Poet, writer, playwright, journalist, film critic, and a former diplomat and Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Ireland (1991-1995). Born in Warsaw on the 1st of March 1935.
Poet, writer, playwright, journalist, film critic, and a former diplomat and Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Ireland (1991-1995). Born in Warsaw on the 1st of March 1935. Ernest Bryll is also a translator of Irish, Czech, and Yiddish, songwriter ("Peggy Brown" and "A te skrzydła połamane" / "And those broken wings") and member of the Polish Writers' Association, the PEN Club in Poland and Ireland, and the SEC (Society of European Culture).
Ernest Bryll. Photo by Grzegorz Press/Polityka/Reporter/East News
Ernest Bryll is also a translator of Irish, Czech, and Yiddish, songwriter (Peggy Brown and A Te Skrzydła Połamane [And Those Broken Wings]) and member of the Polish Writers' Association, the PEN Club in Poland and Ireland, and the SEC (Society of European Culture).
Bryll has received the Order of the Companion of the Royal House of O'Conor (1995), as well as the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2006). In addition, he has been presented with many literary awards, including the Władysław Broniewski Award (1964) for poetry and the City of Warsaw Award (2009).
After graduating in Polish Studies from the University of Warsaw in 1956, he worked as a journalist by collaborating with publications such as "Po Prostu", "Sztandar Młodych", "Współczesność", and "Miesięcznik Literacki". His debut as a poet came in 1958 with Wigilie Wariata (Christmas Eves of a Lunatic), however, it wasn't until 1963 that he received recognition with his third volume of poems titled Twarz Nieodsłonięta (Non-unveiled face). Bryll's distinctiveness is marked in his choice of themes, and in his work, he often looks at various attitudes in relation to Polish history, Poland's role in Europe, and evaluations of the country's national character and it's vices – traditionally seen as civic and social motifs, often discussed within Old Polish literature (and generally found in Norwid's writing). Bryll's affiliation with tradition is underlined in his use of linguistic style. He doesn't hesitate to use crude language often associated with that of the past and his adaptation of folk colloquialisms is well known. His language would often go into a discourse with Poland's strong romanticism tradition, and he would often attack the 'victim' cult, the celebration of loss, and the absence of sober practice.
A good example of Bryll's approach may be found in the Wciąż o Ikarach głoszą... (They still preach of Icarus...) poem. Referring to Brueghel's painting, where no one pays particular attention to the drowning Icarus, the poet confirms the validity of the situation, and shifts the focus to Daedalus' own achievement. Similarly in Lekcja Polskiego. Słowacki (Polish Lesson. Słowacki), he criticises the romanticist patriotism, and in reference to Kordian, delivers a praising declaration:
our homeland – also cobbled together by a carpenter, / clumsy at its borders as an unwieldy ark, / rocking so from side to side and as always ill, / waiting for...
The Polish-European relations are discussed in the Turystyka (Tourism) poem. Here, Bryll looks at the futility of expectations that polish history will ever be understood by foreigners; we need to leave understanding to ourselves, he seems to say, and be evaluated in accordance with criteria set by tourist guides.
It is clear that Bryll's poetry often characterises itself with sharp satirical references and bitter jokes. Like in Ta Niesamowita Miłość... (This amazing love...), he mocks those elements of elitist culture nursed within aristocratic settings – which seem to be isolated and detached from life in the poverty-stricken gloomy country.
The poem Z Lenartowicza (From Lenartowicz) shows a sense of ridicule towards parochial virtues found in regional parishes, a particular type of a contemporary Sarmatism, where our inferiority complex in relation to a 'cultural' Europe comes to light.
In turn, Bryll's project challenges the illusionary romanticism with a sober plebeian practice, and the folk vim is set against an 'elitist' sensibility. Plebeian morality, in this case, becomes the morality of the weak, forced at times to resort to deception in order to trick the stronger (that's how, for example, the legend of Count Popiel eaten by the mice in the Zapiski (Notes) poem has been re-interpreted).
Such praise of peasant cunning, simulated humility and suppression of emotions seemed for many scandalous; affirmations of such qualities were often opposed by Tomasz Burek and Stanisław Barańczak. The piece Chłopski Wallenrodyzm (Peasant Wallenrodism), for example, gave rise to additional suspicion because in the late '60s, Bryll was considered a pro-regime writer. In Prywatnych Obowiązkach (Private Duties; 1972), Miłosz considered Rzecz Listopadowa (A November Matter) – one of the plays presented at the time – as a manifestation of communism's 'oppression' in that the extremely pessimistic representation of Poland in the piece ruled out any possibility of rebellion. It seems, however, that the critic missed the playwright's irony and sarcasm, and Bryll's literary trick of the so-called 'role' of lyricism, where the character who speaks in the play in a lyrical tone, does not always express the writer's own views.
