Four Paws & A Tail: Polish Writers & Their Dogs
#language & literature
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small, Four Paws & A Tail:
Polish Writers & Their Dogs, Jerzy Stanisław Sito and his dog in his flat on Czeska St, Warsaw, 11 Novemeber 1965, photo: Andrzej Szypowski / East News, jerzy-sito-fot-andrzej-szypowski-en.jpg
'The dog is the domestic animal which, of all domestic animals, best knows human beings', wrote Adolf Nowaczyński. With a selection of apt quotes, we've decided to determine whether dogs are Polish writers’ best friends. Spoiler alert: it seems so.
It's hard to count all the dogs immortalised in literary portraits. 'Watch out! The old dog is barking', Wacław Potocki warned in the late 17th century. He also wrote the satirical tale 'Shaved, trimmed', a fable with a canine motif about a couple's spat which was creatively elaborated upon by Adam Mickiewicz. Amongst the better-known four-legged literary creatures is Saba from Henryk Sienkiewicz's tale In Desert & Wilderness – and there are many others worthy of our attention.
Stanisław Lem & Bej
On his way down the stairs, Father once glanced into his sister-in-law's room and, seeing that only the old, blind dachshund Bej was in there, he turned off the light.
– I turned the light off in your room, he told her a moment later. – There was no point in its being on.
– That's a shame, said the sister in-law. – Bej was in there.
– What does he need a light for?
– Sometimes he likes to read at night.
– Read?! the father said, surprised. – What do you mean 'read'? He's blind, for goodness' sakes!
‘Awantury na tle powszechnego ciążenia’ (Arguments Over Universal Gravitation – Biographical Notes on Stanisław Lem), Tomasz Lem
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Bartek, weighing in at 42 kilos, a beast of monstrous proportions with an enormous head, is already 12 months old and he's incredibly stupid, by God! He licks every stranger, loves everybody and barks from morning till night. This dog can drive you utterly crazy and, when I start cursing full force, Barbara and Mother-in-Law remind me in chorus: 'You were the one who wanted him!'. He's like a wolf and the truth is that I wanted him only because I missed the old Alsatian that I once had. How could I know that we'd end up with such a handsome blockhead?
Letter to Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski, Stanisław Lem, May 1976
Kazimierz Brandys & the wayward romantic
A six-week-old boxer. (…) Just as soon as he was born, he licked me on the ear. (…) He grew surprisingly quickly. Mostly towards the front: his chest grew powerful. He had something about him that resembled both a young lion and an old Black matron with a kind, concerned face. By the time he was a year old, he was one of the largest dogs in Warsaw. He needed to move around a lot. And I'm a homebody. I like to spend my days in my room, in silence. We'd go out five times a day. Roughly once every three hours, he'd take me down the stairs and he'd stand around the corner. I had a leather leash in my hand and he knew that I would wait for him. Sometimes, when it got to be too long, I'd pull him in the direction of home. But he'd dig in on all fours and resist. And then people would start yelling at me that I'm abusing the dog. A pretty large crowd would gather to scold me. I would explain that this dog was a stubborn animal. But was it true? The fact is that I don't like moving around very much either. He was completely normal: he liked being around the children in the marketplace, the passing cars and a certain Saint Bernard from Piwna Street. So who was the stubborn one here? He soon learned that I was easily embarrassed by a public fuss, which is probably why he knocked down that nun. It was on Zamkowy Square. We ran away up Świętojańska Street. He never knocked people down out of anger. He'd just jump on people without warning, wanting to lick their faces. They'd usually fall onto their backs. He was literally bursting with friendliness.
'Letters to Ms Z. (1959-1960)', Kazimierz Brandys, 1960
He never knocked people down out of anger. He'd just jump on people without warning, wanting to lick their faces. (...) He was literally bursting with friendliness.
