Writer, literary and theatre critic, satirist and journalist, translator of French literature. Born on 21 December 1874 in Warsaw, executed in the night from the 3rd to the 4th of July 1941 during the Nazi cleansing of the Lviv intelligentsia.
A writer, literary and theatre critic, satirist and journalist, translator of French literature.
He was the son of a composer Władysław Żeleński and Wanda née Grabowska, a student and friend of Narcyza Żmichowska. The writer's parents ran "an open house", where many renowned guests gathered, including Oskar Kolberg, Władysław Mickiewicz or Ignacy Paderewski.
In 1881 the Żeleński moved to Kraków where the future satirist attended Saint Anna Secondary School, and then studied medicine at the Jagiellonian University. He commented on this educational choice as follows:
As I was brought up in the atmosphere of art and artistry, I am not sure why I found myself studying medicine after graduating from the secondary school in Kraków. It might have been the still current echoes of Positivism, which implied that any studies on the human condition had to be started from the very beginning, that is from cutting corpses. Even though I pretty soon realized that it was a mistake, I graduated from the medical school but not without some effort as my interest lied in other areas. Besides, I must admit that as a result of this spiritual dilemma I would spend most of my time playing cards.
These confessions, however, should be treated with reserve. It is noteworthy that after earning his diploma in 1900, Boy would leave on several academic scholarships (Wrocław, Paris), which may serve as a proof of his real interests in medicine. In 1901 he started working at the Paediatrics Clinic at the Jagiellonian University.
From 1902 to 1906, Boy published numerous scientific articles concerning the subject of paediatrics, including "O pojawieniu się ciałek szpiku kostnego (myelocytów) we krwi niemowlęcej" /"On Bone Marrow Cells (Myelocytes) Occurring in the Blood of Infants" or "O pasteryzacji mleka dla niemowląt" / "On Pasteurising Milk for Infants", in professional medical journals.
He was also the founder of the Kropla Mleka organization whose mission was to promote nutrition hygiene, nursing care and safety of infants. Between 1908 and 1919 Boy used to work as a railway doctor, although it is highly probable that he performed these duties out of the necessity to maintain financial stability. He definitely gave up his professional career as a doctor in 1919.
In his biography of Boy-Żeleński, Andrzej Makowiecki discusses the duality of the writer's personality and "the continuous oscillation between the clear and realistic view on life and evident longings of a 'bohemian' who places the rule of spiritual freedom above social conventions".
On the one hand Boy participates in the life of the artistic bohemia, develops a strong fascination with Stanisław Przybyszewski, and even falls in adolescent love with Przybyszewski's wife, Dagny. On the other hand, his medical profession, marriage to Zofia Pareńska (1904) as well as the rationality and precision of his artistic works show the need for stability. Such duality seems to be an integral part of the writer's personality.
In 1895 Boy-Żeleński published four sonnets in "Świat". Years later he was deeply ashamed of these poems because they were an unsuccessful imitation of the poetry of the Young Poland movement. The actual beginnings of his literary career go back to the period of his active participation in "Zielony Balonik" / "The Green Balloon" cabaret (1907-1912). Boy - which was his cabaret pseudonym - co-founded the famous satirical shows called "Szopki". Yet, the cabaret at Floriańska Street is mostly associated with "Słówka" / "A Word or Two" (1913). In the foreword to the edition of "A Word or Two", Jan Kott wrote the following:
"['A Word or Two'] provided testimony to the epoch and has grown to be a brilliant satire. No wonder we have only just started to discover the work's real literary genealogy and its actual historical meaning. Suddenly 'A Word or Two' is placed next to Kisielewski's dramas: 'W sieci' / 'In a Web' and 'Karykatury' / ‘Caricatures’; Zapolska's 'Moralność pani Dulskiej' / 'The Morality of Mrs. Dulska' and ... Wyspiański's 'Wesele' / 'The Wedding'."
"A Word or Two" is one of its kind chronicle of the life in Kraków between 1900 and 1910. It exemplifies Boy's unique observations regarding phenomena and current affairs of his days. The most widely commented were his texts concerning the Kraków affairs.
