Józef Czapski kept a journal from his early youth until death. Although all the pre-war notes were destroyed, 274 notebooks written in the years 1942-92 survived intact. Czapski made excerpts ready for print in the 1960s an 1970s, giving them the title Wyrwane Strony / The Torn-Out Pages. He published some of them in Jerzy Giedroyc's Kultura, Zeszyty Literackie and the underground publication Res Publica. They were also included in two book editions. Critic Wojciech Karpiński said that 'the drafts of dreams, books, issues, and pictures present in 'The Torn-Out Pages' shape one of the most important Polish 20th century works in prose, and in fact Polish prose in general'.
The current edition selected by Barbara Toruńczyk hails back to Czapski's original text as much as possible, using original manuscripts, rejecting corrections and previous editorial abridgements. The volume's extensive footnotes, which take up fifty pages, form an indispensable guide to this fascinating mass of thoughts, emotions and memories.
Józef Czapski was a painter, essayist, and writer who composed a 'one of a kind journal', and, as Konstanty A. Jeleński wrote, 'a most accurate self-portrait'. Czapski scribbled his notes in black or coloured pencils, and often encircled the notes with winding comments related to a draft, an intended picture, a vision he remembered, or to its colours. He liked to paste press articles, letters he received, or their fragments, inside his notebooks. He copied quotations from books and from his favourite poems.
Professor Maria Janion writes about Czapski's journals:
Podręczna kolekcja okruchów egzystencji' ('A Reference Collection of Life's Bits') is one of the most mysterious works in Polish literature. Epiphanies of reality, painter's notes and notes of a passionate reader (citations that 'manage to keep you alive'), the evidence of spiritual practice, 'the control of the day's beat'. In a word, it is a unique form of trying to describe the inner rhythm (the 'tangle'!) of life. A true journal intime.
Magdalena Grochowska argues in her own review:
On these pages, Czapski the writer meets Czapski the painter. One looks carefully at the other. The 'you' highlights the notion of dialogue. Czapski 'becomes' every day anew in front of the reader's eyes. For neither creative fever nor your own humanity are given once and forever. Every day the painter and writer reconstruct each other in putting the paint on the canvas and in scribbling a spiritual landscape inside his intimate notes. (Gazeta Wyborcza, June 29, 2010)
According to Adam Zagajewski, Czapski in his journal
searched for what modern painting had dissociated itself from: the soul. Through writing, he completed the dimension of the contemporary world with a religious anxiety.
Grochowska also notes, that
Czapski's journal is a story about the pain which follows men even in their peak moments, even in the moments of 'embracing life', when the elated artist claims, 'I see again, I breathe through my eyes'. The later journal is a moving recording of the symptoms of old age, of tearing off from the world, and of the fading of creative powers.
At the end Grochowska remarks:
The fragments where the author unveils himself the most were supposedly considered by Jerzy Giedroyc (January 1970) too intimate for the pages of 'Kultura'. At the time Czapski mentioned that 'at the time of printing a third eye emerges, an alien which says all that reeks of self-obsession has to be cleaned'. But Giedroyc was wrong. It is when Czapski goes deeper inside himself in his writings that third eye is touched.
Source: www.zeszytyliterackie.pl, press materials.
- Józef Czapski
Publisher: Fundacja Zeszytów Literackich, Warsaw 2010
135 x 210, 310 pp., paperback