Tadeusz Różewicz Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

When Tadeusz Róewicz’s plays began appearing in the early 1960’s, he was already a famous and prolific poet—one of the most influential of the postwar period in Polish literature—as well as a short-story writer. His poetry, prose, and drama are all interconnected. Róewicz himself has stated that some of his poems are minidramas, written in preparation for his plays. Thus, The Card Index is clearly related to the famous poem “Ocalony” (1947; “The Survivor,” 1976). Similarly, The Witnesses seems to have developed from the poem Zielona róa (1961; Green Rose, 1982). His first two volumes of lyrics, Niepokój (1947; Unease, 1980) and Czerwona rn kawiczka (1948; the red glove), are funeral laments over those who perished in World War II, laments expressed through a new kind of “antipoetic” poetry. Volumes of the late 1960’s, such as Twarz trzecia (1968; the third face) and especially Regio (1969), contain new elements of an existential and philosophical nature.

Like his poetry, Róewicz’s prose is concerned with psychological analysis. A recurring theme is the contrast between the moral and spiritual emptiness of the present and the horror of wartime and occupation. This theme appears in the title story of a collection of five stories, Wycieczka do muzeum (1966; an excursion to a museum). Róewicz’s most important piece of fiction is his novel mier w starych dekoracjach (1970; death amid old stage props), which exhibits a traditional Polish theme of the hero who travels outside his native land and discovers himself in the process of his encounter with the West.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Tadeusz Róewicz is considered one of the most outstanding and influential twentieth century Polish playwrights. Together with his younger colleague, Sawomir Mroek, Róewicz has been perhaps the postwar Polish playwright best known abroad. Most important, three of his major dramas have been acknowledged as contemporary classics: The Card Index, The Witnesses, and The Old Woman Broods. In postwar Polish poetry, Róewicz has been considered a renewer of poetic expression through his use of simple, colloquial, and even harsh words, as well as his emphasis on the themes of the horror of war and the corruption of human values. By the time he turned to drama in the 1960’s, Róewicz had established a new kind of “antipoetic” poetry and had become the spokesperson for the wartime and postwar experiences of an entire generation.

Róewicz has regularly upset critics and audiences because of his constant exploration of dramatic form. He has refused to remain identified with any one type of drama. Róewicz himself has said that he considers all of his work to be a continuous polemic with contemporary theater. Although some of his early plays have been described as employing a “collage technique” or as having an “open form” (a phrase coined by Róewicz himself), neither of these categories applies to all of his dramas. Nevertheless, certain aesthetic and ethical constants seem to exist in Róewicz’s dramaturgy. His plays...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Baranczak, Stanislaw, and Clare Cavanagh, eds. and trans. Polish Poetry of the Last Two Decades of Communist Rule: Spoiling Cannibals’ Fun. Foreword by Helen Vendler. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991. Baranczak’s masterful translations offer a sampling of Cold-War-era poems from an oppressed people. Bibliography, index.

Contoski, Victor. Introduction to Unease, by Tadeusz Róewicz. St. Paul, Minn.: New Rivers Press, 1980. Contoski’s introduction provides some biographical and historical background.

Czerniawski, Adam, ed. The Mature Laurel: Essays on Modern Polish Poetry. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour, 1991. More than three hundred pages addresses contemporary Polish poetry, placing Róewicz’s work in context. Bibliography, index.

Filipowicz, Halina. A Laboratory of Impure Forms: The Plays of Tadeusz Rózewicz. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Although it focuses on his drama, this monograph offers important context for understanding Róewicz’s writing in general. Bibliographical references, index.

Gömöri, Georg. Magnetic Poles: Essays on Modern Polish and Comparative Literature. London: Polish Cultural Foundation, 2000. A brief (163-page) overview of Polish literature today and its foundations. Bibliography, index of names.

Hirsch, Edward. “After the End of the World.” The American Poetry Review 26, no. 2 (March/April, 1997): 9-12. Focusing on the works of Polish poets Zbigniew Herbert, Tadeusz Róewicz and Wisawa Szymborska, Hirsch reveals how their post-World War II poetry is similarly haunted by guilt. He has found that the major poets of post-war Poland share a distrust of rhetoric, of false sentiments and words.

Sokoloski, Richard. Introduction to Forms in Relief and Other Works: A Bilingual Edition, by R. Ottawa: Legas, 1994. Offers useful insights into Róewicz’s poetics.

Sokoloski, Richard. “Modern Polish Verse Structures: Reemergence of the Line in the Poetry of Tadeusz Róewicz.” Canadian Slavonic Papers 37, nos. 3/4 (September, 1995): 431-453. The general evolution of verse forms in modern Polish poetry is reexamined in order to distinguish certain modifications formulated by Róewicz.