There is the account of a refusal to accept Wyspiański's stained-glass windows by the city's cathedral, disputes over the monuments, café life, canonisation of Queen Jadwiga of Poland, Mueller’s athletic training and many more intriguing titbits concerning city life. Through the prism of satire, Boy sketches the image of Kraków as an impoverished and provincial town filled with pseudo-bohemia forgetting about the real and everyday matters, glorifying the idea of Sprit and Beauty while manifesting disregard towards the earthly matters. Kraków is shown as a city of paradoxes - boasting about a vivid intellectual life and considering itself as the spiritual capital but at the same time thinking in a traditional and conventional way and feeding on gossip.
Jan Kott refers to "A Word or Two" as a pamphlet on Kraków and the entire Modernist circle (...) accurately criticising not only the narrow-mindedness and priggishness of the bourgeoisie , but also the style of Young Poland itself".
Boy also denied the Young Poland concept of promoting a literary language. For him, a word was supposed to be an accurate representation of the object that it refers to. Thus, "A Word or Two" advocates the rejection of ornamentation and mannerism in favour of the everyday life, simplification of form, and last but not least introduction of the everyday language to literature. Whereas the Modernist ideas regarding the sublimity of the artist and in particular the subsequent modelling of the artistic life after them are strongly criticised.
However, the attitude of the author of "A Word or Two" towards the movement of Young Poland is not entirely negative. Although he would mock the shallow phraseology, superficial dissent, detachment from reality and glorification of mysticism, the writer also perceived the positive aspects of the Modernist revolution. Namely, it revived the intellectual, creative and cultural powers and created the favourable conditions for the progress to take place.
In the text entitled "O bardzo niegrzecznej literaturze polskiej i jej strapionej ciotce" / "On the Very Naughty Polish Literature and Its Distressed Aunt" he mocks both the Modernist circles and conservatives, including Stanisław Tarnowski, to whom the work is subversively dedicated. In his satire, Boy ridicules the universal vices of mankind. Kazimierz Koźniewski accurately captures this point in his sketch entitled "Za co powinniśmy kochać pana Tadeusza" / "What We Should Love Sir Thaddeus For" by writing that the author:
was, still is and will continue to be the mocking critic of certain permanent vices, certain permanent attitudes of a human being which result from primeval personality features as well as various outlooks on life.
Furthermore, Koźniewski adds that:
'A Word or Two’ makes a literary act of dissent against our primitive, irrational, hypocritical and diversely pious attitudes and social conventions.
Boy’s one of its kind mission was to unveil the subject of eroticism. He spoke against the prudish image of eroticism by showing its biological and physiological aspect. In the works by Żeleński, eroticism was of the highest rank: elegant, light and humorous. In "A Word or Two", the demystification of manners is inseparably linked to literary polemics. The stereotypes and social conventions developed in the Romantic era as well as the ideal image of a woman present in the then current works are clearly criticised.
In "List otwarty kobiety polskiej" / "The Open Letter of a Polish Woman", the title heroine does nothing but wait for someone who will finally take off the halo of holiness and shield of chastity. Within the humorous lines of "Replika kobiety" / "The Reply of a Woman" the writer expresses his dissent against the image of a Polish woman drawn in the works of the greatest Polish poets where each woman "without lingerie / was the symbol of the Homeland / and her bed was the sacrificial stake!"
The objections to the stereotypical thinking are also expressed through the language of "A Word or Two". Scholars univocally praise its exceptional artistic value: great linguistic freedom, perfect syntax, natural and fluent mode of expression, skilfulness in synthesis and mental shortcuts as well as its unique aphoristic style. Many of Boy's acute aphorisms and rhyming verses entered the everyday language as common sayings. One of them was used by Jan Brzechwa in his poem "The Crane and the Heron". "A Word or Two" offers word plays and puns which engage word collocations, rhythm and rhymes. By employing an informal register and commonly used, at times even vulgar, words, the writer aimed at shortening the distance between literature and the real life.
The subsequent edition of "A Word or Two" (1918) included more serious pieces filled with ponderings on the passage of time and human condition in the world. The poems express bitter irony, sadness and existential pain. In the foreword "Od autora" / "From the Author", Boy writes that next to the witty texts, one will also find “poems that are somewhat different, more personal (…) not cabaret-like, lost between the other ones, intimidated and slightly embarrassed by such a company”.
Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński also made a name for himself as a brilliant and accurate translator of the French Literature. This is how he commented on the beginnings of this career as a translator:
I longed for Paris; I missed that wonderful smile of France, its witty but profound wisdom, its breath of love. I started experiencing a vague need to (...) create an imaginary France in my study, something similar to what is now fashionable in medical studies and known as 'the artificial heart'. So, I took up translation.
Aside the works of the representatives of the Symbolist movement, French literature was not in the centre of attention of the Polish Modernists. As he incessantly remained in strong opposition to the style of the Young Poland movement, Boy would read the moralists and satirists of the Enlightenment period, classical comedies of the Molière's era as well as the realist novels of the 19th century.
He first reached for Molière and Balzac, two authors closest to his interests. As early as in 1909, Molière's "The Misanthrope" and "The Forced Marriage" translated by Boy were staged at the Słowacki Theatre in Kraków; the same year his translation of Balzac's "Physiology of Marriage" was published. Between 1909 and 1912 the writer completed the translation of the entire oeuvre of Molière, which was released as a six-volume publication of "Dzieła" / "Works" (Lviv 1912).
Two years later, the writer was awarded by the French Academy in recognition for his work. In that year, he also translated "Lives of Fair and Gallant Ladies" by Brantôme, which again pigeonholed him as the "scandalmonger" and "erotomaniac"; five volumes of Rabelais; the first volume of "Confessions" by Rousseau, "Comedies" by Marivaux, "Discourse on the Method" by Descartes, as well as started rehearsing "Essays" by Montaigne.
During World War I when he used to work as a military doctor, Boy came up with the idea of establishing a library consisting of his own translations: there was an inscription saying "the Library of Boy" and the catalogue number on the title page of each of the works that he translated. Finally, there were over one hundred such volumes published.
In 1922 Wacław Borowy complimented on Boy's achievements in the field of translation in his articles "Boy jako tłumacz" / "Boy as a Translator" and "Oryginalność w przekładach Boya" / "Originality in Boy’s Translations" by appreciating the translator's contribution to the promotion of the French literature. Aside his translating achievements, Boy is also the author of historical texts and critical essays on literature as well as biographies of French writers (including "Studia i szkice z literatury francuskiej" / "Critical Studies and Sketches of French Literature"; "Molier. Życie i twórczość" / "Molière. Life and Works"; "Balzac").
Above all, however, Borowy admired the artistic value of translations and the ability to convey the spirit of the translated work. In the critic’s opinion, Boy's genius lied in his ability to create the language and style of Polish Classicism for the purpose of expressing the French Classicism. He succeeded in conveying the meaning of a given work not only through its content, but also the rhythm, melody, tone, and syntax. In 1958 Jan Błoński called him "the Shakespeare of translation".
Beginning with 1919 Boy translated mostly Balzac and Stendhal. At the end of "the love affair with France" which lasted until 1939, he completed numerous translations including: "In Search of Lost Time" by Proust, "Ubu Roi" by Jarry or "The Vatican Cellars" by Gide. The mentioned works differ considerably from the clearly marked literary preferences from the Library of Boy.
For the most part, the translator chose such authors who advocated the classical transparent form and rationalism. Thus, he reached for the French encyclopedists: Diderot, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau; the Renaissance authors such as Villon or Montaigne; representatives of the 17th century including Descartes, Pacal, Molièr; and finally for the great realist writers: Balzac and Stendhal.
Boy was a harsh critic of the Polish literature. His critical sketches written between 1927 and 1928 were collected in one publication entitled "Ludzie żywi" / "Living People". It consisted of essays on such writers as Narcyza Żmichowska, Stanisław Przybyszewski, Stanisław Wyspiański or Adam Mickiewicz. Boy realized that the writing formula of a traditional biography understood as making monuments out of ordinary people had been used up. Instead, he postulated the demythologising of biographies. As Boy said:
literature and art are created not by 'isms' but by living people whose own lives are often artistic creations; thus saving them from oblivion is the priority of the contemporaries.
