Prose writer, author of radio dramas, screenwriter for television and film, playwright and feature writer. Nom de plume Maciej Jordan. Born in Warsaw, December 26, 1935
His parents were Henryk Orłoś, a forestry researcher and Seweryna née Mackiewicz, a teacher. Orłoś's mother was the sister of writers Stanisław "Cat" Mackiewicz and Józef Mackiewicz.
During the Nazi occupation Orłoś lived first in Warsaw but later moved to his parents' home in Dąbrówki near Łańcut. Orłoś returned to the capital in 1944, only to be displaced during the Warsaw Uprising. After the war he stayed for a short time in Łódź before returning to Warsaw, where he studied at the Tadeusz Reytan Secondary School, passing his final exams in 1953.
He began his studies in law at the University of Warsaw in 1955. He married Teresa Czerniewicz, a life sciences graduate from the Warsaw University. They have a son Maciej, journalist and television presenter, and a daughter Joanna. Orłoś received his master's degree in 1960 and found a job as a clerk at the law office of "Turów" Mining and Smelting Industrial Complex in Turoszów, Lower Silesia.
Orłoś made his debut as a writer in the Twórczość literary magazine in 1958, with a short story titled Dziewczyna z łódki" / "Girl from the Boat. He published his works - short stories and reportages - in Tygodnik Kulturalny, Orka, Współczesność and Życie Literackie. His first collection of short stories, Między brzegami" / "Between the Riverbanks was published in 1961 and was very well received by the critics. Koniec zabawy" / "The Party's Over (1965) and Ciemne drzewa" / "Dark Trees (1970) followed. The former volume was awarded the 1966 Stanisław Piętak Award; the latter got the Kościelscy Award in 1970.
In the 1960s Orłoś took up different jobs such as a social and legal assistant at a mental institution in Pruszków and as a solicitor for the management at "Solina" hydroelectric power station construction.
The author built up his literary work through the 1970s; taking his first steps in radio and film and was awarded a number of times in radio drama competitions. Orłoś started working at the Polish Radios' Radio Drama Editorial Office in 1970; he became a member of "Literatura" editorial board two years later.
Orłoś's writing was not favoured by the authorities of the Polish People's Republic. Cudowna melina" / "The Marvellous Den, a novel about the Communist Party circles moral decay was withheld by the censors. Orłoś was one of the first writers who, while staying in Poland, rejected the "literary compromise" and decided to be published abroad; thus The Marvellous Den was printed under his own name at the Literary Institute in Paris in 1973. As a result he was fired from his job. Moreover, Orłoś was registered in the so-called subjective censorship record, which in fact was a total ban on publishing any of his own works or statements about him. Orłoś became yet another great absentee in the state-owned press and official publishing houses. Nonetheless, he was the co-editor of Zapis, an independent magazine and a member of the Board of the Polish Writers' Association.. His artistic prose, reviews and articles were published in underground journals: Nowy Zapis, Kultura Niezależna, as well as Paris-based Kultura and Puls in London. Orłoś also collaborated with Radio Free Europe. His subsequent novels and collections of short stories were written in the 1980s: Trzecie kłamstwo" / "The Third Lie (1980), Pustynia Gobi" / "Gobi Desert"(1983) and Przechowalnia" / "The Repository (1985). In 1987 the Literary Institute in Paris published Historia 'Cudownej Meliny'" / "The Story of 'The Marvellous Den', a book about the old adventures of getting the work originally published. Orłoś was awarded the Solidarity Award for this documentary book in 1990.
Orłoś is a writer of recurring topics: the problem of moral indifference or the gradual loss of moral sense has been expressed and emphasised in various ways in social and political circumstances. Regardless of whether primitivisation and indifference are linked with the dramatic experience of violence or the annihilation of values, the author is interested in the outcome of blunting sensitivity both on a micro scale and in communities as a whole.
The Marvellous Den is one of his most popular books, it gained him the title of a political writer. As the author later claimed Story of 'The Marvellous Den' was initially intended for the Polish, not the émigré, audience. He said that The Marvellous Den was created,
as if under the pressure of the December events (1970 workers' protest on the Polish coast). I described some of the occurrences which led to the workers' protests, the complete lawlessness of the authorities, the impunity of the officials, the corruption, alcoholism and so on. I portrayed (...) a 'bygone era', former mistakes, and people who left together with Władysław Gomułka's government.
Reviews labelled the book "anti-Polish", targeted at "people who every day, with effort and perseverance build the edifice called Homeland". (Jerzy Gomułkowski, Popluwanie, Barwy Mazovian social and cultural monthly, no. 5(55) 1973)
The Repository, on the other hand, published in 1985 was written about newspeak, the language of propaganda and Communist Party meetings, the idiom of news reports and protocols. The plot takes place at the Detoxification Detention Centre, called the "repository".Orłoś's book presents the miniature social and political arrangements, a foreshortening of sorts in which the basic mechanisms of repression, hypocrisy and apathy meet. The Repository was not just a criticism of the system but also of the attitudes of the intelligentsia - especially those opposing the political system in Poland. Leszek Szaruga wrote:
Grotesquery allows you to notice that these attitudes are in some way subordinated or determined by the system; they grow out of it.
The author returned to official circulation only after 1989. He published a collection of short stories Drugie wrota w las" / "The Second Gate into the Woods in 1992, Zimna Elka" / "Cold Elka in 1995, Niebieski szklarz" / "The Blue Glazier and Święci tańczą na łąkach" / "The Saints Dance on the Meadows a year later. Drewniane mosty" / "Wooden Bridges published in 2001.Orłoś said the following about his writing after the democratic transformation in Poland:
If we assume that describing human life is the fundamental objective of writing, I think this goal never changes. (...) The transformation of the political system and Poland reclaiming independence influenced the situation of writers or, to be precise, their writing. I think everyone remains faithful to his topics all his life.
Orłoś is a member of the Polish PEN Club and, since 1989, of the Polish Writers' Association.He resigned from the Józef Mackiewicz Literary Award chapter in 2006 in protest against anti-Semitic statements made by the secretary of the award, Stanisław Michalkiewicz. Orłoś was decorated with the Polonia Restituta Commander's Cross in 2007.
Kazimierz Orłoś's novels have been translated into Bulgarian, Dutch, German, French, Italian and Russian.
In addition to being an author of short stories and novels, Kazimierz Orłoś has written a number of radio dramas, such as Szczur" / "The Rat (dir. Edward Płaczek, 1968), Ogłoszenie matrymonialne" / "Singles Ad (dir. Helmut Kajzar, 1980), Wybory pana burmistrza" / "The Election of Mister Mayor (dir. Andrzej Zakrzewski, 1997), Jest już za późno" / "It's Too Late (dir. Janusz Kukułka, 2001), and Porywacze" / "Kidnappers (dir. Henryk Rozen, 2005). He is the creator for television and film scripts, including: Między brzegami" / "Between the Riverbanks (dir. Witold Lesiewicz, 1963), Ruchome piaski" / "Quicksand (dir. Władysław Ślesicki; honourable mention at the 1969 Rio de Janeiro film festival), Znak" / "The Sign (dir. Irena Kamieńska; adaptation of short story Dziecko ojca i matki" / "The Child of the Father and Mother, 1973), Duże zwierzę" / "Big Animal (dir. Jerzy Stuhr; adaptation of short story Wielbłąd" / "The Camel, 2000).
Author: Eliza Kącka, January 2011
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