The presidents of Poland, Italy and Germany took part in unveiling the commemorative plaque on the former home in Naples, Italy, of Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, the Polish writer, journalist and essayist who left important accounts of atroticites of the totalitarian USSR
The presidents of Poland, Italy and Germans took part in unveiling the commemorative plaque on the former home in Naples, Italy, of Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, the Polish writer, journalist and essayist who left important accounts of atroticites in the totalitarian USSR
Herling-Grudziński was a political dissident living abroad during the communist system in Poland, whose writings were banned at home. He is best known for A World Apart, his account of life in the Soviet Gulag, first published in 1951 in London.
The writer co-founded and initially co-edited the influential émigrée journal Kultura, in 1947, when the political and cultural periodical was published in Rome. When Kultura moved to Paris, Herling-Grudzinski settled in London and then in Naples, where he married Lidia, daughter of the philosopher Benedetto Croce. He wrote for Tempo Presente, run by Nicola Chiaromonte and Ignazio Silone, and for other dailies and periodicals. He died in Naples in 2000.
The commerative plaque, uncovered at the ceremony by Presidents Bronisław Komorowski, Giorgio Neapolitano and Joachim Gauck is mounted on what was Herling-Grudziński’s home for over 40 years, on Via Crispi. Marta Herling, the writer’s daughter, remembers:
The home had two levels, with Father’s office on the first floor. He spent most of the day there, in search of solitude and a focus on writing. This office was not a usual working place, but rather a world where Gustaw Herling-Grudziński built a world of his own. Perhaps he even created his own Poland in there.
Marta Herling is in charge of archiving and digitalizing Herling-Grudziński’s manuscripts. She has announced that a huge archive of her father’s correspondence exists, dating from the 1970s. The writer had destroyed numerous of his manuscripts.
After the end of World War II, Herling-Grudziński was among the active and renowned Polish writers of the emigration after the Second World War, and is recognised as one of the outstanding Polish writers of the 20th century. His subjects included opposition to totalitarianism, religious doubt, existential solitude and the automation of life, in works of literary criticism, prose, essays and original mixed forms. His critical work reflected interests in Russian literature, European classics and painting. The erudition in his sketches on art shows that for Herling-Grudziński, culture is a metaphysical manifestation of human uncertainty, and the capacious symbolic language at the service of sensual perception. He was transformed as a writer by the impact of experiences in the Gulag, which he recorded in Inny świat (A World Apart), among the first and finest of literary works on that terrifying subject.
A World Apart was translated into English by Joseph Marek (the pen name of Andrzej Ciołkosz); the 1951 version was published with an introduction by Bertrand Russell, and the 2005 edition was introduced by Anne Applebaum. Describing life in the Gulag in a harrowing personal account, Herling provided his in-depth, original analysis of the nature of the Soviet communist system. Written 10 years before Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, A World Apart received international acclaim as well as criticism from Soviet sympathizers. A selection from Journal Written at Night, which he wrote over 30 years, was translated by Ronald Strom and published as Volcano and Miracle (1997). A collection of short stories, The Noonday Cemetery and Other Stories (2003), was translated by Bill Johnston.
In his stories, Herling traces the "individual fate" that mark each person's road toward reconciliation with death. The literary specifics of these tales, which might be called metaphysical crime stories, are determined by his renewal of 19th-century forms known from Poe, Melville and James. "Original traditionalism" also marks his Journal Written at Night, which he initiated in 1971 and continued until his death, combining journal entries with essays on art, political commentaries, and works of fiction. In his journal, Herling-Grudiński commented events that led to the Solidarity movement in Poland, the first non-communist trade union, which fought for workers' rights and took a crucial role in the fall of communism.
Marta Herling has announced the critical collection of her father’s oeuvre that is currently underway, with literary historian Włodzimierz Bolecki as editor in chief. The first two volumes have been published in Polish, and the project is to be completed by 2019, for the writer’s 100th birthday. Marta Herling said:
I believe that this monumental edition will become a great literary event. Father was keen on having his writings published and he comissioned the family to look after the completion of this work. I hope that this publication will instigate a process of discovering a writer of whom we do not yet have all the knowledge. As we searched through the archive, we have come across completely unknown texts. For me, it is something very moving.
Gustaw Herling-Grudziński’s works have been translated into English, French, German, Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Dutch, Bulgarian, Croatian, Italian and Slovenian. He received many literary prizes: Kultura (1958), Jurzykowski (1964), Kościelskis (1966), The News (1981), the Italian Premio Viareggio prize, the international Prix Gutenberg, and French Pen-Club. He was awarded with the Order of the White Eagle by Poland in 1998.
Thumbnail credits: Gustaw Herling-Grudziński in Kraków, photo by Elżbieta Lempp, 2000
Source: press release