Paying tribute to a man who "saw the forgetting of history as a disaster," the world press is characterising, comparing and placing Różewicz in the history books.
In an extensive article for The Guardian, British-Hungarian poet George Szirtes calls Różewicz an "inventive and humane poet of a decimated generation". He compares the texture of his voice to "other European poets of his generation, Herbert, Milosz, and Leopold Staff before them, but also Holan, Holub, Popa and Enzensberger. [...] In other ways, Różewicz may remind us of Objectivists such as Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Oppen and Carl Rakosi. We can map him broadly if not fully." Szirtes first read a selection of his poetry when it appeared in 1975 in the Penguin Modern European Poets series. He characterises the deceased poet's writing as,
Simple language and a broad modernist technique to pursue images to the darkest of conclusions. […] His work bears witness to the worst of the 20th century without surrendering its human sympathy. Różewicz's eye was merciless but the poems are full of human sympathy. Różewicz was a major figure in modernist poetry but his modernism has little to do with theory and formal experiment as such. There is, in his harsh clarity, something beyond, a touch of early Chagall perhaps, as though life were sacred after all. He has been done proud by his chief translator Adam Czerniawski and will be one of the poets through whom we continue to understand what happened in the last century.
The Times Literary Supplement recalls an after-war TLS article in which Derwent May described Różewicz’s poems as "perhaps the most moving record in recent Polish literature of humanity managing to survive against appalling odds" and Michael Irwin's 1982 review of Conversation with the Prince, in which he noted the consistency of voice, over the course of 119 poems in translation, which the translator had sought to reflect. The article acknowledges the role of "one of Różewicz’s champions, Adam Czerniawski", who made the poet’s work available to an anglophone readership. Różewicz’s free verse, Irwin writes, "dispenses with rhyme, metre, punctuation. ... this antipoetic mode was a calculated attempt to find a language sufficiently unadorned to permit a faithful response to the horrors Tadeusz Różewicz witnessed as a resistance fighter in the war".
Die Welt and the Frankfurter Allgemeine remind of Różewicz's Nobel prize nomination which never resulted in an award. Identifying his style, the German newspapers wrote,
The romantically lyrical play of sounds was foreign to him. The often emotional, occasionally lofty traditions of Polish poetry no longer fit his generation, which was shaped by the experience of the Second World War and the German occupation. Similarly to German poets and philosophers, Rozewicz had to ask himself if there was poetry after Auschwitz. From the apparently cold but very precise perspective of an observer, Rozewicz put the speechlessness of the war generation in words.
Several of his works were translated into German and he received a number of awards in Germany.
Libération looks back at Różewicz’s 2007 European Literature Prize and calls him an “author on the fringe of literary trends, one of the most inventive artists of his generation. In his work, he shattered the existing theatrical categories in order to introduce the absurd, the grotesque, chaos, poetry. His protagonists are unstrung, lacking an established identity, convinced about the death of God and the smallness of the human.”
In Italy, the first Rozewicz translation appeared in 1964 (by Mondadori). The Quotidiano Libero writes about his moral duty,
In time, he freed himself from the anguishing experience of his generation by giving birth to poetry of deep moral commitment which is expressed in an inornate style and open to colloquial language.
In the eyes of his contemporary Polish writers
"I cannot imagine what postwar Polish poetry would be like without the poems of Tadeusz Różewicz. We all owe him something, although we don’t all know how to admit it."
Described him as "the most talented among those who began to publish immediately after 1945. […] By contrasting the scenes of war that he had witnessed with the entire heritage of European culture, he arrived at a negation of literature because it seemed to be no more than a lie covering up the horror of man’s brutality to his fellow man. […]Long before anybody in Poland had heard of Samuel Beckett, Różewicz's imagination created equally desperate landscapes."
He was the first poet I knew about. It was not until later that I got to know Miłosz, Herbert or Rilke and I realized that Różewicz is one of the options. Before that he was almost like the voice of God. A Różewiczian poem is seemingly easy, [his poetry] had a legion of imitators, but it’s perhaps a bit like coca-cola: you can’t imitate it. Różewicz came up with this simple poetic discourse and he spoke in it almost until the end. That’s how you recognize that a master was speaking.
The most valuable for me are his early poems. They will always stay powerful, because Różewicz found his way of expressing extreme experience. The most beautiful is the poem "In the middle of life" written in the 50s. The one in which he says "the human must be loved / I learned at night in the day / what must be loved / I replied that it must be the human". That was the fullest expression of Różewicz.
Author: Mai Jones 28/04/2014
Sources: The Guardian book blog, The Times Literary Supplement, Liberation, FAZ