Authors: Jerzy Andrzejewski

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Polish novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Ład serca, 1938

Popiół i diament, 1948 (Ashes and Diamonds, 1962)

Wojna skuteczna, 1953

Ciemonosci kryją ziemię, 1957 (The Inquisitors, 1960)

Bramy raju, 1960 (The Gates of Paradise, 1962)

Idzie skacząc po górach, 1963 (A Sitter for a Satyr, 1965)

Apelacja, 1968 (The Appeal, 1971)

Short Fiction:

Drogi nieuniknione, 1936

Noc, 1945

Złoty lis, 1955

Nonfiction:

Z dnia na dzien: Dziennik literacki, 1988.

Biography

Jerzy Andrzejewski (ahn-jay-YEW-skee) is representative of the group of writers who evolved in postwar Poland. Andrzejewski was born into a middle-class family in Warsaw in 1909. He started a career as a journalist but was writing fiction by the time he was thirty. His first book was a collection of short stories published in 1936 under the title Drogi nieuniknione (unavoidable roads). In 1938 he published his first novel, Ład serca (mode of the heart). The main character of the work is a priest, and the work showed Andrzejewski’s early Catholic influence. This novel set the tone for his later work, which presented individual characters with moral dramatic conflicts. He was given two literary honors for Ład serca, including the designation “best young writer” from the Polish Academy of Literature.{$I[AN]9810001392}{$I[A]Andrzejewski, Jerzy}{$I[geo]POLAND;Andrzejewski, Jerzy}{$I[tim]1909;Andrzejewski, Jerzy}

The advent of World War II and the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany interrupted Andrzejewski’s early writing career. He stayed in Poland during the war and recorded his experiences and those of his friends in a series of short stories: “Przed sadem” (1941; on trial), “Apel” (1942; roll call), and “Wielki tydzen” (1943; holy week). These stories were published after the war under the title Noc (the night). They deal with life under the Nazi Occupation, whether as an underground fighter or as an inmate at the death camp in Auschwitz. In these stories Andrzejewski began to show a dislike for the Polish trait of romantic heroism, which encouraged people to do heroic deeds without thought to their success or failure. A deed was done for the sake of honor alone.

The end of World War II did not bring peace to Poland or to Andrzejewski. With the arrival of the Soviet army in Poland, a Communist government was imposed on the country. A civil war between Communist and anti-Communist forces ravaged the country for four years. By using as a backdrop this civil war, Andrzejewski continued his criticism of romantic heroism and created his most memorable work, Ashes and Diamonds, first published in 1948. The central figure of the story is Mathew, a member of the underground army who fought against the Nazis and now fights the Communists. He is given one final order: to assassinate the local Party chief. He agonizes over the order because he knows that it will accomplish nothing, and all he wishes to do is go home and lead a normal life. Finally, he does carry out the order because he feels bound by his oath as a soldier. Mathew dies a short time after the assassination, when he is shot by accident by a security patrol. The story gives great insight into the Poland of 1945 and has remained a popular book in Poland to this day.

Andrzejewski, with other Polish intellectuals, believed that social reform was necessary in order for the people of Poland to lift themselves from their self-destructive mentality. For this reason he joined the Polish Workers’ Party in 1949. He became an avid supporter of Socialist Realism and even tried to write in this form. His major attempt at Socialist Realism was the novel Wojna skuteczna (an effective war), which was poorly received and gave many the impression that Andrzejewski had sold his soul to the new government. Czesław Miłosz, in his classic work Zniewolony umyesł (1953; The Captive Mind, 1953), described Andrzejewski as “Alpha the Moralist.”

The year 1953 was an important one for Poland and Andrzejewski because it was the year that Joseph Stalin died and the Communist system began its long thaw. Andrzejewski had already begun to question the usefulness of Socialist Realism, the subordination of the individual for group conformity, even before the revelations about Stalin’s murderous system in 1955.

In a series of short stories, published under the title Złoty lis (the golden fox) in 1955, the author attacked the crushing of individualism by the socialist system. “The Golden Fox” is the story of a little boy who tries to convince adults of the existence of a fox living in his closet. The adults refuse to believe him and tell him this is impossible, that this fox could not really exist. In the end the boy is forced to conform to the adult reality and deny the existence of the golden fox. The story is a beautiful parable on the restrictiveness of Socialist Realism.

Andrzejewski was to continue his attack on socialist literature in 1957 with his novel The Inquisitors, which draws parallels between the Spanish Inquisition and Communist culture under Stalinism. It was also in 1957 that Andrzejewski decided that the Communist Party was incapable of true social reform and resigned his membership.

In 1960 he published The Gates of Paradise, which deals with the children’s crusade to the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. Rather than a historical recounting of the crusade, it is more of a self-examination of conscience by the author. In it he questions the merits of giving oneself over to an ideal hastily. Andrzejewski had found that he had done what he had accused others of doing ever since World War II. He, too, was guilty of romantic heroism.

In the 1960’s Andrzejewski began to attract attention in the West as well as in Poland. After a long stay in Paris, he wrote a comic novel called A Sitter for a Satyr, a parody of Pablo Picasso’s life. In the 1970’s Andrzejewski became actively involved with the political opposition movement in Poland in support of workers and civil rights. He was a founding member of the Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR) in 1976. He began to publish outside Poland as more of his works were censored by the government. Andrzejewski continued to write until his death from a heart attack in April of 1983.

BibliographyGillon, Adam, and Ludwik Krzyzanowski, eds. Introduction to Modern Polish Literature. New enlarged ed. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1982. Provides helpful context.Krynski, M. J. “The Metamorphoses of Jerzy Andrzejewski: The Road from Belief to Skepticism.” Polish Review 6 (1961/1962). A critical assessment of Andrzejewski.Miłosz, Czesław. The History of Polish Literature. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. Offers useful background information.Sadkowski, Wacław. Andrzejewski. Translated by Krystyna Cekalska. Warsaw: Authors’ Agency, 1975. A full-length biography translated into English.Tighe, Carl. “Jerzy Andrzejewski: Life and Times.” Journal of European Studies 25, no. 4 (December, 1995): 341. An extensive evaluation of Andrzejewski’s career. Includes notes.
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