In his controversial article "Romans Gabrieli" / "The Love Affair of Gabriela" (1928) Boy brought back the figure of Żmichowska. The text implying her relationships with women gave rise to controversies. Predicting such a course of events, the author commented on it in the conclusion to the article by clarifying his choice of drawing attention to the character of Żmichowska: "you buried her in a manner even worse than you did Norwid, but it is still easier to dig oneself out from a total oblivion than to remove the tomb stone of such canonization".
After arousing the interest in the female writer, the author of "A Word or Two" turned his hands to publishing new editions of her books: "Biała Róża" / "A White Rose" (1929), "Czy to powieść?" / "Is This a Novel?" (1929), "Poganka" / "A Pagan" (1930). Thus, the end justified the means.
Boy also took the gilt off the legend of Przybyszewski whose figure he described in the sketches entitled "Blaski i nędze" / "The Glory and the Squalor", "Kłamstwo Przybyszewskiego" / "Przybyszewski's Lie" and "Poeta a pieniądz" / "A Poet and Money". For providing inspiration to Przybyszewski, the writer gave credit to Dagny whose role was systematically diminished by the author of "Dzieci Szatana" / "The Children of Satan" under pressure of his second wife. By means of a stylistic analysis, Boy proved the artistic superiority of Przybyszewski's early works written during the period when he lived with his Norwegian wife over his later works.
He also expressed a fierce criticism regarding the conflict with a philistine and the myth of an artist’s poverty as caused by the society. First of all, Żeleński, who got to know the bohemian circles from his personal experiences, proved that it was the philistine who supported the artist, and secondly that the artist's difficult financial situation was caused not by the indifferent society but the adopted lifestyle.
Demystifying the legend of Przybyszewski had more than a destructive side to it. In his sketch "Smutny szatan" / "Sad Satan", Boy once again underlined Przybyszewski's inspiring power and great contribution to the refreshment of the intellectual life, specifically to the change of the literary criticism, and liberation of literature from the educational or patriotic obligations.
It is noteworthy to mention two other biographies written by Boy, that of Mickiewicz and Fredro. He started working on the first one in 1928 when Manfred Kridl asked Boy to write a foreword to the edition of Mickiewicz's "Dzieła" / "Works" that were under preparation. Żeleński accepted the offer and later he published the text under the title "Mickiewicz a my" / "Mickiewicz and We" in the collection "Living People". There, Boy offered a revised view on the figure of the great poet. He believed that the interpretation of his works as imposed at schools, which served an educational purpose, destroyed the authentic reception and impact of Mickiewicz's works. Boy's aim was to demythologise the idealistic portrayal of the author of "Dziady" / "The Forefathers" in order to show the real person behind the monument. He postulated to "return Mickiewicz to literature" and formulated the following radical recommendations:
Demolish all monuments of Mickiewicz, cast a huge canon out of them and load it with a certain number of his commentators. Debunk the life of Mickiewicz, explore his mysteries and secrets anew in terms of the real truth not in order to 'raise up the nation's spirits' and hypocrisy. Write anew this moving and lofty life during which the poet reached holiness through passions, falls and sufferings, through making mistakes and apologizing, and making mistakes in the act of apologising itself. Amen.
Boy was not as interested in Mickiewicz's works as in his life, particularly the embarrassing moments, which had been earlier left unsaid, or as the author of "A Word or Two" believed purposefully falsified. Boy interpreted Mickiewicz's stay in Russia not as an exile but the adventure of the poet; the time spend in Śmielów near Poznań during the November Uprising as the period of play and romances. He also put under the microscope the period in which the poet was under the influence of the philosophy of Towianism, when he was said to have a love affair with Xawera Deybel.
The objection against the statuesque treatment of the poet's biography resulted in Boy's conflict with the then current scholars of Mickiewicz's oeuvre. His foreword to "Works" gave rise to a heated discussion regarding the limits of biography writing and triggered an avalanche of both charges concerning slandering the holiness and common gossip.
