Authors: Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Polish playwright

Author Works


Mister Price: Czyli, Bzik tropikalny, wr. 1920, pr. 1926 (Mr. Price: Or, Tropical Madness, 1972)

Oni, wr. 1920, pb. 1962 (They, 1968)

Straszliwy wychowawca, wr. 1920, pr., pb. 1935

Pragmatyści, pb. 1920 (The Pragmatists, 1971)

Tumor Mózgowicz, pr., pb. 1921 (Tumor Brainiowicz, 1980)

Metafizyka dwugłowego cielęcia, wr. 1921, pr. 1928 (Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf, 1972)

Gyubal Wahazar: Czyli, Na przełęczach bezsensu, wr. 1921, pb. 1962 (Gyubal Wahazar: Or, Along the Cliffs of the Absurd, 1971)

Bezimienne dzieło, wr. 1921, pb. 1962 (The Anonymous Work, 1974)

Kurka wodna, pr. 1922 (The Water Hen, 1968)

Nowe wyzwolenie, pb. 1922

Nadobnisie i koczkodany: Czyli, Zielon pigułka, wr. 1922, pb. 1962 (Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes: Or, The Green Pill, 1980)

W małym dworku, pr. 1923 (Country House, 1997)

Mątwa: Czyli, Hyrkaniczny światopogląd, pb. 1923 (The Cuttlefish: Or, The Hyrcanian World View, 1970)

Szalona lokomotywa, wr. 1923, pb. 1962 (The Crazy Locomotive, 1968)

Matka, wr. 1924, pb. 1962 (The Mother, 1968)

Wariat i zakonnica: Czyli, Nie ma złego, co by na jeszcze gorsze nie wyszło, pr. 1924 (The Madman and the Nun: Or, There Is Nothing Bad Which Could Not Turn into Something Worse, 1966)

Jan Maciej Karol Wścieklica, pr. 1925

Sonata Belzebuba: Czyli, Prawdziwe zdarzenie w Mordowarze, pb. 1938 (The Beelzebub Sonata: Or, What Really Happened at Mordowar, 1980)

Szewcy, pb. 1948 (The Shoemakers, 1968)

Long Fiction:

Poẓegnanie jesieni, 1927

Nienasycenie, 1930 (Insatiability: A Novel in Two Parts, 1977)

Jedyne wyjście, 1968

622 upadki Bunga: Czyli, Demoniczna kobieta, 1972


Nowe formy w malarstwie i wynikające stąd nieporozumienia, 1919

Szkice estetyczne, 1922

Teatr: Wstęp do teorii czystej formy w teatrze, 1923

Nikotyna, alkohol, kokaina, peyotl, morfina, eter, + dodatek, 1932

Pojęcia i twierdzenia implikowane przez pojęcie istnienia, 1935

Niemyte dusze: Studia obyczajowe i społeczne, 1975

Witkacy, malarz, 1985 (Witkacy, the Painter, 1987)

Przeciw nicości: fotografie Stanisława Ignacego Witkiewicza, 1986


Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (VIHT-kah-vihts) was a talented and important writer and dramatist who also left his mark in painting, dramatic and aesthetic theory, and philosophy. He was born on February 24, 1885, in Warsaw, as the only child of the noted painter and art critic Stanisław Witkiewicz. Taking his son’s education under his own aegis, Stanisław Witkiewicz secured the best private instructors for his child and supervised his schooling at home. The future artist passed his maturity exam in 1901. Upon completion of his secondary studies, Witkiewicz set off for Germany and Italy for practical experience in painting. He also painted in Cracow and Zakopane. Accepted into the prestigious Cracovian Akademia Sztuk Pięknych (Academy of Fine Arts), he attended lectures there only for a short while, against his father’s wishes. Witkiewicz soon began to write creatively. The years from 1910 to 1911 saw the composition of his first mature literary work, the novel 622 upadki Bunga (the 622 downfalls of Bunga), which, however, was not published until after the author’s death.{$I[AN]9810000723}{$I[A]Witkiewicz, Stanis{lstrok}aw Ignacy[Witkiewicz, Stanislaw Ignacy]}{$I[geo]POLAND;Witkiewicz, Stanis{lstrok}aw Ignacy[Witkiewicz, Stanislaw Ignacy]}{$I[tim]1885;Witkiewicz, Stanis{lstrok}aw Ignacy[Witkiewicz, Stanislaw Ignacy]}

Somehow tangled up in the unusual circumstances of his fiancé’s suicide, in 1914 Witkiewicz left Poland for Australia in the company of his friend, sociologist Bronisław Malinowski. The outbreak of World War I, however, in this same year prompted the young artist to enlist in the Russian army, in search of the novelty of wartime experiences and military life. According to many, he served with bravery. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 exerted a great influence on Witkiewicz. Those close to the artist report that the dramatist and painter often referred to his fear of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union and considered Soviet iconoclasm a grave threat to European culture.