Later, Bryll's own criticism of the stagnant reality took on a different direction. In the Sadza (Soot) poetry volume (1982, pieces from 1979-80), the poet re-accounts for his ZMP (Union of Polish Youth) past. In presenting a gloomy, hopeless portrait of the existence of Polish workers (tacky architecture, queues in shops, tired and exasperated people), he presented a thesis that it is this exact situation which leads to the transformation of consciousness, and something that resulted in the August strikes and subsequent formation of the 'Solidarity' movement.
Bryll also worked as the artistic chief of Teatr Telewizji (Television Theater; 1967-1968), as well as, the 'Kamera' film group (1967-68), and Teatr Polski (Polish Theatre in Warsaw; 1970-1974). Between 1974-1978, he took on the post of the Polish Culture Institute director in London. After his return to Poland, he tied himself closer to work in the Silesian region: lecturing on film at the Silesian University in Katowice (1978-1979) and became the artistic chief of the Silesia film group in Katowice (1978-1983).
After the announcement of Martial Law in Poland, Bryll announced his departure from the PZPR (Polish United Workers' Party). Subsequently, he published two volumes of poems, and his play Wieczernik, shrouded in biblical motifs, was performed in churches. Bryll is also well known for his combination of music and spoken-word by adopting folk and regional themes. One of the more popular interpretations includes the contemporary take on the traditional pastorale Po Górach, po Chmurach (Over Mountains, over Clouds) and the highlander bandit's Na Szkle Malowane (Painted on Glass).
Author: Paweł Kozioł, March 2011. Translated by Klaudiusz Ślusarczyk, July 2011. Update: AP, February 2019.
- Wigilie wariata / Christmas Eves of a Lunatic, Iskry, Warsaw 1958;
- Autoportret z bykiem /Auto-portrait with a bull, Iskry, Warsaw 1960;
- Twarz nieodsłonięta / Non-unveiled face, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1963;
- Sztuka stosowana / Applied Art, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1963;
- Mazowsze / Mazovia, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1967;
- Muszla / Seashell, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1968;
- Fraszka na dzień dobry / A Good Morning Epigram, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1969;
- Poezje wybrane / Selected poems, PIW, Warsaw 1970;
- Zapiski / Notes, PIW, Warsaw 1970;
- Piołunie piołunowy / Wormwood, Wormwood, LSW, Warsaw 1973;
- Dramaty i wiersze / Plays and poems, PAX, Warsaw 1973;
- Zwierzątko / Pet, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1975;
- Ta rzeka / This river, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1977;
- Rok Polski / Polish year, PAX, Warsaw 1978;
- Wiersze wybrane / Selected poems, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Cracow 1978;
- A kto się odda w radość / Who Will Give Himself to Joy, PAX, Warsaw 1980;.
- Czasem spotykam siebie / Sometimes I meet myself, WL, Cracow 1981;
- Sadza / Soot, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1982;
- Wiersze / Poems, Biblioteka Tygodnika Stanu Wojennego, Warsaw 1983;
- Pusta Noc / Empty night, PAX, Warsaw 1983;
- List / Letter, Nowa, Warsaw 1985;
- Gołąb pocztowy / Carrier Pigeon, Pokolenie, Warsaw 1986;
- Boże uchroń nas od nienawiści / God, keep us from hatred, CDN Warsaw 1985;
- Adwent / Advent, Aneks, Londyn 1986;
- Wiersze / Poems, Solidarność Walcząca, Łódź 1987;
- Kropla w wodospadzie / A droplet in a waterfall, Interart, Warsaw 1995;
- Kto chce znać wiatr / Who Wants to Know the Wind, PAX, Warsaw 1996;.
