Peterkiewicz, Jerzy 1916-2007 (Jerzy Michal Peterkiewicz, Jerzy Pietrkiewicz)

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Peterkiewicz, Jerzy 1916-2007 (Jerzy Michal Peterkiewicz, Jerzy Pietrkiewicz)


See index for CA sketch: Surname was originally spelled "Pietrkiewicz"; born September 29, 1916, in Fabianki, Dobrzyn, Poland; died October 26, 2007. Educator, administrator, poet, novelist, translator, dramatist, editor, and author. Peterkiewicz was a well-known poet and novelist in his native Poland and a modest success in England when he was singled out for the work that would spread his name around the world. In the late 1970s he was selected by the Vatican to translate into English the poetry of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. Between 1979 and 2003 he translated several volumes of these poems, but his literary reputation remained centered on his original work. Peterkiewicz published nine or ten works (mostly poetry, with a few plays) in Polish before his first novel was published in English. The Knotted Cord (1953) is the story of a peasant boy who, like the author, grew up in Poland in a devout Catholic family. Unlike the author, the boy's mother dressed him for years in the robes of a monk, and his story relates his struggle to escape from the image created by the religious habit. The reception of The Knotted Cord marked Peterkiewicz as a talented writer with a gift for language, drawn toward the experimental and avant-garde. Critics found his work strange, often beyond their capacity for classification, yet they continue to try. Other successful novels in English include the comic novel Future to Let (1958) and the parody Isolation (1959). Peterkiewicz's nonfiction also intrigued and confounded his critics. The Other Side of Silence: The Poet at the Limits of Language (1970) in particular drew mixed reviews, as critics attempted to plumb its depths and penetrate the silence of the poet. Less controversial were the anthologies of Polish poetry that Peterkiewicz collected and translated for the pleasure of English readers. Peterkiewicz came to England as a student in exile during World War II and taught Polish language and literature at the London School of Slavonic and East European Studies and the University of London for thirty years. In retirement he was able to return to his homeland, where he was welcomed as a hero and honored with the commander's cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.



Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Peterkiewicz, Jerzy, In the Scales of Fate: An Autobiography, M. Boyars (New York, NY), 1993.


Times (London, England), October 31, 2007, p. 62.

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Peterkiewicz, Jerzy 1916-2007 (Jerzy Michal Peterkiewicz, Jerzy Pietrkiewicz)

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