Brandys, Kazimierz 1916–2000
Brandys, Kazimierz 1916–2000
PERSONAL: Born October 27, 1916, in Lodz, Poland; immigrated to France, 1981; died March 11, 2000, in Paris, France; married, wife's name Marja. Education: Studied law at Warsaw University, 1934–38.
CAREER: Novelist and writer. Lecturer in Polish literature at American universities and at Sorbonne, University of Paris. Edited various Polish periodicals, c. 1940s–60s.
AWARDS, HONORS: Literary Award of the City of Warsaw, 1948; Jurzykowski prize, 1982; Prato-Europa and Ignatio Silone prizes, 1986; named to French Order of Fine Arts and Literature, 1993.
Drewniany kon (title means "The Trojan Horse"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1946.
Miasto niepokonane: opowiesc o Warsawie (title means "Invincible City"), Ksiazka (Warsaw, Poland), 1946.
Miedzy wojnami (title means "Between Two Wars"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1948.
Czlowiek nie umiera (title means "Man Does Not Die"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1951.
Dzien dzisiejszy (short stories), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1954.
Obywatele (title means "Citizens"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1955.
Matka Krolow (title means "Mother of the Kings"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1957.
Miasto niepokonane, Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (Warsaw, Poland), 1960.
Romantycznosc (title means "Romanticism"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1960.
Sons and Comrades: A Novel of Modern Poland, translated by D. J. Welsh, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1960.
Opowiadania, 1954–1960, Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (Warsaw, Poland), 1963.
Sposob bycia; Bardzo starzy oboje, Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1965.
Obrona "Grenady," i inne opowiadania, Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (Warsaw, Poland), 1966.
Rynek: wspomnienia z terazniejszosci, Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1968.
Zolik: spomienky zo sucasnoti, Tatran (Bratslava, Poland), 1968.
Jak bye kochana i inne opowiadania (title means "How to Be Loved and Other Stories"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1970.
Wariacje pocztowe (title means "Postal Variations"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1972.
Szansa trzech pokolen: wybor reportazy, Instytut Wydawniczy CRZZ (Warsaw, Poland), 1974.
Nowele filmowe, Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe (Warsaw, Poland), 1975.
A Question of Reality (original Polish edition published 1978), translated by Isabel Burzum, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1980.
A Warsaw Diary: 1978–1981 (memoir), translated by Richard Lourie, Random House (New York, NY), 1983.
Letters to Mrs. Z (original Polish edition published 1963), translated and edited by Morris Edelson, December Press (Highland Park, IL), 1987.
Paris, New York: 1982–1984 (memoir; original Polish edition published 1984), translated by Barbara Krzywicki-Herburt, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.
Rondo (novel), translated by Jaroslaw Anders, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1989.
Charaktery i pisma, Aneks (London, England), 1991.
Rynek: wspomnienia z terazniejszosci, MOST (Warsaw, Poland), 1994.
Zapamietane, Wydawn Literackie (Kraków, Poland), 1995.
Co nie jest prawda: notatki z lektur i zycia, Wydawn Literackie (Warsaw, Poland), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Polish author Kazimierz Brandys was a prolific novelist and diarist, living much of his life in politically turbulent Poland before his exile to Paris in 1981. In his career and personal beliefs, Brandys evolved from a staunch communist supporter in his student days and the author of several socialist-realist propaganda novels in the years directly following World War II into a mature writer whose works blend genres, defying definition and censorship while subjecting Communism and the Polish character to intense scrutiny. His books have been translated into several languages and published in countries around the world. Brandys is best known in the United States for his works that have appeared in English translation, including the novels A Question of Reality and Rondo, and two volumes of the author's memoirs, A Warsaw Diary: 1978–1981, and Paris, New York: 1982–1984.
