novelist who challenges authority; also provides context for his literary career.

Tighe, Carl. “Tadeusz Konwicki’s A Minor Apocalypse.” Modern Language Review 91 (January, 1996): 159-174. Although primarily focused on an analysis of Konwicki’s novel, this article also provides a great deal of personal background about the author in discussing the relationship between his life and the plot.