In the evening, two small boys brought him to me, attached to either side of his collar. They saw how he'd crawled out of the rubbish dump. He wasn't alone: he already had a friend, an ownerless mutt from Rybaki. He lay down on a blanket and I could see that he was bleeding. He must have been in some serious fight: under his neck, amongst the folds of his skin, I could feel claw marks. He was in a bit of pain; he was embarrassed. He licked my hand, sighed and started to snore. He slept the whole day, then he ate some and went back to sleep. It couldn't end well. You see, madam, from then on, he left his friend out in the hall. Then another pair started to come by: one of them small, yellowish, with the facial expression of Švejk [editor’s note: the fictional main character of Czech Jaroslav Hašk’s anti-war novel ‘The Good Soldier Švejk]. The two were tight. If the other one were to let him go, he might not return. He wasn't a leader. He was a wayward romantic. That type usually gets ripped to pieces. And he continued to pine. He would lie on the blanket for days at a time with his face between his paws. He'd sigh and roll from side to side. He surely couldn't forget his friend. He'd remember and dream of what had been.
'Letters to Ms Z. (1959-1960)', Kazimierz Brandys, 1960
Witold Gombrowicz & Psina
Lovely walks with my Psina. In the café, on the square, painters (Vence is full of them). Beer, whisky... They would say, 'Now she's walking around with him...' Chagall, Dubuffet and Papazoff. The cold wind. My table has one leg too short. I have to buy matches. A hat.
'Diary', Witold Gombrowicz, 1966
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Maria Dąbrowska & Dyl
A fat couple from Ursus came with their dog to visit Dyl. Their dog bit at first, but then the courtship began. Her owners sat on the bench like a couple of dumplings. She eagerly consumed cherries (which I gave her), even though I warned her there were some bugs amongst them. I watched the dogs from my window. It was a kind of game or even a lovely series of dances that had within them a remarkably 'human' sort of quality. When the dog wedding was finally consummated, the old couple and their dog departed and I was sure that Dyl calm down for a while. But instead he pined away for that dog as if he had only now fallen in love with her. He stood endlessly in the right-hand corner of the garden – the direction in which they had gone – and he sang and moaned. I thought he'd chew his way through the fence.
'Diaries', entry of 14 July 1960, Maria Dąbrowska
It was a young brown pointer in a white vest. (…) The man in the sheepskin coat patted him with a rough hand on his velvety brown forehead. He wasn't smiling any longer.
– 'Well, Tumry' – he said. – 'Goodbye. You'll be staying in a good place. Your master is going far away.' The dog considered the entire speech unnecessary, but out of good manners he listened to parts of it, while bending, rubbing against the man's knees and blinking his eyes at the touch of the familiar rough hand. Suddenly, he was brutally pushed away – so much so, that he staggered, off balance. The stranger in the sheepskin coat walked away. Tumry did just what a person would do in such a situation. He couldn't believe that he'd been spurned and abandoned. He stood by the closed door with his head hanging down a bit. His forehead showed creases of concern, but his eyes still smiled. He ran them along the cracks in the door, raising and lowering his head.
'The Dog' in 'The Smile of Childhood', Maria Dąbrowska, 1923
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Ryszard Marek Groński & the black nose
When you return, sad, from the city,
When your voice begins to crack,
Black like paste
There pokes around you... the nose.
At first quietly, at first from afar,
Obeying the rules of the game,
Like a detective, the nose determines
Where your bad mood's coming from
And then, when the nose knows
The reasons for your sour face;
It knows there is only one method
And only one solution:
To crawl upwards like climbing ivy
And kiss away your teardrops...
Suddenly you feel that the dog's upon you
Your dog's damp nose is stroking your face!
'The Nose', Ryszard Marek Groński
Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz & Tropek
The time of dark, warm evenings had come. Storks are sitting in the pine trees. Everything is overgrown and black. A feeling of complete isolation. For a long time, I sat in a chair on the porch. Tropek sat beside me on the stair and placed his head on my arm. Together we contemplated the night and the stars and the warmth and the passing jet planes. The world was beautiful, incomprehensible and horrifying. Despite what Kierkegaard says, I don't harbour despair in my heart. Yet he says that is precisely despair.
'Diaries', entry of 9 August 1966, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz
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Tropek's death is something unexpectedly dreadful for me. Now that it has happened, I can sense just how old I have become, and that this event, so insignificant for others, has become such a profound experience for me, inevitably pushing me a few years closer to my own grave. In addition, I began to deceive myself into thinking that Tropek would be waiting for me just over eternity's threshold and that he'd be delighted in his own way at my arrival.
