Writer, born on the 19th of August 1909 in Warsaw, (then part of the Russian Empire) - died on the 19th of April 1983.
He graduated from the Jan Zamoyski Gymnazjum in Warsaw in 1927 (after which the student passed a centrally administreted baccalauréat exam). He studied Polish language and literature at the University of Warsaw without taking a degree. Andrzejewski made his début with the short story Wobec czyjegoś życia / In Relation to sombody's Life - also known as - The Lie or Lying published in the daily "ABC" (1932). From 1935-1937 he was literary and drama critic for the literary weekly "Prosto z mostu" ("Straight out" also "Straight from the Shoulder") (1938). In 1936 he joined Trade Union of Polish Writers (ZZLP).
During the Second World War he was an active member of the Resistance movement in Warsaw and was a plenipotentiary of the Polish Government in Exile. After the war he became one of the leading literary personalities in People's Poland; he moved to Krakow, where he collaborated on the publications "Odrodzenie" ("Renaissance") (1945-48) and "Kuźnica" ("The Forge") (1945-1949). From 1946-1947 he was the Chairman of the Krakow Section of the Polish Writers' Union (ZLP). In 1948 he moved to Szczecin and worked for the Polish Committee of the Defenders of Peace and Polish-Soviet Friendship Society. From 1949-1952 he was the Chairman of Szczecin Section of the Polish Writers' Union; in 1950 he joined the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) and was decorated with the Order of the Banner of Labour, 1st Class. From 1952 to 1954 Andrzejewski was editor of the leading cultural weekly "Przeglad Kulturalny" and from 1952 was also a member of the Polish parliament.
Between 1955 and 1956 he had the honour of editing the high-caliber monthly literary magazine "Twórczość" ("Creative Work") and he contributed to the weekly "Nowa Kultura" (1955-1962). Andrzejewski remained a member of the Party until 1957, and resigned when the planned magazine "Europa" was closed on Party instructions. In 1959 he was elected Chairman of the Warsaw Section of the Polish Writers' Union. He worked on the weekly "Polityka". In March 1964 along with another 34 eminent writers and scientists, he signed an open letter "List 34" ( Letter of the Thirty-Four) to the governing Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR), asking for changes in cultural politics, specifically for greater freedom of expression in writing and a reduction of censorship. They demanded the rights guaranteed them under the Polish Constitution. In 1968 in an open letter to Edward Goldstucker, the Chairman of the Czechoslovak Writers' Union, he apologised for Poland's part in the invasion. He also protested against Polish military aggression, which led to a ban on his work. In 1968 he received The Jurzykowski Foundation Prize in New York. From 1969 he was a member of the Polish PEN-Club. In 1972 he published extracts from his memoirs in a column of the weekly literary journal "Literatura" ("Literature").
In January 1976 he was a signatory on the "Memorial 101" document which protested against changes in the Polish Constitution. He also became one of the co-founders of the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). In July 1976 he wrote a "Message to the Victimized Participants of the Workers' Protest" which was published in "Kultura" and widely publicised, in which he comforted the workers and expressed solidarity with them. From 1977 to 1981 he co-edited the independent literary quarterly "Zapis", publishing dissident writers who had been banned under censorship. In 1981 he gave weekly lectures to the students of Institute of Polish Language at the University of Warsaw.
Andrzejewski's first work was a volume of short stories Drogi nieuniknione / Unavoidable Roads (also Inescapable Routes). His characters were a direct response to the crisis of world economic depression of the 1930's. He concentrated on philosophical and aesthetic spheres of life and the sociology of poverty. The stories abound with naturalistic and brutal descriptions: his language reflecting the ugliness of the world. This pessimistic creation is juxtaposed with a moral message - the only hope for human beings is to act ethically, to love and to do good.
This volume was followed by Ład serca / Heart's Harmony [also Mode of the Heart - Czesław Miłosz] dealing with the influence on the writer of Roman Catholism and in which he tried to find solutions to the problems of contemporary life. It is about ruinous passions, the power of evil and the power of God's grace. Its' protagonist is a Polish priest from a village beset by disaster and crime, who tries to help and in so doing is put to the test. This novel labelled Catholic Humanism and won him critical recognition as a Catholic writer.
During the German occupation, Andrzejewski was in Warsaw writing short stories about the defeat and Nazi occupation in 1939. All these novels deal with the subject of human extremes. They were published in the volume Noc / The Night.
When he lost faithin the decisions of the Polish Government in Exile he co-wrote the tragic-farce with Jerzy Zagórski, Święto Winkelrida / Winkelrid's Holiday concerned with the son of Swiss national hero.
