Born in Warsaw in 1956. He is a novelist, essayist, translator of Kundera and Cioran, a literary historian at Literary Research Institute of Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters, and a contributor to the French quarterly "L'atelier du roman". He studied Romance Languages and Literatures at Warsaw University.
A novelist, essayist, translator of Kundera and Cioran, and a literary historian at Literary Research Institute of Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
His reputation was established by his novel Terminal (1994), a "post-modernist" love story of two scholarship winners who arrive in France from the opposite ends of the world. "Time's scholarship winner," as the male lover and narrator auto-ironically describes himself, is a contemporary troubadour – and the game that he must play is the contemplation of the vacuity and emptiness into which he is driven by self-knowledge and his role as a character in a tale of impossible love. After all, everything that happens is make-believe, in quotation marks, an intermezzo – for such is the nature of a scholarship. As a lover and as an author, he is fated to remain unsatisfied, to re-enact the gestures and rituals imposed by culture, language and memory. Bieńczyk's novel is full of delicate humour and elegant literary games, hidden quotations, allusions and digressions. It is complemented by Melancholy. Those Who Never Recover What They've Lost (1998), an essay on the melancholy sensibility and its presentation in contemporary literature.
In 1999 Bieńczyk has published his second novel Tworki, set in a psychiatric hospital during Second World War. It has received a prize from the Culture Foundation. It is a story about the proper name (the main protagonist Sonia doesn't survive the Holocaust, but she leaves a letter signed with the first letter of her name), which is both the closest and the most foreign thing in the world since it is shared with so many other people. That is the definition of literature according to Bieńczyk: a signature asking for salvation, a trail of writing in need to be cared for.
A characteristic feature of Marek Bieńczyk's works is the obliteration of borders between genres – he fills his novels with essayist cogitation and in his collection of essays he puts fictional excerpts – or rather, excerpts in which the narrator reveals himself and his privacy – real or imagined. It's hard to define the genre of his prose – what's certain is that the author's individuality and the tenderness with which he looks around, are very strong. Possibly it's because in his essays he mostly writes about things important to him, it's almost impossible to distinguish the 'objective self' from the "subjective self". The way in which he reads reality before writing, a lecture that consists of collecting data (or: treasures) is very personal and also placed in-between genres. Bieńczyk reads both great novels and essays, and architecture, flavours, scents, movement.
Przezroczystość (Transparency, trans. by A.P.; 2007) is a collection of essays on the subject and at the same time a beautiful fable, a story of a dream (the word rêve – a dream in French – is an anagram of the word verre, glass). In the book the author teaches us a beautiful Greek word diaphanes, which "in French is used to describe a permeability of light, not total, but noticeable. Porcelain can be diaphane, as well as an autumn leaf, parchment, aristocratic skin on someone's hands". Marek Bieńczyk also quotes Sartre: "the sun was clear and diaphane: as white wine". The quote indicates another characteristic property of his texts: synesthesia, the crucial role of reading the world through senses.
Marek Bieńczyk was nominated for the Nike Literary Award several times. In 2012 he received it for the collection of essays Książka Twarzy (Book of Faces, trans. by A.P.):
Thanks to the Nike award a temporary coming out of the essay took place. And when journalists came to me with a microphone, they had this word to process because it was thrown at them. Essay! Now we say it, because the word was allowed to enter the scene. Obviously it was always a genre practised secretly. But when truly great essays are published here, such as Sebald's, they usually sell really well. In a way it is an immortal genre. Nobody ever spoke of the death of the essay, in a way in which we spoke about the death, the end of the novel (Konrad Wojtyła, Rewersy. Rozmowy literackie / Reverses. Literary conversations, Mikołów 2014).
But the author has no illusions, and he shares this with the journalist.
Two days after Nike I went to an opera premiere, they played Wagner. I enter, I see a crowd of reporters, I inflate, and my wife gives me a dig in the ribs, they are not here for you, they are here for that actress and that guy with a mohawk haircut. In short, let's not exagerrate with the Nike.
What can the author do in this situation? What remains, is solitary work on another book.
I'm working on something new, which the editor won't like anyway. I'll come, I'll say: "I have something bad to tell you". And he will ask: "You wrote an essay?". And I'll answer: "I don't know what it is, prose, essay, short stories. I just know one thing: it's not gonna be a hit!" (Konrad Wojtyła, Rewersy. Rozmowy literackie, [Reverses. Literary conversations, trans. by A.P.], Mikołów 2014).
And yet Bieńczyk's next book, a collection of essays Jabłko Olgi, Stopy Dawida (Olga's Apple, Dawid's Feet, trans. by A.P.; 2015), a follow-up to The Book of Faces, was a hit in a way – if any collection of essays can be called a hit. Many critics thought it is the best book he ever wrote. The author once again leads us through a labyrinth of his fascinations and delights. He writes about Dominique Sand, Dalida, Jean-Jacques Sempe and Edward Hopper, honouring them and art itself. Justyna Sobolewska wrote:
It seems essay is necessary nowadays, because in the times of too much information and useless knowledge, it is what can connect all of these surrounding quotes from literature, philosophy, songs and movies with our lives Many people will find themselves in this book (Polityka, 30.03.2015).
Published in 2018 and nominated for the 2019 Nike Literary Award, Kontener (Container – trans. By A.P.) is a lyrical follow-up to his previous collection of essays. After his mother’s death, Bieńczyk joined the funeral cortege accompanied by Proust, Flaubert, Camus, Barthes and other greats. In fact, the synesthetic ponderations do not make up a book about loss but an affirmation of life enchanted in shoes, insects, a copperplate engraving, and above all, breath. As Justyna Sobolewska wrote:
Bieńczyk’s capacious "container" leads us towards many directions but it also turns out, as indicated by ephemera, that it is a story of epiphanies. Its subject is life, fully felt under the shadow of death. Bieńczyk’s book resembles a musical composition, in which subsequent motives and sounds appear, introduce new ones, repeat and only resound together ("Polityka", 02.10.2018).
- Terminal, Warsaw: PIW, 1994;
- Czarny człowiek. Zygmunt Krasiński wobec Śmierci (The Black Man: Zygmunt Krasiński and Death), Warsaw: Literary Research Institute, 1991;
- Those Who Never Recover What They've Lost: Melancholy (Melancholia. O tych, co nigdy nie odnajdą straty, Warsaw: Sic!, 1998;
- Tworki, Warsaw: Sic!, 1999;
- Kroniki Wina (The Wine Chronicles), Warsaw: Sic!, 2001 (more...);
- Przezroczystość (Transparency), Kraków: Znak, 2007;
- Książka Twarzy (The Book of Faces), Warsaw: Świat Książki, 2011;
- Jabłko Olgi, Stopy Dawida (Olga's Apple, Dawid's Feet), Warsaw: Wielka Litera, 2015;
- Kontener (Container), Warszawa: Wielka Litera, 2018.
Source: www.polska2000.pl; copyright: Stowarzyszenie Willa Decjusza. Update: AP, October 2019.