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Tadeusz Konwicki

Tadeusz Konwicki

Tadeusz Konwicki was a Polish writer, screenwriter, and film director, known for his bitter novels about the devastations of war and ideology. He was born in 1926 in Nowa Wilejka, Poland (now Naujoji Vilnia, Lithuania). Konwicki’s father died when he was three, and because of his mother’s deteriorating health, he was raised by extended family members. From 1932 he went to live permanently with his great aunt and uncle in Kolonia Wileńska, in a very religious household, imbued with the atmosphere of the cult of the January 1863 Uprising. A teenager during World War II, Konwicki joined the Polish resistance movement, fighting first the occupying Nazi army and then the Soviets. In 1944 he escaped from forced labor of clearing a forest and went to work in a German army hospital. When the Vilnius Uprising broke out in July, Konwicki joined the partisan resistance. In the autumn, after a period of hiding at a farm near Vilnius, he returned once more to the partisans, which were by then anti-Bolshevik. The group hid in the woods until the end of April. In May 1945, Konwicki and a few friends used falsified documents to cross the new Polish border in order to make contact with local partisan groups, but it became impossible to keep fighting. Konwicki started to work on former German properties in Gliwice, and after a few months, he went to Cracow where he began Polish literature studies at the university. He worked as a reporter and an illustrator for newspapers and periodicals. He served on the editorial boards of leading literary magazines and followed the official Communist Party line. In the summer of 1947, he made his debut as a poet, and then, encouraged by Tadeusz Borowski and Roman Bratny, he wrote his first short story, “Corporal Koziołek and Me.” His first work, At the Construction Site (1950), won the National Prize for literature. He began a career as a filmmaker and screenwriter in 1956; his film The Last Day of Summer won the Venice Film Festival Grand Prix in 1958. By the late 1960s, he had quit the Communist Party, lost his job in the film industry, and become active in the opposition movement. Konwicki’s work is suffused with guilt and anxiety, colored by his wartime experiences and a sense of helplessness in confronting a corrupt and repressive society. He has written over twenty books. Czesław Miłosz wrote about his famous novel, A Dreambook for Our Time (1963), that it is “one of the most terrifying novels of postwar Polish literature.” Tadeusz Konwicki died in 2015 in Warsaw, at the age of eighty-eight.

 

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