Yet, Boy was not discouraged. To the contrary, he was even more interested in exploring the subject. The writer focused on Mickiewicz's relations with the philosophy and the figure of Andrzej Towiański. His sketches concerning this question were first printed in "Wiadomości Literackie" and later published in a book "Brązownicy" / "The Gilders" (1930) in which Boy destroyed the myth of Towiański's holiness by presenting him as a man who infected his supporters with the "mysticism of idleness".
Stanisław Pigoń entered into polemics with Boy in his article "O brązach, brązownikach i brązoburcy" / “On Gild, Gilders and Gildoclast”. Pigoń refuted many of the author's arguments, however he focused on the question whether the Mickiewicz campaign would introduce anything new to the literary studies of the poet's works and how to accurately evaluate its cultural role. Historians of literature accused Żeleński of limiting the figure of Mickiewicz to a role of womaniser, a person with an ambiguous attitude towards the November Uprising and a submissive supporter of the philosophy of Towianism. However, according to Maria Janion:
The indisputable achievement of the campaign for the living Mickiewicz was to break away with the primitive scheme of supremacy and to draw a convincing portrayal of tragic contradictions in his life and works.
With regard to Mickiewicz, Boy focused entirely on his biography totally omitting the interpretation of his works (excluding the sketch concerning "Sir Thaddeus": "Robak cywilny i wojskowy" / “The Civil and Military Father Robak”).
As for the text devoted to Aleksander Fredro, it was just to the contrary. Between 1933 and 1934 Żeleński published several articles regarding this Polish writer of comedies in "Wiadomości Literackie", which were later released as a collection entitled "Obrachunki fredrowskie" / "The Fredro Calculations".
It is a strictly historical and literary publication with scarce biographical information. Boy expressed his objection against showing Fredro as a writer-patriot portraying the beauty of the noble Poland, which the writer perceived as a serious danger of an ideological nature. In his detailed analysis of Fredro’s works, Boy proved that the world of the author of "Mąż i żona" / "Husband and Wife" was far from being patriotic or moral. Still, he did not agree to perceive Fredro as a writer who consciously criticised the world of nobility in a fierce and ruthless manner. In Boy's opinion, the comedy performances did not allow for such a standpoint. The battle over Fredro was won by the author of "Living People". The book was highly recognised by literary scholars, including Julian Krzyżanowski and Jan Lorentowicz. Until the present day, it has been considered "the most mature critical book" written by Boy.
Żeleński was also a theatre critic. He made a debut in this profession with a review of the staging of "Tartuffe" for "Czas" in 1919. That year, he also started the cooperation with this Kraków's daily, where he established a permanent column of theatre reviews. It was printed until 1922 and finally published as the three first volumes of "Flirt z Melpomeną" / "Flirting with Melpomena". The assumption that the quality of a theatre performance depends on the quality of a literary text is clearly noticeable in the publications. Boy was critical of overrating the significance of stage, light and sound design. Neither was he the supporter of the idea of theatre reforms and rebirth, which was widely discussed at his time.
In 1920 the University of Poznań offered Żeleński the chair of the Department of French Studies, however as the formalities continued to take longer and longer, the author of "The Gilders" decided to move to Warsaw. There, he became the literary director of the Polski Theatre (1923-1924). In addition, until 1939 he worked as a theatre reviewer for "Kurier Poranny" (excluding the period between 1931 and 1934 when he cooperated with "Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny"). His work resulted in subsequent volumes of "Flirting with Melpomena", which would be published until 1932 in the total of 18 volumes. Jan Kott referred to them as "Boy’s diary in eighteen volumes" drawing upon their documental value. The following collections of his theatre reviews include: "Okno na życie" / "A Window Facing Life" (1933), "Romanse cieniów" / "Romances of Shadows" (1935), "Murzyn zrobił..." / "The Slave Did…" (1939).
The theatre repertoire was of an outstanding importance for Boy. He would often criticise the Society for Promoting Theatre Culture for not sufficient attention paid while choosing the plays to be staged at Polish theatres. At the same time, Boy was the supporter of the Classical, "living" theatre saturated with reality. He believed that the great Romantic theatre was not able to take over its function. Still, he appreciated Witkacy and was one of the enthusiasts of his works. While the majority of critics, and at times even actors, fiercely accused the author of "Szewcy" / "Shoemakers" for the apparent lack of meaning of his works, it was Boy and Karol Irzykowski who spotted his true talent and defended the right to creative experiments.
