Tadeusz Różewicz and Modern Identity in Poland since the Second World War
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As Andrzej Mencwel observed, “as a result of fundamental historical changes” the need arises for “restructuring of the whole present memory and tradition system” (Rodzinna Europa po raz pierwszy). Changes of such significance took place in Poland during the Second World War and several following decades. Collective experience of that time was made up of – apart from political antagonisms – social and cultural phenomena such as change of elites, reinterpretation of their grand narratives (or symbolic world), the ultimate inclusion of the masses into the national project based on the post-gentry tradition and national history, the intensive development of urban lifestyle and the expansion of popular culture, industrialization and the process of forming a single-nationality state that diverted from the politics of domination over eastern neighbors and, instead, focused on developing the so-called Polish Western and Northern Lands. Tadeusz Różewicz’s work referred to these experiences on both the intellectual and biographical level. Comparing Juliusz Mieroszewski’s political journalism with Tadeusz Różewicz’s works, Andrzej Mencwel stressed its unique relationship of the author of Niepokój. According to him, both writers were writing as though “they had truly experienced the end of the world” (Przedwiośnie czy potop. Studium postaw polskich w XX wieku). In the afterword to the German anthology of Różewicz’s works, Karl Dedecius mentioned “Stunde Null” (“hour zero”) as the founding experience of his writing. It was this experience that induced him to undertake the challenge of attempting a new collective and national as well as individual self-identification, searching for a radically new way of thinking and writing about man, and verifying the essential components of his identity. Andrzej Walicki called this urge “the catastrophism after a catastrophe”, explaining that “once the catastrophe took place, a ca- tastrophist acknowledging its inevitability must think about ‘a new beginning’, about determining his own place in a new world” (Zniewolony umysł po latach). Hanna Gosk specifies that “it gave rise to situations when the necessity of discovering one’s place in new geographical, social, axiological and world-view-related environment urged self-identification” (Bohater swoich czasów. Postać literacka w powojennej prozie polskiej o tematyce współczesnej). It must be stressed that the need for re-establishing the sense of identity, resulting from a major crisis, was by no means limited to the postwar artistic and political elites. On the contrary, due to social changes and democratization of the access to national culture, it concerned more than ever in the past the “everyman” who did not belong to one class solely: the intelligentsia, bourgeoisie, peasantry, or proletariat but, most often, represented multiple social rooting. Tadeusz Różewicz, alongside with writers such as Tadeusz Borowski, Marek Hłasko or Miron Białoszewski, made the “Polish everyman” (Tadeusz Drewnowski) the central figure of his work. This study discusses the modern identity of an individual in Poland in two variants: a cultured man with traditions and an ordinary, transitional, temporal, or “new”, man. By adopting the narrativist approach, identity can be described through its articulations in culture, for example in literary texts. Analyzing methods of modern identification and self-awareness throughout this book, I try to prove that prose works of the author of Śmierć w starych dekoracjach present an extensive, interesting and diverse material in the matter. When necessary, I refer also to his dramatic works and poetry, especially to some longer poems published after 1989. The author’s most important prose works have so far been written in the first 30-year period starting from his debut volume of partisan novellas, notes and humorous sketches Echa leśne mimeographed in 1944. While focusing on this period, I also analyze later works published in collections Nasz starszy brat and Matka odchodzi published in the last decade of the 20th century, although written at an earlier date. Różewicz’s prose works analyzed here were published predominantly in the threevolume edition of Utwory zebrane in 2003/2004, in the reportage collection entitled Kartki z Węgier (1953) as well as in the collection of newspapers features, letters and notes – written in the 60s. and 70s. in most cases – entitled Margines, ale… (2010). I also make use of the earlier editions of his works, containing prose works not included in Utwory zebrane, for example, from the volume Opadły liście z drzew, as well as of some narratives published in journals and anthologies. Conversations with the writer published in Wbrew sobie. Rozmowy z Tadeuszem Różewiczem (2011) and his letters to Jerzy and Zofia Nowosielscy included in Korespondencja comprise an auxiliary material. What specifically draws my attention in Tadeusz Różewicz’s prose? I read his works in the context of identity narratives manifest in culture and historical-biographical stories. The questions then arise about their formative influence on an individual: what within them presents a reference for the “self ” seeking identification? When and how does individual experience take on an intersubjective meaning? Under what circumstances is it expressed in the public sphere? Have new identification patterns emerged in the Polish modernity, and if so, then what fields and phenomena of the 20th century culture or history have taken on such model significance? How and where were boundaries drawn be tween what is individual in an identity of a person speaking and thinking in Polish on the one hand, and, on the other, what is collective? What has been considered native in this identity, and what alien – for exam¬ple Western, bourgeois, communist, German, Jewish, non-normative in terms of religion or sexuality – and in what way has cultural “otherness” been constructed at that time? Trying to answer these questions, I refer to