- Widziałem jak odchodzą z nas ci ludzie dobrzy / I have seen how the good people depart form us, W Drodze, Poznań 1996;
- Rok Polski 2000 / Polish year 2000, Mark Jaromski's woodcuts edition, BŚ, Katowice 2000;
- Kubek tajemny / Secret cup, PAX, Warsaw 2000;
- Golgota Jasnogórska / Via Dolorosa of Jasna Góra, an edition of 500 copies, Paulinianum, Jasna Góra, Częstochowa, 2001;
- Nie proszę o wielkie znaki / I Am Not Asking for Great Signs, PAX, Warsaw 2002;
- Jezioro Kałuża / Puddle lake, Adam Marszałek, Toruń 2003;
- Na ganeczku snu / Upon a dream's porch, Gaudium, Toruń 2004;
- Na dom pada cieniutki blask / A thin glow falls upon the home, Ibis, Warsaw 2005;
- W ciepłym wnętrzu kolędy / In the Warm Interior of a Christmas Carol, Zysk, Poznań 2007;
- Trzecia nad ranem / At 3 am, Wydawnictwo św. Jacka, Katowice 2008;
- Wiośnin: panna młodości / Spring: The Mistress of Youth, Poznań, Zysk i S-ka, 2008;
- Chrabąszcze / May Bugs, Gaudium, Lublin 2009;
- Pod wieżą zakochanych / Under the Lover's Tower, Wydawnictwo Anagram, Warszawa, 2012;
- Ciągle za mało stary / Still not too Old, Zysk i S-ka, Poznań, 2015.
- Studium / A Study, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1963;
- Ciotka / Aunty, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1964;
- Gorzko, Gorzko / Bitterly, bitterly, Czytelnik, Warsaw 1965;
- Jałowiec / Juniper, LSW, Warsaw 1965;
- Drugi niedzielny autobus / The Second Sunday Bus, LSW, Warsaw 1969;
- Betlejem / Bethlehem, Pelikan, Warsaw 1987;
- O trzeciej nad ranem / At 3 am, with Izabela Górnicka-Zdziech, Edycja Św. Pawła, 2009.
Plays, Oratorios, Musicals, TV Plays (staging or publication dates):
- Ballady lipieckie / Lipickie ballads, 1967;
- Żołnierze / Soldiers, 1968;
- Rzecz Listopadowa / November Matter, 1968;
- Kurdesz, 1968;
- Pogórach po chmurach / Over mountains, over clouds, 1969;
- Na szkle malowane / Painted on Glass, 1970;
- Kto ty jesteś / Who you are, 1971;
- Wołaniem wołam cię / Crying out, I call out to you, 1972;
- Zagrajcie nam dzisiaj... / Play for us today, 1973;
- Doświadczyński, 1978;
- Słowik / Nightingale, 1978;
- Ballada łomżyńska / Łomża ballad, 1978;
- Kolęda-Nocka / Christmas carol - Night, musical, gold record, 1980;
- Wieczernik, 1984;
- Dybuk, KOS, Warsaw 1988;
- Tristan, 1996;
- Cyrano, 1997;.
- A kto się odda w radość / Who Will Give Himself to Joy, 1998;
- Wołał nas Pan / The Lord called upon us, 1999;
- Bo duszę ma nasz dom / Beucase our House has a Soul, 2004;
- Przejście przez morze / Crossing the Sea, 2005;
- Jajokracja / Eggocracy, 2007.
- Miodopój (VI-XII) with Małgorzata Goraj, PAX, Warsaw 1978;
- Irlandzki Tancerz (XII-XIX) / Irish dancer, with M. Goraj, PAX, Warsaw 1981;
- Tain / Táin Bó Cúailnge, LSW, Warsaw 1983;
- Historia Irlandii / History of Ireland, with M. Goraj, Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 1998;
- Doire Aniołów Pełne / Doire full of Angels, with M. Goraj, W drodze, Poznań 1998;
- Anthony Cronin, Koniec współczesnego świata / Anthony Cronin, The end of the modern world, with M. Goraj, Motivex / Nakom, Poznań 2003;
- Eire, wiersze irlandzkie VI-XIX / Eire, Irish poems VI-XIX, with M. Goraj, ISC Sc & Biblioteka Telgte, Warsaw-Poznań 2004.
- Tomasz Mizerkiewicz, Nie mówić jak Aricapu / To speak unlike Aricapu, "Nowe Książki", List w butelce / Message in a bottle;
- Piotr Śliwiński, Poezja, rzecz osobista / Poetry, a personal matter, "Nowe książki" 5 / 2001, Kubek tajemny / Secret cup;
- Alina Tarnowska, Ernest Bryll 'Do Jonathana Swifta'. W kręgu inspiracji Miłoszową wizją historii / Ernest Bryll 'To Jonathan Swift'. In the realm of inspirations by Miłosz's vision of history, "Topos" 4-5 (65-66)2002.