The theatre reviews of Żeleński were often on the edge of literature. They were filled with opinions on subjects not related to the theatre life but concerning social or universal matters, or "comparing art to life". In Boy, art evoked a large number of afterthoughts regarding social life, legislation, the Church, and brought back the memories of various anecdotes and true events. For this reason, Andrzej Stawar refers to Boy’s reviews as "literature on stage-related subjects”. While pointing to their constant popularity, Andrzej Makowiecki says that the author of "Flirting with Melpomena" "wrote a book about himself, about his own intellectual experience" and his texts "function independently from the reviewed performances, they live their own life, they themselves are both literature and theatre".
Between 1930 and 1931 Boy wrote even more columns concerning the life in Kraków such as "Legenda 'Zielonego Balonika' z perspektywy ćwierćwiecza" / "The Legend of 'The Green Balloon' From the Perspective of a Quarter Century", "Prawy brzeg Wisły" / "The Right Bank of the Vistula River", "Pański Kraków" / “The Lordly Kraków”, "Zakrystia" / "Sancristy", "Na początku była chuć" / “In the Beginning Was the Desire”, or "Odwet Stańczyka" / “The Revenge of Stańczyk”. They were published in 1932 as a collection entitled "Znaszli ten kraj?..." / "Know Thou This Country?" where Boy told his own "legend of Young Poland".
In his "Trzy studia o Boyu" / "Three Studies on Boy", Roman Zimand points to the mythologizing nature of this book. He distinguishes three myths of: Kraków from the turn of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the epoch of Young Poland and "The Green Balloon". They are reflected in the tree-part structure of the volume. Through the prism of the generation gap, the first part presents the old "lordly" Kraków and the roots of the Modernist revolution.
The second part draws a picture of this revolution and focuses on Przybyszewski as the originator of changes. The third part covers the final stage of the period of Young Poland when "The Green Balloon" cabaret was active. However, "Znaszli ten kraj" / "Know Thou This Country?" is far from offering a synthetic view on the epoch. Tomasz Weiss sees it mostly as "an attempt to save a large number of episodes and details, observations and figures associated with the artistic circles of Young Poland".
Boy’s work follows the form of telling a story filled with digressions and creating the illusion of spontaneous flashbacks. It is also full with anecdotes: there is a story about Mycielski longing for the Habsburg Monarchy, about "the pants" of Countess Tarnowska, about eccentricities of Lutosławski, about the honeymoon of Sienkiewicz, about the journalists of "Czas" and many more. It seems that the author of "A Word or Two" worked under the same assumption as in "Living People", which was to show real people, true life experiences and to save "living people" from oblivion.
In the same year when the sketch "Mickiewicz and We" was printed, "Kurier Codzienny" published his article "Biedna prababka" / "Poor Great Grandmother" launching yet another of Boy's campaigns, this time concerning social conventions and morality, which was sometimes referred to as "the fight with ignorance".
Devoted to the Church marital law, the sketch aroused controversies. It was followed by subsequent columns published in 1929 such as "Rozerwalna nierozerwalność" / "Dissolution of Indissolubility", "Kościelne bigamie" / "Church Bigamies", "Dziewice konsystorskie" / "Consistory Virgins".
That year, they were brought out in a collection entitled "Dziewice konsystorskie" / "Consistory Virgins". On its pages, Boy discussed the subject of marital law, which needed to be unified around the country, and the problem of divorces. He postulated to introduce the civil marital law and severely criticised the Church’s practices of dissolution of marriage.
These articles gave rise to a large number of objections from the Church and Catholic circles. Nonetheless, Boy continued his quest. In a subsequent series of columns, he explored the subject of the planned parenthood and the woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. The writer put forward a vast range of arguments against a numerous family: a negative impact of the health of a woman, contribution to the impoverishment of the family, and indirectly to alcoholism, demoralisation and growth of crime rate.