categories of cultural anthropology such as symbolic universe, collective memory, autobiographical identity, body and space in culture, as well as to notions from the social sciences – interpersonal relationship, public discourse and communicative community. To put it simply, using these categories I try to describe the most important narrative forms and topics of Różewicz’s prose that allow the writer to address and express in a liter¬ary form identity problems faced by an individual and the community. I also attempt to analyze the very proces through which Różewicz devel¬ops his own unique identity narratives as well as the evolution of narra¬tive conventions of his literary work. Reading Różewicz’s works in this manner and organizing chapters of this book from the ones presenting public identity (displayed publicly and codified in ideology or aesthetic) to the ones presenting private identity, I put an especial emphasis on some issues related to cultural studies and social communication. Ac¬cording to the reconstruction model, I assume that even private experi¬ences shape one’s identity through culture and language. In Różewicz’s narratives I describe and compare both more collective and more indi-vidual premises for constructing identity. The criterion for differentiating between these premises is determined by the narrativist approach adopt¬ed in this book. An individual’s identity (even autobiographical one) is created and expressed within the existing culture and public sphere, and for this reason I am interested in history of ideas, in social relationships, symbols and role models, changes of customs and everyday life which left a distinct impression on literary, political or historical narratives. Reading these narratives, I make use of the following authors: Jan Assmann, Jean Baudrillard, Zygmunt Bauman, Ernst Cassirer, Michel Foucault, Marc Fumaroli, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jerzy Jedlicki, Anthony Giddens, Iz¬abela Kowalczyk, Philippe Lejeune, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Stanisław Ossowski, Ewa Rewers, Paul Ricoeur, Richard Rorty, Elżbieta Rybicka, Richard Shusterman, Georg Simmel, Jerzy Szacki, Magdalena Środa, Charles Taylor, Nikodem Bończa Tomaszewski, Christian Vandendorpe, Anna Wieczorkiewicz. I rely on their reconstruction of social-historical background of modern identity presented by these authors as well as on language used by them. The book structure results from the overlapping, or even conflict, of two research objectives. My task is to analyze the most important prem¬ises and forms of identity in Różewicz’s prose, and I describe them in separate chapters as problems of culture, literature and history of ideas as well as models and social projects. It is my wish that all these perspectives make up a coherent identity narrative of man of the second half of the 20th century – a “biographical” case study. The study covers the pro¬cess of political empowerment of an individual; his/her participation in democratized mass culture; his/her attitude towards collective memory, towards Polish and European cultural community; experiencing of body, sexuality and everyday existence; emotional and social relationship with space; and, finally, an autobiographical identity which I reconstruct as a transitional and provisional “whole”. One of the most significant issues covered in the book is the western orientation of Polish collective identity in the 20th century, related to the modernization of Central Europe and the postwar division of the continent by the Iron Curtain, which created in Poland a phantom idea of the West, as well as to the shifted borders of the Polish state to the territories by the Odra river and the Baltic Sea, to polonization of former German lands, and, finally, to historical and polit¬ical discourse legitimizing this transfer of territories. Tadeusz Różewicz as a travelling writer and journalist has relentlessly problematized the relationship between Europe and its Polish idea; as a resident in Gliwice and Wrocław, not only has he described – since the trip down the Odra river on a fishing boat from Koźle to Szczecin in 1947 – symbolic colonization of the post- German Nadodrze, but also artistically diagnosed the birth of the new individual and social identity of the inhabitants of this border area, with its clashing narratives of history, biography and national literature alongside the overlapping traces of different cultures and traditions. Writing about Różewicz’s man in this book, I clearly do not mean the writer himself. It is obvious that among many convictions and attitudes that the author of Sobowtór manifests, there are some of which he is fond, and there are others of which he is not. I do not disregard his views voiced in non-fiction narratives and public speeches, yet I am mostly interested in experience, world view and self-comprehension of his literary persona and literary hero presented or partially derived from an idea of man and of community in his texts. Analyzing Różewicz’s works, I therefore distinguish between his self-evident journalistic approach and his humanistic reflection which is a result of a philosophical or literary presentation of identity problems an individual faces. I read his prose as an element of a public discourse and at the same time as an indirect – formulated in fictional, intimate or notebook narratives – criticism of social reality and European culture in the 20th century. In most cases, I leave open questions such as whether or not Różewicz was or is committed to a specific political project; whether or not he is a modern man in different meanings of this notion; whether or not his personal identity coincides with identity narratives in his books. Finding an answer to these questions is not a purpose of this book. It is, distinctively, the problem of Tadeusz Różewicz’s intellectual commitment to modern culture, literature and history and a problem of the writer’s role in creative and critical understanding of them that I find more interesting and important.
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