This novelist and essayist, whose work was translated into many languages, was born in Lódź in 1916. The many awards he won include the Jurzykowski (1982), Prato-Europa (1986) and Ignatio Silone (1986) Prizes. He was granted the French Order of Fine Arts and Literature in 1993. As a law student at Warsaw University before the war, he belonged to the leftist Union of Independent Socialist Youth. Because of his Jewish origins, he spent the war years on "Aryan papers" in Warsaw and Krakow. Soon after the war, he settled in Warsaw. When Martial Law was declared in Poland in 1981, he decided to remain in Paris, where he was staying at the time. He died in 2000 in France.
Brandys was the author of Citizens, a tale of the victorious Polish revolution and probably the best Polish novel written according to the dictates of socialist realism. His four-volume Between the Wars novel cycle (Samson, Antigone, Troy: Open City and Man Does Not Die), a panorama of the fate of the Polish intelligentsia from the 1930s through the early 1950s, won many major state prizes. His 1957 Mother of the Kings was a novel about a working-class family, both builders and victims of the Stalinist system, headed by a maternal archetype - a Polish Mother of Sorrows. The book marked Brandys as a herald of the coming political thaw. Brandys was associated afterwards with the liberal wing of the Polish intelligentsia, and since the 1970s with the democratic opposition. He recounted the fates and portrayed the characters of the intelligentsia. Brandys's work resists any sort of overall formula. The novelist/chronicler meets the storyteller in the short story collections Romanticism and How to be Loved and Other Stories. Brandys also confronts the issue of fiction-making in his occupation novel Rondo, which tells of a fictitious clandestine group which the narrator of the novel creates during the Occupation in order to protect the woman he loves (a flaming patriot) from the dangers of true resistance activity. In the end, the fictitious resistance group leads to real sabotage, death and imprisonment.
Yet Brandys was also an intellectual, as well as a chronicler and storyteller. This can be seen in his essay collections, Letters to Mrs. Z, Ways of Being, The Joker, and The Marketplace, in Months, and in his most recent work of retrospective prose, Remembered, in which Brandys wrote once again about his childhood, the discovery of his Jewish origins, the people and events of the war years, and contemporary literature.
Although he was a great stylistic master, Brandys avoided avant-garde writing strategies; the strength of his elegant and fragile prose was the fact that, even in the chronicle mode, it grappled with the subjective and the individual. Months, for example, was a record of the experiences and state of mind of a Central/Eastern European writer who became a dissident and then an emigré - yet it was also a highly successful literary treatment of a marriage. It told the story of the love and the tempestuous union between two people who met as teenagers, in secondary school. The puzzling and capricious nature of history, politics, and romance (including the romance of literature) were Brandys's constant themes.
"For me, there have really been only two subjects from the very beginning. First, when and how reality becomes a tale, and a tale becomes reality. Second, whether or not and to what degree one can create one's own destiny, Providence and History notwithstanding." (Kazimierz Brandys)
Memoirs, Journals, Essays:
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