A Question of Reality, the first Polish novel published in the anticommunist underground, is written in the form of a questionnaire presented to the author at an international conference. Written in the mid-1970s and published in English translation shortly after the military crackdown in Poland, Brandys's novel has often been cited for providing insights into the development of the Polish Solidarity movement. "Brandys reveals himself as a deep, courageous, honest and original thinker; he also gives us a key to the understanding of many of the recent events in Poland," commented Jerzy J. Maciuszko in a review for World Literature Today.
Rondo also utilizes a nonfiction framing device; the novel appears as an extended letter to the editor of a scholarly journal in response to an article the journal published about an underground resistance group known as Rondo. Tom, the novel's narrator, knows the information in the article to be false because he invented Rondo as a way of giving his actress girlfriend a role to play during the war. Reviewers generally lauded the novel, noting its ablility to transcend boundaries created by time and culture—a feat that Brandys himself thought might not be possible. "Those adventurous American readers willing to try this novel by a masterful, relatively unknown foreign author will discover that Kazimierz Brandys has done the impossible," wrote New York Times Book Review contributor Phillip Lopate.
The first of two volumes of Brandys's memoirs translated into English, A Warsaw Diary, is a series of essays covering the years just preceding the military crackdown in Poland. Overall, reviewers praised A Warsaw Diary for its affectionate though sometimes painful insights into the Polish character under communist rule. The author's reflections "are far-ranging and unfailingly interesting, but most inspired, perhaps, are the descriptions of the precise moods of collective existence—of meetings, of crowds, of the whole country," observed one New Yorker contributor.
Paris, New York, the second of Brandys's memoirs to be translated into English, details the author's exile following the imposition of martial law in Poland and his struggle to relocate himself in the West. The author reflects on both the personal experience of being cut off from his home country and the tragic history of Poland. Through those eyes, he also describes Paris and New York, places he finds full of dichotomies. Brandys's work again received positive reviews from critics, although some were disappointed by the book's translation. "I am torn between gratitude to Random House for having made Brandys's illuminating work available to the American reader, and resentment that it has been mutilated so terribly and inexplicably," wrote Stanislaw Baranczak in a review for the New Leader.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Brandys, Kazimierz, A Warsaw Diary: 1978–1981, translated by Richard Lourie, Random House (New York, NY), 1983.
Brandys, Kazimierz, Paris, New York: 1982–1984, translated by Barbara Krzywicki-Herburt, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 62, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Library Journal, September 1, 1988, Barbara Hoffert, review of Paris, New York: 1982–1984, p. 161.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 22, 1984, Richard Eder, "A Sense of Society in the Poland of Protest," review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 1.
National Review, May 4, 1984, M. D. Aeschliman, review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 50.
New Leader, December 26, 1988, Stanislaw Baranczak, review of Paris, New York, p. 16.
New Republic, September 10, 1984, Abraham Brumberg, review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 35; October 9, 1989, Stanislaw Baranczak, review of Rondo, p. 37.
New Yorker, April 2, 1984, review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 133.
New York Review of Books, April 26, 1984, Neal Ascherson, "The Surprise of Solidarity," review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 7; July 19, 1990, John Bayley, "In God's Playground," review of Rondo.
New York Times Book Review, March 11, 1984, Charles Gati, review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 9; November 19, 1989, Phillip Lopate, "'I Shall Fulfill Her Every Wish,'" review of Rondo, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, August 5, 1988, review of Paris, New York.
Time, January 9, 1984, R. Z. Sheppard, review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 69.
Times Literary Supplement, September 28, 1984, review of A Warsaw Diary, p. 1098.
World Literature Today, spring, 1981, Jerzy J. Maciuszko, review of A Question of Reality, p. 345.
Polish Culture Web site, http://www.culture.pl/ (April 19, 2005), "Kazimierz Brandys."
Polska 2000, http://www.polska2000.pl/ (April 19, 2005), "Kazimierz Brandys."
New York Times, March 23, 2000, p. C27.
Central Europe Review Online, http://www.ce-review.org/ (April 19, 2005).