'Diaries', entry of 29 February 1976, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz
Just under four weeks after Tropek died, so did Medorek. (…) I feel old, unwanted, very fed up with life. I can't find a place for myself. Hania doesn't really understand my condition. The firm of Medorkiewicz & Tropczyński has suffered a dreadful collapse.
'Diaries', entry of 8 March 1976, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz
The poet says:
Dear wife! See those two flies
On the windowsill
Killed by bug spray?
Their deaths mean as much to the universe
as those of our dead, beloved dogs
that lie here beneath a stone
Do you remember Tropek's expression
when you said something to him
and he didn't understand?
he'd wrinkle his brow and concentrate
but he didn't understand
Because he was an animal
We, too, don't understand:
Look, the clouds are speaking to us
the shining of the stars
but we don't understand
'The Old Poet' in Weathermap, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, 1977
Katarzyna Grochola & the Very Bad Chained Dog
I overcame the fear. Once. In Podhale. (…) I had to go into the courtyard alone, behind the house and there lurked the Very Bad Chained Dog. A killer dog. A dog you had to watch out for. 'Just look out for the dog; he's nasty, he can tear you to pieces!' the plump hostess shouted to me (…). In the evening, I'd sneak out to the courtyard in the direction of the doghouse with a piece of bread and sausage stealthily smuggled out past the hostess. The dog barked briefly, but, when he saw it was me, he stretched out on the ground, but he was large and he whined. He had folded-over ears, heavy paws – heavy with dirt – and in a second he had swallowed the bread and sausage and he proceeded to lick me on the face with his warm tongue and, when I knelt alongside him, he rolled onto his back and exposed his tummy, heavy and grey with mud. I stroked that tummy: it wasn't his fault it was so dirty. I'm sure no one had ever stroked him and he waited and waited under his dirty shell...
'The Rustle of Wings', Katarzyna Grochola, 2008
Ludwik Kern & four paws
Since long ago, from the dawn of time,
Through all the centuries,
There have echoed yelps,
Whines and barks.
They've accompanied us full of energy
Along our way:
Four paws, a pair of ears,
Eyes, nose and a tail.
In this world, different things happen
Amusing and strange.
Once life's happy,
Another time, just the opposite.
In the jungle of life, in the life of the bush,
They'll always help you:
Four paws, a pair of ears,
Eyes, nose and a tail.
'Four Paws', Ludwik Jerzy Kern
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They'll always help you: four paws, a pair of ears, eyes, nose and a tail.
Kornel Makuszyński & the hell-hound
This is he: he's seven years old, which is for a dog a quite advanced age; he's strangely shaggy, thick-boned, black and built rather asymmetrically, not extremely attractive. When Słowacki and Odyniec went out to walk one night, they saw a black dog dash by in the darkness of the night. 'The two of them were so scared that they ducked into a ditch and knelt there.' One asked the other: 'Is that a dog or a demon?' If it weren't for the fact that I'm sure that the black hound from this story couldn't have been wandering in those times, I could imagine that he would have been capable of making the hair on the two poets' heads stand on end. I've never seen a dog more infernal than our dog. While it's true that I've never actually seen the devil with my own eyes, judging by the reliable accounts of those that have encountered him, our scoundrel could have made a great career for himself in Hell. While it's not a sure thing that he resembles the devil in every detail, it's beyond doubt that his evil cunning could outdo even the most calculating fiend. From this point of view, he was a unparalleled phenomenon in the history of the world. (…) It's hard to say just where he came from. One day, he wandered through the gates of Wola into the capital muddy, beat-up and looking like a phantom. His torn ear and the barely healed wound on his shoulder testified eloquently to his stormy heart and unsettled thinking.
'Travels with a Dog', Kornel Makuszyński, 1935
Bruno Schulz & his puppy
Throughout August of that year, I played with a wonderful, small dog that showed up one day on our kitchen floor, unstable and whimpering, still redolent of milk and puppyhood with a yet unformed, roundish, trembling little forehead and mole-like paws spread out to his sides and with the most delicate, downy fur. At first sight, this tender creature garnered the complete fascination, the utter enthusiasm of a boy's soul. From what heaven did this creature beloved of the gods, more beloved than the most beautiful of playthings, descend? (…) The puppy was velvety, warm and pulsing with the staccato of a small, rapidly beating heart. He had two soft ears, bluish, cloudy eyes, a pink little mouth into which you could insert a finger without fearing any danger, delicate, unthreatening paws and a touching pink marking on the back of his forelegs. He would crawl with them into his milk bowl, ravenous and impatient, lapping up his drink with a pink tongue and, after satisfying himself, he would pitifully lift up his tiny mouth with a drop of milk still clinging to his chin and lethargically back away from his milk bath.
