Born 1972. A writer, poet, film critic, screenwriter and spelunker, winner of the 2003 Polityka Passport for Literature and of the 2004 Nike Literary Award.
A writer, poet, film critic, screenwriter and spelunker, winner of the 2003 Polityka Passport for Literature and of the 2004 Nike Literary Award.
Kuczok belongs to the small group of young writers who have successfully overcome the limitations of their generation's style, his great and rare talent demonstrating itself already in his literary debut, the superb Opowieści słychane / Stories Overheard (aka Overheard Tales; 1999). While many other young writers have an ear for language (which is their strength and, somehow, their fetish, too), in Kuczok's case it has manifested itself at a super-sensitive level which is inaccessible to the competition. No-one else has succeeded in producing an equally shocking mixture of ordinariness and terror, either.
The film Pręgi (The Welts), based on Gnój and directed by Magdalena Piekorz, won Złote Lwy / Golden Lions at the 2004 Gdynia Film Festival. After the media success of the book Gnój and of the film Pręgi Kuczok enjoyed a period of well-deserved, though short-lived, popularity, his name appearing in popular magazines in connection with interviews, theatre and film productions and, last but not least, under his short stories. An announcement of a quick end of work on a novel called Pleśń (Mould), addressing the issue of cruelty in the family from a somewhat different angle, was made but was never fulfilled. It would presumably contain some of the themes – the non-childhood ones – from the film Pręgi. Instead of the novel, Kuczok wrote a collection of short stories Widmokrąg (Ghostring).
Widmokrąg brings together Kuczok's short stories which appeared in print in non-literary magazines as well as in collections of Christmas stories. Most of them talk about love but do so in a way which may be different from what the blurbs may suggest. There is, for example, a story of an old woman traveling to visit her husband's grave on All Souls' Day (Królowa Bólu), a story of a city boy's affection for a woman from the mountains, broken by his parents for fear of infestation with lice (Cielęce Tańce) or a grotesque about the homosexual initiation of a young businessman (Żebry Adama). One of the stories, Doktor Haust, has been turned into a monodrama by the same title and was produced at Warsaw's Teatr Studio by Magdalena Piekorz, its premiere taking place on 8th January 2005.
Kuczok's next book of short stories, published as Opowieści Przebrane (Confected Stories), was basically a re-edition of somewhat changed stories from his earliest volumes and included (Dioboł, Cobyś widzioł..., Pieron Ognisty, Ttadzik, Winniczek [apocrypha], Trzydzieści Trzy Pytania, Zianie, Nasza Patronka między Różami, Malizm Reagiczny, Ikra Boża, Chłopowiadanie, Impromptu and Szkieleciarki.
Besides prose Kuczok writes essays on films and has published To Piekielne Kino (The Hellish Cinema), a collection of thoroughly analytical reviews, some of which had at one time appeared in "ResPublica Nowa". True to the book's title, Kuczok analyzes films which can be called 'hellish', be they as different as Pier Paolo Passolini's Saló, or 120 Days of Sodoma and Bergman's pictures. The provocative title and selection of films come from Kuczok's expectation that the cinema should 'attempt to demoralize him and give him a chance to resist those attempts. Thank you very much for moralizing...'. Interestingly, it is Krzysztof Zanussi who gets most reviews. The book ends with an essay on the writing of Pręgi's screenplay.
In 2009 another volume of film-centred essays was published. In Moje Projekcje (My Screenings), Kuczok analyses a series of motives: from artists suffering from a writer's block to depressed intellectuals such as Woody Allen, to unhappy, shy lovers, Kuczok writes about a group of protagonists he met in the screening room. It's an intimate book, in which the author speaks directly to the readers, sharing his personal notions, although packaged in an erudite form.
The relationship between Kuczok's writing and the cinema is so close that it cannot be regarded as accidental, and one more project, Senność (Sleepiness) (aka Drowsiness, Somnolence) has been authored by the Kuczok and Piekorz duo. This time, however, Kuczok reversed the sequence of activities followed in the case of Gnój and Pręgi: first came the screenplay and then the book. Both, though, provoked mixed critical response. The film and the book alike were criticized for their conventionality, while the book was generally praised for its linguistic creativity and superb feel for style.
