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Henryk Grynberg

Henryk Grynberg, photo: Elżbieta Lempp
Henryk Grynberg, photo: Elżbieta Lempp

A novelist and short-story writer, poet, playwright and essayist who has won many prestigious literary awards and is the author of more than twenty books, this chronicler of the fate of the Polish Jews was born on July 4, 1936.

Henryk Grynberg and his mother were the only survivors from their whole, large family. He spent the years 1942-1944 in hiding places and on 'Aryan papers'. After the war, he lived in Łódź and Warsaw. He became an actor in the State Jewish Theatre company in Warsaw; he defected while the company was touring the USA in 1967, and he has lived in America ever since.

Scena z przedstawienia "Matka Courage i jej dzieci", 1967. Na zdjęciu: Estera Kowalska i Henryk Grynberg., fot. Franciszek Myszkowski/Teatr Żydowski im. Estery Racheli i Idy Kamińskich
Scene from the performance Mother Courage and her Children, 1967. In the photograph: Estera Kowalska and Henryk Grynberg, photo: Franciszek Myszkowski/Jewish Theatre in Warsaw

Grynberg published his first story in 1959; it was later included in his debut collection, The 'Antigone' Crew (1963). In the works that he published in Poland, as in those that he was able to publish as an emigré (without worrying about the censor), he told the stories of those who died during the war and of those who survived to live afterwards in Łódź, Warsaw, or New York, struggling to come to terms with their own memory and with the fact that others did not remember. As one of his protagonists asks: 'How can people live when everything that made life worth living is dead?' This is also the principal theme of his poems, which combine to make up the long lament of a survivor who lives to cultivate the memory of those who were murdered, who becomes a 'keeper of the graves' in a world infested with nihilism and materialism, a world increasingly indifferent to the fate of the victims.

Grynberg makes abundant use of biographical and autobiographical material. His Jewish protagonists are usually the narrators, but their personal experiences have a metaphorical dimension and are usually supplemented by the experiences of other 'survivors'. Grynberg's books are short and written in a scrupulously economical language where both sarcasm and lyricism sometimes appear. Each new book is a further record of the fates of people who have been saved from oblivion by the writer in the conviction that doing so is not only the duty of literature towards the victims of the Holocaust, but also a confirmation of the sanctity of human life itself.

Selected Bibliography

  • Żydowska wojna (The Jewish War) (novel). Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1965.
  • Zwycięstwo (Victory) (novel). Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1969.
  • Antynostalgia (Anti-Nostalgia) (poems). London: Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy, 1971.
  • Życie ideologiczne (Ideological Life) (novel). London: Polonia Book Fund, 1975.
  • Życie Osobiste (Personal Life) (novel). London: Polonia Book Fund, 1975.
  • Wiersze z Ameryki (Poems from America) (poems). London: Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy, 1980.
  • Życie codzienne i artystyczne (Everyday and Artistic Life). (novel). Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1980.
  • Prawda nieartystyczna (The Non-Artistic Truth) (essays). Berlin: Wydawnictwo Archipelag, 1984.
  • Szkice rodzinne (Family Sketches) (stories). Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1990.
  • Wróciłem (I Have Returned) (poems 1964-1989). Warsaw: PIW, 1991.
  • Kadisz (Kaddish) (novel). Krakow: Znak, 1992.
  • Dziedzictwo (Heritage) (prose). London: Aneks, 1993.
  • Dzieci Syjonu (Children of Zion). Warsaw: Karta, 1994.
  • Rysuję w pamięci (Sketching in Memory) (poems). Poznań: a5, 1995.
  • Drohobycz, Drohobycz (stories). Warsaw: W.A.B., 1997.
  • Ojczyzna (Motherland) (stories). Warsaw: W.A.B., 1999.
  • Memorbuch. Warsaw: W.A.B., 2000 (more...).
  • Szmuglerzy (Smugglers) (with Jan Kostański). Warsaw: Twój Styl, 2001 (more...).

Selected translations

  • Czech:Zidovska valka. Vitezstvi (Żydowska wojna i Zwycięstwo), Prague: Aurora, 1996.
  • Dutch:De Joodse Oorlog (Żydowska wojna), Utrecht: Bruna & Zoon, 1968.
  • English:Child of the Shadows (Żydowska wojna), London: Vallentine, Mitchell, 1969.The Victory (Zwycięstwo), Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1993.Children of Zion (Dzieci Syjonu), Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1997.Drohobycz, Drohobycz. Penguin USA, 2002
  • French:California Kaddish (Kadisz). Paris: Edition Balland, 1991.La Guerre des juifs (Żydowska wojna i Zwycięstwo). Paris: Balland, 1994.
  • German:Die jÜdische Krieg (Żydowska wojna). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1972.Kinder Zions (Children of Zion). Leipzig: Reclam, 1995.Kalifornisches Kaddisch (Kadisz). Frankfurt: Neue Kritik, 1993.Drohobycz, Drohobycz. Zsolnay, 2000.
  • Hebrew:Hamilhama Hayehudit (Żydowska wojna), Tel Aviv: Sifriath Poalim, 1968.Yaldey Tsiyon (Dzieci Syjonu), Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1995.
  • Italian:La guerra degli ebrei (Żydowska wojna), Rome: Edizioni E/O, 1992.Ritratti di famiglia (Szkice rodzinne), Florence: Giuntina, 1994.

Source:; copyright: Stowarzyszenie Willa Decjusza.

Grynberg's book Uchodźcy ("Refugees"), published in 2004, has been nominated for the 2005 Nike Literary Award.
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Henryk Grynberg


In the introduction to "Smugglers", Henryk Grynberg writes that he spent a long time searching for what he found in Kostanski's memoirs: the total identification of a non-Jew, a Polish Christian, with the fate of an exterminated people. Grynberg and Kostanski's narrative reads almost like an official report; full of significant allusions, it is emotionally discreet.Read more »

The book tells the life of Adam Bromberg, a famous publisher and in fact the founder of modern Polish publishing, supported by his own memories as well as those of the people close to him...Read more »