'Nemrod' in 'The Cinnamon Shops', Bruno Schulz, 1933
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Janusz Meissner & Cap
The fate of prisoners of war awaited human beings – surely not an enviable fate, yet not entirely desperate; a fate a hundred times worse awaited Cap – and surely death in the end, either of starvation or of longing or of a German bullet. No one would look after him after all under the prevailing circumstances and he would search for me with despair in his canine heart, convinced that I had betrayed and abandoned him... (…) To this day, I don't know how Cap perished – Cap, my most faithful, most committed comrade and friend. I thought of him often through the long years of the war's turmoil and I am moved still whenever I think of him. Sometimes I'd see him in my dreams: he would be wandering in some unfamiliar place, looking for me, gaunt, starving and desperate, and then he would suddenly spot me, he would run toward me, jump onto my chest and lick my face and I would awake with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Perhaps this seems like excessive sentimentality, but I will never forget it.
'Tale of a Dog (Even Two)', Janusz Meissner, 1961
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Everyone already knew that there was a cage waiting for me with a dog. I was moved by this: after all, people love animals. The dog turned out to be a wire-haired continental pointer, the offspring of Bim. He was truly good-looking, though after a thirty-hour journey in a cramped cage, he looked like a bundle of misery covered with everything that he'd managed to excrete en route. For the most part, he consisted of a pair of huge ears and four mighty paws. The rest of him was small and thin. Only his tummy protruded because of all the milk he'd consumed. I took him to my car, where he immediately sat himself down on my lap and licked me around my nose. (…) In the end, the dog was given the name Start (…) and I made him a nest next to my desk. Then he began to show an extraordinary interest in the books on my shelf. On the first day, he only chewed up half of the ‘Geographical Atlas’ and the cover of Larousse, but the following day he managed to finish off two whole volumes of the encyclopedia and Heinrich's ‘General Psychology’ before starting work on Szober's dictionary...
'Tale of a Dog (Even Two)', Janusz Meissner, 1961
Zofia Nałkowska & Diana
Tucked away deep in my flat, in the very last room, I am sitting at my desk and writing. At a certain moment – not clear why – my greyhound Diana enters with her timid, discreet little trot. It's a moment when she suddenly misses me, when she feels that we just have to be together... She wends her way through the furniture and, standing beside me, she lightly lays her muzzle on my knee: she doesn't want to bother me, she's just dropping by. As long as I don't pet her and I don't say anything, she'll stand there without moving, not demanding anything more. In the end, at some unnoticed moment, she will quietly depart. But, if I say 'Dianusiu' – if I embrace her and am proactive, then there begin the prolonged, sweet routines of our friendship. Following her nose, first one, then another paw gradually find their way onto my lap, later with a sharp motion her breast slides up as well and her eyes gaze happily into my eyes. And utter joy is achieved: her forehead, slender, loving and round, caresses my neck in a long, unremitting reverie.
'Our Friendship' in 'Between Animals', Zofia Nałkowska, 1915
Zofia Nałkowska’s ‘Medallions’ & The Bomb That Never Went Off
One autumn day, when the summer villas in the area began to empty out, there wandered into our country home an unfamiliar, small white spitz, gentle and beautiful. She came in and didn't want to leave. She felt at home and, of all those living here, she chose me to be her mistress. (…) She behaved from the very first moment as if she had always been my dog. She would rub her small head against my skirt, look me in the eye and lie down against my legs like a white fox collar which had fallen to the ground. We did some asking around in the neighbourhood, but no one had lost such a dog and no one recognised her. So she stayed with us and immediately took on the role of a house pet. I named her Nida. (…) She didn't ever take her black eyes – enwrapped in white fur - off of me. When I would sit down to write, she would lie down as close to me as possible, touching the sole of my shoe with the tip of an ear or the end of her tail. Not only did she take to me, not only did she consent to my presence, but she took the greatest interest in me and I can say that she was thoroughly taken with me. She wouldn't let me go even a step away until we'd go to lunch together. To others, she was also furry, soft, sweet and kind, but if someone began to pet her or take her by the paw, she would come running to me. Because only with me did she feel calm and safe. I wondered where she got that sense of security, the belief that I was worthy of her trust, that I was the one who would care for her and who would come to her defense.