Both the film and the book tell three inter-related stories: of an actress suffering from narcolepsy; of a homosexual doctor hiding his sexual orientation from his parents; and of a burnt-out writer whose new novel takes a long time to write. Run separately for a while, the three themes then start to come together.
Kuczok is a master of linguistic character description, including the use of dialects and vivid descriptions, and can be proud of his story-telling skills. Rare in recent "high-flying" literature, the latter may be somewhat lacking in Senność, yet it ought to be treated as a one-off accident at work rather than a worrying symptom.
Critics considered Spiski. Przygody tatrzańskie (Plots. Tatra Adventures; 2011). It tells stories about a man from Silesia, whose life rhythm is determined by travels to the Tatra Mountains. Firs erotic adventures, love of football and nature, but also observations of the lives of Silesians and mountaineers fill the pages. Justyna Sobolewska wrote in her review:
There are too many attractions towards the end: sleeping knights in the cave, the disappearance of the cross from Giewont – fortunately all described in a buffo tone. All of this can be forgiven, because Kuczok's grotesque is as energetic as the mountaineers' dance.
Poza Światłem (Beyond the Light, 2012) is Kuczok's most personal book, and the author himself is the storyteller. He presents himself to the readers as a hopeless wanderer, a Tatra climber, a speleologist and an explorer (mention should be made of one of Kuczok's non-literary successes: on 12th November 2005 he went down in the history of spelunking by discovering – with Maciej Pawełczyk – a new cave, Jaskinia Dująca, in the Beskids). He is charmed by what's beyond the surface of the earth, at the same time – with his typical spite and disagreement with the world as it is – he pitilessly exposes evil that people do on the surface itself.
In 2013 Kuczok published Obscenariusz (what could be translated as 'Obscreenplay', a game of words 'obscenity' and 'screenplay'), a collection of short stories in which he wrestles with the difficult matter of erotics. In an interview he said:
My last book consists pretty much only of scenes from the bed. I can safely say I finally stopped lying to myself, saying that the plot comes first and erotics is only an ornament
In the short stories, he tries to find the right literary language to describe sexual experiences that are hard to grasp and often hanging – as states the title of the quoted text - „somewhere between fuchsia and penis”, between flamboyant metaphors and technical or medical terminology. In diverse stories, he sometimes focuses more on the style, sometimes – on the psychology of his characters. Even though the subject is not as scandalous anymore, it's a pleasure to read the book.
Published in 2016, the dream book Proszę Mnie Nie Budzić (Please Don’t Wake Ne up) is a literary experiment and an attempt at surpassing the boundaries of literaturę. At the suggestion of his ex-wife, Agata Passent, Kuczok started writing down his dreams for a dozen months. In the book, we can read about mountains, actors of the literary and political worlds and such oneiric visions as the writer’s participation in the Warsaw Uprising.
Author: Paweł Kozioł, December 2008 based on a text sent in by the Instytut Książki in Kraków, 2004; updated by AP, February 2019.
- Opowieści samowite (Credible Stories) (poetry), Bytom: FA-art, 1996;
- Opowieści słychane / Stories Overheard, Kraków: Zielona Sowa, 1999;
- Szkieleciarki (Skeletophobia) (aka Skelestories, Skeleton Women), Kraków: Zielona Sowa, 2002;
- Gnój (Muck), Warsaw: W.A.B., 2003;
- Widmokrąg (Ghostring), W.A.B., Warsaw 2004;
- Opowieści przebrane (Confected stories), W.A.B., 2005;
- To piekielne kino (The Hellish Cinema), W.A.B., Warsaw 2006;
- Senność (Sleepiness), W.A.B., 2008;
- Spiski. Przygody tatrzańskie (Plots. Tatra Adventures), W.A.B., 2010;
- Poza światłem (Beyond the Light), W.A.B., 2012;
- Obscenariusz (Obscreenplay), W.A.B., 2013;
- Proszę mnie nie budzić (Please Don't Wake Me up), wydawnictwo W.A.B., Warszawa 2016.