A novelist, she was born in Łódź in 1964. She graduated from the Jagiellonian University inKrakow with a degree in philosophy and went to Paris in 1988 to study medieval anthropology at the École des Hautes Études Sociales in Paris.
She published her first novel, We are Russian Emigrés, in 1990. That and her next three books deal with Paris and the loves of a protagonist quite similar to Gretkowska herself; the barely-sketched plot is interwoven with essays of a historical-literary or popular scientific nature, reportage, ironic commentaries, the grotesque, and heretical religious treatises. Although her first book contains echoes of political protest, Gretkowska was never a political emigré. She is rather a citizen of the world who can live and work anywhere. She returned to Poland in the early 1990s to work on the staff of the local version of Elle, before leaving for Sweden, where she now lives, in 1997.
Gretkowska's books are bestsellers, evoking extensive comment and heated emotions. Her prose, variously described as post-modernist, feminist, metaphysical, or scandal-mongering, has won a broad and varied readership. Her book, World Watcher, appeared in 1998, is a collection of reportage from various countries, highly personal and full of digressions as always, some of which had previously been published in Elle.
In 1998 a set of stories came out, entitled Namiętnik (The Passionary). It has a traditional structure and presents some intriguing issues. The volume consists of five pieces and, broadly speaking, it is about the need and search for love.
The subsequent book, a fictionalized personal diary entitled Polka (2001) was received with great interest. Polka is the name of the narrator’s baby daughter, whose birth she is expecting as she writes. The theme of changes in her work has not gone unnoticed: the one-time ‘scandalmonger’ is now firmly on the side of a normal, even banal life. Her book is essentially a hymn of praise to the glory of bountiful motherhood, the home heart, and the simple joys of everyday life. In 2002, Polka was nominated for the Nike Literary Award. The second part of this diary was Europejka (2004) - a story of a woman coming back to her homeland while it joins Europe.
In 2007 the novel Kobieta i mężczyźni / A Woman and Men was published. Again, the author woves a complicated net of relationships between men and women, this time chosing two contemporary couples from Warsaw - one liberal, one catholic - as her protagonists.
To quite a schematic drama, added the author a lot of discoursive subjects, which form a diagnosis of the family relations of contemporary Poles. The author writes about modern relationship customs, focuses on various social and cultural determinants, which are the reason for the protagonists' decisions and actions. She creates deepened portrayals of her protagonists. A Woman and Men is a successful, witty and intelligent novel - wrote Dariusz Nowacki (www.instytutksiazki.pl).
In 2006, she published a Manifesto expressing her opposition to the situation of women in Poland, and thus initiated a social movement Poland is a Woman. Then she transformed it into a new political party - the Party of Women. In October 2007, after the parliamentary elections she gave up on leading the party but remained its honorary chairwoman. In 2008 she wrote Obywatelka / Citizen, the third part of her autobiographical story, this time mostly filled with tragicomical incidents that happened when she tried to step onto the political scene.
Gretkowska's following book is Miłość po polsku / Love in Polish (2010). It's yet another emmigrant novel - the feeling of isolation and existential problems that it brings, remains the author's main focus. The main protagonist, Miłosz, lives in Sweden which he hates, but which still is better than Poland. The writer's critical eye doesn't omit anyone:
Gretkowska successfully demythologizes our common cultural and political ground. She's one against everyone else. Gays, lesbians, the Church and Jan Maria Rokita - they all get a scolding. The author has no pity neither for the left, nor for the right. Her main reproach is that none of them looks into the 'chassis of existence'. Poles ask themselves no questions. They live and die in a state of mania. And Swedes only have ready-made answers, which also doesn't really promise anything good. What can one do in such a situation? - asked Piotr Kępiński ("Newsweek, 23.05.2010).
In her following novel, Trans / Trance (2010), the author returns to her roots - to France, where her earlier books were set, and to her relationship with Andrzej Żuławski (Gretkowska wrote the script for his famous film Szamanka / The Shaman), on whom the main protagonist is based. Agent (2012), on the other hand, adds the complicated context of Polish and Jewish relations to an erotic plot. Both novels were received rather coldly by the critics - Kinga Dunin wrote, for example, that 'Agent confirms the writers high rank in the category of hackwork ("Dwutygodnik", 06/2012).
In 2015, together with Piotr Pietucha she published Miłość klasy średniej / Middle-class Love - a story about a relationship crisis, seen from both the male and the female perspective. Her las book up to date is Filozofia na wynos / Takeout Philosophy, dedicated to young readers and illustrated by Henryk Sawka (2016).
She wrote columns for, among others, Cosmopolitan, Wprost, Polityka, Machina, Cogito. She was also the protagonist of Ewa Pytka's documentary Manuela Gretkowska - pisarka nieemigracyjna / Manuela Gretkowska - non-emmigrant writer (1994).
Source: www.polska2000.pl; copyright: Stowarzyszenie Willa Decjusza, updated by NMR, September 2016.
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