Boy advocated the necessity to take into consideration the financial situation of the mother and the entire family as well as the need for an awareness raising campaign concerning planned parenthood. Boy’s observations evoked an encouraging response from the public. Many liberal writers and journalists supported him. Above all, however, the tangible effect of the campaign was the most important. Namely, the first planned parenthood clinic was opened in Poland and "Wiadomości Literackie" started releasing a supplement entitled "Życie Świadome" / "Conscious Living".
The awareness raising campaign of Boy continued in the period from 1931 to 1932, when "Wiadomości Literackie" published a series of columns criticising the attitudes and practices of the Church. They were issued in a book under a provocative title "Nasi okupanci" / "Our Occupants". Boy highlighted the dangers arising from the Church's domination over all areas of social life. He accused the Church of a lack of humane perspective, narrow-mindedness, hindering the social progress, as well as self-interest and materialism. As Andrzej Makowiecki recapitulates:
Boy's moralising works (...) were in the first place of a practical nature. (...) By referring to the concept of social benefit and common sense supported by humanitarianism, Boy aimed at questioning the fossilised moral standards obstructing the progress in the field of law and limiting the free development of human personality.
Beginning with 1931 Boy faced harsher criticism. Actually, he was attacked by all political options. The newly established nationalist newspapers "Zet" and "Gazeta Literacka" launched a massive campaign against the writer known for the slogan "Liquidate Boy".
However, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz and Karol Irzykowski were even more serious opponents. The first one accused Żeleński of oversimplifying and "vulgarising" the human thought, as well as leaving out the aesthetic and philosophical questions in favour of scandals and gossips. The other writer reinforced the accusations in his book "Beniaminek. Rzecz o Boyu-Żeleńskim" / "The Favourite Child. On Boy-Żeleński" and criticised him for "transforming the history of literature into a laboratory of gossip" and a lack of theoretical and literary background.
In spite of these nationwide attacks, Boy did not lose the support of his loyal readers, in particular those from the circles associated with "Wiadomości Literackie". In addition, he was officially recognised. In 1933, Boy was awarded the Literary Prize of Warsaw, became the member of the Polish Academy of Literature and in 1934 the French government decorated him with the Commander Order of the Legion of Honour.
Following 1935, Boy"s activity in the field of column writing grew weaker. He was still a theatre critic, a more mature historian of literature ("Obrachunki fredrowskie" / "The Fredro Calculations" 1935, an anthology entitled "Młoda Polska" / "Young Poland" 1939) and a biographer. His writing continued to arouse emotions in his readers to the extent that at times their charges against the writer had to be settled in court.
After the outbreak of World War II, the writer moved to Lviv, where he took over the chair of the Department of the French Studies at the local university (whose name was changed to Ivan Franko University). There, he continued the previous forms of his literary activity. He would translate, write reviews and columns but they lacked the former acuteness. His articles were published in "Czerwony Sztandar" / "The Red Banner".
In 1941 Boy joined the editorial board of "Nowe Widnokręgi" / "New Horizons". Following the siege of Lviv by the German army in 1941, he was captured together with other representatives of the Lviv intelligentsia and executed in the night from the 3rd to the 4th of July 1941 in the Wóleckie Hills.
Till this day, Boy - a writer, doctor, journalist, theatre and literary critic, historian of literature and translator - has remained a popular author whose works are still read; he is loved or hated but undoubtedly arouses emotions.
Own works (literature, critical essays, historical and literary works):
"Igraszki kabaretowe", Kraków 1908.
"Piosenki i fraszki 'Zielonego Balonika'", Kraków 1908.
"Triumfy nadpowietrzne pana Rajchamana. Wielka feeria awiatyczno-wokalna na jeden głos z towarzyszeniem kilku aeroplanów". From the repertoire of "Momus", Warsaw 1910.
"Nowe piosenki. Seria 3". From the archives of "Zielony Balonik" in Kraków and "Momus" in Warsaw, Lviv 1910.
"Gdy się człowiek robi starszy... Wierszyków porcja czwarta", Kraków 1911.
"Szopka krakowska 'Zielonego Balonika'" (co-author: Witold Noskowski), Kraków 1911.
"Szopka krakowska 'Zielonego Balonika' na rok 1912" (co-author: Witold Noskowski), Kraków 1912.
"Słówka. Zbiór wierszy i piosenek z 16-ma melodiami w tekście", Lviv 1913.