'Nida' in 'Between Animals', Zofia Nałkowska, 1915
To others, she was also furry, soft, sweet and kind, but if someone began to pet her or take her by the paw, she would come running to me.
We didn't get Ramses from friends as a gift and he wasn't chosen out of a litter of dogs as the right one. He was found one winter lying in a neighbouring gateway, frozen to the bone, panting out of hunger, getting bits of food from warm-hearted passers-by, wounded by stronger dogs than he. At some point, he had enough of it and simply started barking at our door, begging to be let in. When he came in, he quickly made it clear that he felt at home. And he stayed. We named him Ramses to build up his spirits. He can't be clearly categorised as any particular breed. Ramses is nice to be around and he has a lot of social charm. In addition, he is highly sensitive and emotional. He is good to people, knows good food and he's friendly to cats. He eats out of a single bowl with them and doesn't hesitate to leave the best bits for them. When someone from the household returns home, Ramses expresses his joy with a loud barking that can be deafening. He jumps up and down in place as high as he can. And for a short moment before he drops, he seems to suspend himself in the air with his paws folded and with a joyous, broad smile on his face.
'Ramses' in 'Between Animals', Zofia Nałkowska, 1915
Roman Pisarski & the dog that rode the rails
It was a very sweet, shaggy little dog that looked a bit like a spitz and a bit like a shepherd. He had cheerful and mischievous eyes. One ear pointed sharply upwards, the other flopped downwards. This gave the dog an amusing and at once a cheeky look. The stationmaster reached for his bread and cheese, broke some up and fed his guest. The dog was apparently hungry: he ate with a hearty appetite, but not greedily as some poorly educated mutts will do. The trainman petted him. He felt sympathy for the animal and thought that it was worth taking him in. He had long wanted a friendly dog that would play with the children and look after the house. He lived twenty kilometres from the station, right next to a small train stop. The area around his house was empty. 'The children would be happy if I brought this dog home', thought the stationmaster. 'Will you come with me?', he asked. The dog barked softly and wagged his tail. It looked like he understood.
'About a Dog That Rode the Rails', Roman Pisarski, 1963
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Bolesław Prus & a dog's friendship
Human language doesn't have the words nor does the heart have the heartstrings to fully appreciate a dog's friendship. A person can always find consolation after the loss of loved ones, but a dog almost never can. One can believe in anything, even in the opinion people have about themselves, but you can really only count on dogs.
'Anielka', Bolesław Prus, 1885
Bolesław Prus (Aleksander Głowacki)
Human language doesn't have the words nor does the heart have the heartstrings to fully appreciate a dog's friendship.
Andrzej Stasiuk & the old dog
Our old dog is slowly dying. First, she lost her hearing, then her eyesight and finally her sense of smell. But she still moves around a bit and has a huge appetite. Sometimes she'll try to bark at something. She can barely stand up, she looks ahead with her unseeing eyes and barks at her canine thoughts, illusions and maybe she barks at her canine memories. (…) Right now, she's lying in a pool of winter sun and she sleeps almost constantly. When one of us walks very close to her, she lifts up her head. It's hard to tell if she recognises us. But petting and touch still cheer her up as they did all her life. But now she resembles an old, fraying carpet. (…) I write and look out onto the veranda. She had eaten and curled back up into a ball in her nest of blankets and sleeping bags. Our young, brown cat crawls in there with her and enwraps her chilled body in his warmth.
'Grochów', Andrzej Stasiuk, 2012
Julian Tuwim & Dżońcio
My dog Dżońcio – here you see him –
Is my best friend in the world.
I sit in the corner of the couch each day
And I chat and chat with my Dżońcio.
I talk and talk, but Dżońcio's silent,
But he, sweet dog that he is, he understands me.