In 1946 he began work on his most famous novel, Popiól i diament / Ashes and Diamonds [the title alludes to a poem by Cyprian Nowid]. It began with the story of an honourable lawyer, who in a Nazi concentration camp was the most hated kapo but who after the war tried to find his place in society. Andrzejewski painted a post-war Polish panorama. His hero, Maciek Chelmicki, a young, ex-soldier of the underground Home Army, would like to erasehis now condemned past and return to a normal life. Maciek agrees to accept one last order: to kill the local district secretary of the Communist Party, in order to buyhis freedom. The novel has a two-fold ambition: to capture the chaotic reality of Poland in 1945 and to focus on how a human being chooses to act when confronted with a moment of truth - as Czeslaw Milosz discussed in "The History of Polish Literature". Published in 1948 Ashes and Diamonds [which had originally appeared under the title Zaraz po wojnie / Right after the War in serial form in "Odrodzenie" throughout 1947] was at once hugely successful.
Andrzejewski's Ashes and Diamonds is important for what it reveals openly, for what it doesn't talk about at all and for the ambigious place it occupies in the literary and political debate of those years.
Andrzejewski was accused of distorting history; seizing power in post-war Poland by communist without any objection from the society and also Home Army as elements who undermined the social order. Reviewers of the left wing "Kuźnica" bear Andrzejewski a grudge for not making a simple and plain ideological message. The character Maciek Chelmicki although likeable, had no optimistic vision for Poland's future. Andrzejewski received criticism at the fourth congress of the ZLP in Szczecin which he openly espoused Marxism. In 1950 he published Notatka / Note where he went through a process of self-criticism and dissociated himself from the past, condemned himself for his faults and said that deep conversion led him to Marxist world view. He was one of the first writers to propagate Socialist Realism publicly.
His attempt to practice what he preached can be seen in a satirical novel Wojna skuteczna / An effective War [also as A succesful War or an Account of the Battles and Sorties against Snobs] but it was rather a failure.
In 1954 he revised Ashes and Diamonds, moving the novel closer to the Party line: class conflict in society and new Party language - "nowomowa". This modified version was reprinted for many years. Interestingly, at the same time, in 1954, he worked on Złoty lis / The Golden Fox published in 1955, which included the story Narcyz / Narcissus about the opportunism of the artist.
In 1955 he started to write the novel Ciemności kryją ziemię / Darkness covers the earth [known in its English translation as The Inquisitors], based on Medieval Spain, a philosophical parable of the autocratic rule and genesis of totalitarian ideology. By this time he had moved towards a more or less open criticism of the government, and in so doing reconciled himself with the past. The Inquisitors is the brilliant manoeuvre of personalized ideas.
In 1958 Andrzejewski wrote the third version of Ashes and Diamonds for the screen-play of Andrzej Wajda's film starring Zbigniew Cybulski as Maciek Chelmicki. Through the film it became his most famous work both in the west and in Poland. In 1959 he published Niby gaj / A kind of Copse and in 1960 he wrote Bramy raju / The Gates of Paradise, undoubtedly one of his best novels. Set in the thirteenth century, the theme of this allegorical novel is the Children's Crusade to the Holy Land. Along the way the young pilgrims confess their sins to the elderly cleric accompanying them, and he discovers why each of the pilgrims has joined the Crusade - because of love - but not as one would expect, spiritual love, but carnal love. The critics showed that the novel gave a new and ironic insight into the nature of idealism and it discrediting the idea that people take united action. In 1963 he published the stream-of-consciousness style Idzie skacząc po górach / He cometh leaping upon the Mountains [Its American version is entitled A Sitter for the Satyr] about a French, Picasso-like painter who in his old age believes he has lost his creativity but returns to painting after the stimulation of young love and energy. The artist is sovereign, devoted to his work and immune to outside pressure.
In the sixties Andrzejewski started writing Miazga / The Pulp. It was written and rewritten over the long period until his death. Described as "the most important book written in Poland since the end of the war", it depicted a panorama of Polish society, and the changing fortunes of the intelligentsia. Inventive composition of The Pulp is open; in the novel, journalism and fiction interweave to form the plot - first Polish postmodernist novel. The monthly "Twórczość" published a long part of the novel in 1966. A new version was finished in 1970 and then published in 1979 by NOWA the underground publishing house. The official, much shorter, version was published in 1981 in Poland almost ten years after it had been finished. In London the final version was oficially published in 1992. The Pulp did not make a big impression on critics. It is open to various interpretations but has not withstood the test of time very well.
After the war Andrzejewski's prolific output of novels, plays, short stories and articles gained him a leading position among Polish writers. He has been ambiguous, adopting various and at times contradictory attitudes to ideological systems in his quest to understand the ethical nature of humanity.
Author: Bartłomiej Szleszyński, Department of Polish Philology, University of Warsaw, June 2003.
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