"Markiza i inne drobiazgi", Kraków 1914.
"Słońce jesienne. Tryptyk", Kraków 1915.
"Z mojego dzienniczka. Akord smutku", Kraków 1917.
"Flirt z Melpomeną. (Wieczór pierwszy - Wieczór dziesiąty)", Warsaw-Kraków 1920-1930.
"Studia i szkice z literatury francuskiej", Kraków 1920.
"Nowe studia z literatury francuskiej", Kraków 1922.
"Molier", Warsaw 1924.
"Pani Hańska", Lviv 1925.
"Brewerie", Warsaw 1926.
"Mózg i płeć. Studia z literatury francuskiej", Series 1-3, Warsaw 1926-1928.
"Plotki, plotki...", Warsaw 1927.
"W Sorbonie i gdzieindziej. Wrażenia paryskie", Warsaw 1927.
"Dziewice konsystorskie", Warsaw 1927.
"Ludzie żywi", Warsaw 1929.
"Pijane dziecko we mgle", Warsaw 1929.
"Brązownicy", Warsaw 1930.
" Marzenie i pysk", Warsaw 1930.
"Piekło kobiet", Warsaw 1930.
"Słowa cienkie i grube", Warsaw 1931.
"Znasz-li ten kraj?... Cyganeria krakowska", Warsaw 1932.
"Jak skończyć z piekłem kobiet? Świadome macierzyństwo", Warsaw 1932.
"Nasi okupanci", Warsaw 1932.
"Zmysły... zmysły...", Warsaw 1932.
"Okno na życie. Wrażenia teatralne", Warsaw 1933.
"Ludzie i bydlątka. Wrażenia teatralne", Warsaw 1933.
"Śmiech, uśmiech i zgroza", Warsaw 1933.
"Wakacje z prydumką", Warsaw 1933.
"Balzak", Lviv 1934.
"Obiad literacki", Lviv 1934.
"Obrachunki fredrowskie", Warsaw 1934.
"Reflektorem w serce. Wrażenia teatralne", Warsaw 1934.
"Nieco mitologii", Warsaw 1935.
"Romanse cieniów. Wrażenia teatralne", Warsaw 1935.
"Perfumy i krew. Wrażenia teatralne", Warsaw 1936.
"Marysieńka Sobieska", Lviv 1937.
"Krótkie spięcia. Wrażeń teatralnych seria szesnasta", Warsaw 1938.
"Murzyn zrobił... Wrażeń teatralnych seria siedemnasta", Warsaw 1938.
"Proust i jego świat", Warsaw 1958.
"1001 noc teatru. Wrażeń teatralnych seria osiemnasta", Warsaw 1975.
Collected and Selected Works:
"Pisma", ed. Henryk Markiewicz, v. 1-29, Warsaw 1955-1992.
"Listy", ed. Barbara Winklowa, Warsaw 1972.
"Szkice o literaturze francuskiej", selected by: Wanda Balicka, przedmowa: Maciej Żurowski, v. 1-2, Warsaw 1956.
"O Krakowie", ed. Henryk Markiewicz, Kraków 1968.
"O Wyspiańskim", ed. Stanisław Witold Balicki, Kraków 1973.
"Reflektorem w mrok. Wybór publicystyki", ed. Andrzej Z. Makowiecki, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warsaw 1978.
"Romanse cieniów. Wybór recenzji teatralnych", ed. Józef Hen, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warsaw 1987.
Author: Paweł Kozioł, November 2010
Wacław Borowy, "Boy jako tłumacz", Warsaw 1922.
Józef Hen, "Błazen - wielki mąż. Opowieść o Tadeuszu Boyu-Żeleńskim", Iskry, Warsaw 1998.
Henryk Markiewicz, "Boy-Żeleński", Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, Wrocław 2001, "A to Polska właśnie" series.
Wojciech Natanson, "Boy-Żeleński", Warsaw: Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza, Warsaw 1983.
Barbara Winklowa, "Boyowie Zofia i Tadeusz Żeleńscy", Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków 2001.
"Boy we Lwowie", ed. Barbara Winklowa, Oficyna Wydawnicza RYTM, Warsaw 1992.