Today I say: 'Dżońcio, let's talk about
Your being our cat as of tomorrow.
You'll drink milk and catch mice...'
Dżóńcio pretends not to hear me.
'Or tomorrow we'll make you a bear
And you'll sit in an iron cage.
There won't be any more ham or fatty pork loin...'
Dżońcio pretends to be deaf.
'Or you'll become...a horse, let's say...
Or would you rather be a sheep?'...
(Dżońcio pretends he's not there.)
'If you don't want any of that, you know what I'll do?
I'll open myself a sausage store.'
(Now Dżońcio's ears perk up;
He's listening.)... 'And I'll make you the watchman
So that criminals don't steal the sausages.'
Dżońcio laughs and laughs.
'Dżońcio', Julian Tuwim
I talk and talk, but Dżońcio's silent, but he, sweet dog that he is, he understands me.
Growling, I loped along at a hound’s pace,
Hackles up, taciturn and angry,
Until I came outside the house, barked with despair,
And was answered by my dogs. (…)
We aren't howling from cold or from hunger,
But rather because the moon has fallen upon us like a dead cloth
And from despair over the silvery depths of the garden,
Over the incomprehensible silence, over this world.
Oh, for whom in all this longing, for whom
Have we, frightened, raised up our heads?
Mangy dogs cannot respond
Nor can I, my fellow dogs!
And so let us sleep, worn out by weeping.
Maybe we'll find relief in sleep,
Seeing poor mongrel dreams,
The grey phantom of our canine death,
There a flat, low heaven will appear,
We shall sniff at the doorstep of God
And, as He once came to the aid of the poor and anxious,
So to the dogs will come their Saviour, God.
'Dogs', Julian Tuwim, trans. in part: Giovanna Tomassucci
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Jerzy Waldorff & Puzon
With Puzon, it was like this: When I mourned his predecessor, a grey-black spaniel who left me at a very advanced age who was throughout his dog's life a floppy-eared angel incapable of doing any harm – he wouldn't hurt a fly – I told myself that my next dog would have to be his complete opposite in both appearance and character. So I went to the address given by the Canine Union and there I found a litter of small dachshunds nursing from their mother. One of them broke away from the crowd and, with a bark, ran over and bit the tip of my shoe. 'That's him!', I declared and so it was. I became the owner of a monster, the bane of the neighbourhood, a tyrant in the house, a satrap who treated the cat and me as servants, controlling what I ate and, if he liked it, he might deign to leave me a few scraps; who would not let me roll over from side to side at night without barking at once, but he would awaken several times at night in order to take a stroll for his health along the length of my body!
'Little Brothers', Jerzy Waldorff, 1978
Each day when I write, he lies down in front of the desk on the floor – a long, reddish sausage – and waits until I finish. In his eyes, he shows alternately impatience, boredom, hope and wonder at what I do best... After all, any reasonable dog knows that a well-planned day must consist entirely of walks outside, yet that creature leaning over its wooden surface though so much bigger, doesn't know anything: fool, dunce, freak!
'Little Brothers', Jerzy Waldorff, 1978
After all, any reasonable dog knows that a well-planned day must consist entirely of walks outside...
Each of us – may we live to a ripe old age! - awaits the moment when we set out on that final road on the journey from which there is no return. And I must admit that I carry in my heart a ridiculous dream that my [dog] Puzon and [cat] Kot will accompany me then. It would also be good to have a couple of birds overhead and a turtle to come along. Then we'd leave slowly and there would be time to turn around a couple of times and look back at life – however it was – with love and regret.
'Little Brothers', Jerzy Waldorff, 1978
Melchior Wańkowicz & Gaweł
He was a six-week-old puppy. An Airedale terrier. He was the son of [Irena] Krzywicka and a grandson of [Mieczysław] Grydzewski. Irena sent him with a red ribbon: funny, warm, shaggy, active, polite, eager to lick you with his red tongue, a drooling creature unchecked. That's why he was called 'Waterworks' as a pup, until he was later named Gaweł as a grown dog. (…) Gaweł, though living with [our Siamese cat] Malwinka in exemplary friendship, was otherwise consumed with an implacable hatred of cats and cows. He constantly chased cats around the neighbourhood. But when he actually cornered some cat in a crevice between the walls, he stood there with a stupid look on his face and didn't know what to do. (…) Other than this, he lived in great concord with our cook Marta. When Marta got married – and five chambermaids or cooks from Domeczek got married in short order – when she knelt before the altar in the Żoliborz church beside her groom, Gaweł burst in, raced the length of the church and, without regard to her elaborate wedding dress, jumped on the bride and licked her all over her face.