Witkiewicz published his views on graphic technique in two critical volumes of aesthetics published in 1919 and 1922 respectively: Nowe formy w malarstwie i wynikające stąd nieporozumienia (new forms in painting) and Szkice estetyczne (aesthetic sketches). The complete and definitive bound collection of Witkiewicz’s artwork (with many color plates) is Witkacy, the Painter, published in 1985. Witkacy was Witkiewicz’s pseudonym. The first period of Witkiewicz’s literary career occurred during the Młoda Polska (young Poland) period, a time of great change in Polish artistic spheres. For a long time, Witkiewicz was unable to define and stabilize his manner and style of thought, which was, for this particular period, quite shocking to the large number of Polish literati and theatergoers. The first few years of the 1920’s saw the beginning of Witkiewicz’s career as a playwright, which was to bring him his greatest fame. Between the years 1919 and 1923, the artist created a large number of his thirty dramatic works, among which are They, Country House, and The Water Hen. His later The Shoemakers, though, became his best-known drama.

In his theoretical tract Teatr, Witkiewicz laid out his dramatic aesthetic, which he called “pure form.” Similar to his theories of graphic art, Witkiewicz’s theatrical aesthetic is based on the premise that, in drama, it is not content but form which is all-important. Pondering the course of Western aesthetics, Witkiewicz noted the decline and, as he saw it, disappearance of religion and metaphysics as aids to humankind’s struggle with the eternal question of life. Only art remained to humankind in its last hour of culture, before the eventual triumph of the leveling philosophy of totalitarianism would put an end to Western culture by “replacing metaphysics with ethics” and herding the questioning individual into the happy mass of the unthinking, animally satisfied collective. According to Witkiewicz, the modern artist is to abandon logic and mix the most varied elements into his or her work in order to create an artistic whole of satisfying formal completeness, without regard to the particular logical associations of the elements which go into the play’s makeup.

As for prose, Witkiewicz did not see the novel as an art form but rather as an arena for polemic and philosophizing. As well as 622 upadki Bunga, written in 1910-1911, Witkacy wrote several other novels, among which the most notable are the antiutopian Poẓegnanie jesieni (farewell to autumn) and Insatiability. This latter work, reputedly his best novelistic endeavor, deals with the problem which agonized him for the majority of his mature life: the undermining of Western civilization’s cultural heritage by the insidious suffocation of the individual soul in a dully satisfying stagnation. Caught in the pincers of the totalitarian onslaught that propelled Poland into World War II and fearing that the dreaded hour of the death of culture had come round, Witkiewicz committed suicide on September 18, 1939, in a forest in eastern Poland.

BibliographyBrandes, Philip. “A Wild Blend of Wit and the Macabre Fills Madman and the Nun.” Review of The Madman and the Nun, by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1999, p. 26. This review of a 1999 performance of The Madman and the Nun by the Buffalo Nights Theatre Company in Santa Monica, California, sheds some light on this absurdist play.Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. 3d ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1991. The latest edition of a classic work on the Theater of the Absurd. Includes references to Witkiewicz. Includes bibliography and index.Gerould, Daniel, ed. Witkacy: Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz as an Imaginative Writer. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981. Translator Gerould provides a biography of Witkiewicz that examines both his life and his writings. Includes bibliography and index.Kiebuzinska, Christine Olga. Revolutionaries in the Theater: Meyerhold, Brecht, and Witkiewicz. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press, 1988. A study of experimental theater, particularly the works of Witkiewicz, Bertolt Brecht, and V. E. Meierkhold. Includes bibliography and index.Witkiewicz, Stanisław Ignacy. Witkacy, Metaphysical Portraits: Photographs by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. Leipzig, Germany: Connewitzer Verlag, 1997. This bilingual book contains essays along with selected photographs by Witkiewicz from an exhibition held in 1997 and 1998. The essays provide insight into his philosophy. Includes bibliography.
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