7 Polish Writers Banned by Censorship Under the Communist Regime
#language & literature
no-image, 7 Polish Writers Banned by Censorship Under the Communist Regime
Freedom of speech was non-existent in Poland under the communist regime. Censorship often exercised the power to block films, articles, books and basically all other forms of public expression. The works of the seven writers below were banned entirely under these policies.
Helena Mniszkówna was born in 1878 to a family of landed gentry. She was mainly an author of high-society romance novels, the most famous of which is the 1909 melodrama The Leper (Trędowata). Two screen adaptations of this work were created before World War II. In 1951, the communists ordered all of her books to be removed from public libraries – they didn’t appreciate her portrayal of the world of Polish nobility. The ban on The Leper was lifted in 1972, and another film version of this book was created four years later by Jerzy Hoffman.
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Zofia Kossak Szczucka, 1933, Modern Polish Writers, Second Series, from Wydawnictwo Komitetu Głównego Tygodnia Książki Polskiej, photo: CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia
As a writer, Zofia Kossak-Szcucka gained a lot of attention for her historical novels, one of which is Angels in the Dust (Krzyżowcy), published in 1936. Her works were translated into many languages, including English, German and French. Israel’s Yad Vashem Institute posthumously honoured her with the title Righteous Among the Nations for aiding Jews in World War II. In 1951, all of her books were banned because the communist regime disapproved of her World War II involvement with the Polish Resistance. Kossak-Szczucka was born in 1890 and died in 1968.
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Stefan ‘Wiech’ Wiechecki
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Stefan ‘Wiech’ Wiechecki talking to a coachman, from ‘Warszawa od Wyzwolenia do Naszych Dni’ (Warsaw From Liberation to Today) by Leszek Wysznacki, 1977, p. 238, photo: CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia
He was called ‘the Homer of Warsaw’s streets’ because he magnificently captured the spirit of the city’s street life. Stefan ‘Wiech’ Wiechecki, an author of feuilletons, short stories and novels, was born in 1896 and is especially appreciated for his use of Warsaw slang. Singers and other writers often repeated the expressions that he brought into the Polish literary world. In 1951, all works by Wiechecki were banned and removed from public libraries. By doing so, the communist regime unsuccessfully tried to sever the inhabitants of Warsaw from their pre-war traditions.
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Tadeusz Dołęga Mostowicz, originally published in ‘Rachunek z Dwudziestoleciem’ (Bill With a Twenty) by W. Pietrzak, 1972, photo: CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia
He is best known as the author of the 1932 novel The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma (Kariera Nikodema Dymy), which constitutes an ironic portrayal of the political circles of Interwar Poland. Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz was a prolific and successful writer whose talents were noticed by Hollywood. Producers bought two screenplays written by him, one of which was intended for Bette Davis. In 1951, all except three of Dołęga-Mostowicz’s books were banned – to the communists, he was a symbol of the old order. He was born in 1898 and died as a soldier in 1939 during World War II.
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She was born in 1898 in Barań. Halina Borowikowa, who was both a writer and translator, worked under the pseudonym Jerzy Marlicz. She translated 18 books by James Curwood and wrote Łowcy Przygód (The Adventure Hunters), a 1932 continuation of his series consisting of the novels Łowcy Wilków (The Wolf Hunters) and Łowcy Złota (The Gold Hunters). She also published a few youth adventure travel novels. All of her books were banned by the censorship, because the communists considered them to be ‘detrimental to the shaping of the young socialist society’.
Stanisław Jerzy Lec
The most famous work of this writer born in 1909 is probably the 1957 collection of witty aphorisms, entitled Myśli Nieuczesane (Uncombed Thoughts). Even though Lec sympathised with the communist regime, his books were banned from 1951 until 1956; the communists didn’t appreciate his sudden decision to immigrate to Israel in 1950. Lec unexpectedly returned to Poland two years later and lived there until his death in 1966. On his deathbed, Lec was asked to approve a corrected version of one of his books. He commented: ‘I can’t correct this book, I’m too busy dying’.
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A poet, essayist, and prose writer born in 1911, Czesław Miłosz’s most noteworthy works include the 1945 collection of poems Rescue and the 1953 volume of essays The Captive Mind. For aiding Jewish people during World War II, he was honoured with the title Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Yad Vashem Institute. In 1980 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. All of his works were banned in Poland from 1951 to 1980 – the communists considered Miłosz, who lived abroad for many years, a pro-Western traitor and a renegade.
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stanisław jerzy lec
Poland under communism
Written by Marek Kępa, 2015