'Herbs on a Crater', Melchior Wańkowicz, '1957
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Witkacy & Puszek
[Zakopane] 31 August 1937 D.N. [Dear Nineczka:] I can't focus on a letter today. I did two portraits in a single sitting and Puszek got run over and killed – it was my fault: I shouldn't have taken him on a walk, when he was blind in one eye and I was driving. La destinée m'a marqué [French: Fate has marked me]. It's difficult. (…)
[Zakopane] 3 September 1937 D.N. [Dear Nineczka:] I am constantly depressed by Puszek's death. I tried not to think about it and I pretended I could and I didn't see him. But that moment of negligence cost him his life. Because you just can't take him out while driving a carriage. He was blind in one eye and he slipped under the wheels. He died in my arms, poor thing (…).
[Zakopane] 8 September 1937 (…) My complications have abated somewhat and I feel a bit better. But I am still very troubled by what happened to Puszek. It was horrible.
'Letters to My Wife,' Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, 1937
We wandered into the path that led to Antalówka where there were small, hunchbacked villas over which there stood out the silhouette of a large house built in Zakopane style called 'Pod Jedlami' and belonging to the Pawlikowskis. (…) Witkiewicz stopped suddenly, throwing a scathing glance at […] a doghouse in which a tiny puppy struggled helplessly against the chain holding him, whining pathetically. - 'What's this! Who chained up this puppy?!!' - he shouted in a thundering voice at the groundsman who bowed hastily. The shocked man muttered a few inaudible words. (…) – 'It wasn't me, sir, the gentleman said to do it... the gentleman said', he repeated abashedly justifying the situation. Witkiewicz swiftly entered the estate's gate and hurried over to the doghouse. He bent down low (…) and tore asunder several links of the chain that surrounded the puppy's neck. Released from its captivity, the puppy went wild with joy, alternating between rubbing up against Witkacy's legs and jumping up into his arms. Witkiewicz stroked the pup's head for a few moments with the back of his hand. After a while, he rose. With an agitated gesture, he drew a notebook out of the side pocket of his sports jacket. Ripping out a page, he hastily scribbled a few sentences. – 'Please give this to Mr Pawlikowski' – he said to the groundsman in an authoritative tone – 'and see to it that no one ever chains that dog to the doghouse again', he added threateningly.
'The Polish “Pontifex Maximus” of Catastrophism', Jerzy Eugeniusz Płomieński, 1957
Witkacy's ‘Madness’: The Lost Manuscript of a Total Artist
I don't want them, though I have them already,
My friends, these delinquents.
I'd rather have cattle or cats, not to mention dogs,
Because I know that a cat won't lie to me as it meows
Nor a dog as it barks,
That a cow won't spray vitriol into my mouth, only milk,
That a bug...well, it's not worth pointing out, madam,
That the world is full of bastards.
'To My Delinquent Friends', Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
Szczęsny Wroński & Pusia
My dog left home
And she's gone
That reddish fur
will no longer appear before my eyes
My ears so desire to hear
the clacking of her nails along the floor
And my moving fingers keep looking for
my red doe yet...
they find only emptiness
Where has she gone?
Will I ever meet her again?
When I don't even know if dogs have souls!
You're already thinking that she's died
I will just add that the flame of a dog crematorium
swallowed her up
And I, a man, cried about her copiously
When I sit in silence and think to myself
something tells me she's still around
For what kind of world would it be
in which someone simply ceased to exist?
'Pusia Left Home', Szczęsny Wroński
Barbara Wrońska & her dog
takes me for a walk
warms my frozen heart
licks away my pain with his warm tongue
teaches me to be
a human being
'My Dog', Barbara Wrońska
My dog teaches me to be a human being...
stanisław ignacy witkiewicz
ludwik jerzy kern
Originally written in Polish, Jun 2015, translated by YJR, Jul 2020