Krall, Hanna

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KRALL, Hanna

Nationality: Polish. Born: Warsaw, 20 May 1937. Education: Studied journalism at Warsaw University. Career: Reporter, Zycie Warszawy, 1957-66; editor, Polityka, 1966-81; literary consultant, Tor film studio, 1981-87. Also contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, ca. 1980s. Awards: Solidarnosc prize, 1985; Odra magazine award and Polish literary PEN club prize, both in 1989; German Academic Exchange Service scholarship for study in Berlin, 1992; Jeanette Schocken prize and Bremerhaven citizen prize for literature, both in 1993; Polish Culture Foundation prize, 1999; Leipzig book prize for European understanding, 2000, for Tam juz nie ma zadnej rzeki.



Sublokatorka. 1985; as The Subtenant (published with To Outwit God ), 1992.

Okna [Windows]. 1987.

Short Stories (narrations)

Trudnosci ze wstawaniem: Reportaze; Okna: Powiesc. 1990.

Dowodny na istnienie, 1995; as Dowody na istnienie/Proofs of Existence (Hebrew and English). 1995.


Przypadek i inne teksty, with Krzysztof Kieslowski (screen-play). 1998.


Na wch ód od Arbatu. 1972.

Syberia, kraj ogromnych mozliwosci, with Zygmunt Szeliga and Maciej Ilowiecki. 1974.

Zdazyc przed Panem Bogiem (interview). 1977; as Shielding the Flame: An Intimate Conversation with Dr. Marek Edelman, the Last Surviving Leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 1986; as To Outwit God (published with The Subtenant ), 1992.

Dojrzalosc dostepna dla wszystkich. 1977.

Szesc odcieni bieli [Six Shades of White]. 1978.

Hipnoza [Hypnosis]. 1989.

Wybór wierszy (1976-1989), with Aleksander Rozenfeld and Julian Kornhauser. 1990.

Taniec na cudzym weselu. 1994.

Co sie stalo z nasza bajka? [What Happened to Our Fairy Tale?]. 1994.

Tam juz nie ma zadnej rzeki [There Is No River There Anymore]. 1998.


Film Adaptations:

Krotki dzien pracy [Short Working Day], 1981, from the story, Widok z okna na pierwszym pietrze.

Critical Study:

"Poland's Best and Brightest: Staff of Liberal Weekly Polityka " by Lawrence Weschler, in Harper's, 271, December 1985, p. 60-61.

* * *

Of Jewish descent, Hanna Krall was born in Warsaw in 1937 and survived the German occupation during World War II in a hiding place provided by a Polish family. After studying journalism at Warsaw University, she worked as an editor for the newspaper Zycie Warsawy. In 1966 she became editor of the magazine Polityka, and in 1969 she began working as a correspondent in the Soviet Union. Her first compilation of reports, Na wchód od Arbatu ("East of Arbat"), which appeared in 1972, dealt with numerous aspects of Soviet daily life. In December 1981, after martial law went in effect, she left Polityka in order to work as a literary consultant for the film production company Tor, where she stayed until 1987. During this time she also became one of the leading journalists of Gazeta Wyborcza. Her reports always search for the impact of history on individual life, and she has received several awards, including the Underground Award of Solidarity in 1985.

In 1977 Krall published Zdazyc przed Panem Bogiem, which was published in English as Shielding the Flame in 1986 and which she rewrote as a drama in 1980. As in other works, the literary technique of combining fiction and documentary, novel and report, is a characteristic of her so-called fictional autobiography, Sublokatorka (1985; The Subtenant, 1992). Taking the perspective of a Polish girl, Maria, she tells the experiences of Marta, a Jewish girl her own age. With the help of Maria's family, Marta remains in hiding during World War II. The contrast between the characters of the two girls is fascinating, but their relationship has its difficulties. The narrator develops a theory of symbolic colors in which white stands for heroism, beauty, and courage, while black is connected with degradation, humility, and suffering. The author avoids a black-and-white portrayal, however, in favor of an emphasis, as the critic Lothar Baier has put it, on the "Clairobscur, which surrounds Krall's image of the Polish." The disintegration of society remains part of Jewish identity in postwar Poland: "You may belong to us. But only in our fear and degradation when we all are being shot."

Krall's journalism, compiled in the volumes Hipnoza (1989), Taniec na cudzym weselu (1994), and Tam juz nie ma zadnej rzeki (1998), remains true to these same topics: the hard task of survival, the syndrom ocalonych (survival syndrome)—as one of the pieces in Hipnoza is titled—the fate of the Jews in Poland both during and after the war, and the difficult relation of Jews to Poland itself. In Dowodny na istnienie (1995; Proofs of Existence, 1995), she writes, "Such things happen … searching for identity, one's roots …" Inspired by research on Martin Buber, Krall has turned increasingly toward the reconstruction of the world of extinct eastern European Jews, the world of the shtetl and the religiosity of Hasidism. She also looks, however, for the "constructions of identity" of the survivors. "Dibbu," included in Proofs of Existence, draws a line from Hasidism to religious searching within the American student movement: "The way to God, on which [Rabbi Zalman Schachter] led the rebellious Jews of Philadelphia and San Francisco, went through Lezajsk, Kock, and Izbica Lubelska"—places connected to the Jewish tradition of eastern Poland. In "Decyzja" ("Decision"), from Tam juz nie ma zadnej rzeki, Krall generalizes the search for identity on the part of all marginalized peoples. For example, she investigates the ways in which homosexuals understand themselves as persecuted: "When asked about an association between AIDS and the concentration camps of the war, they answer: discrimination and hate." According to Krall, however, their chosen, stage-managed deaths and their "liturgy of disappearance" end in kitsch.

Krall's texts search for authentic experience. As the critic Elsbeth Wolffheim has said, "Her materials are actual events, verifiable historical occurrences … Her sources are newspapers, interviews with survivors of the concentration camps, reports of witnesses, and scientific research on the Holocaust." Krall herself has said, "Everything I write about has actually happened. The people I write about have actually existed and are as such co-authors of my books." Tam juz nie ma zadnej rzeki begins with a text entitled "Literatura Factu," in which she carries on a dialogue with the audience: "Tell me something, I said," and "At the end of each meeting with my audience I say: tell stories!" "Pola," included in the same book, deals with an operation of a Hamburg police battalion in Józefów and is a search for a dialogue with historiography, particularly with Daniel Goldhagen. Yet because of Krall's specific writing strategy, which fragments simple history and dissolves time, the actual topics of her books remain recollection and the search for truth.

—Walter Schmitz

See the essay on Shielding the Flame: An Intimate Conversation with Dr. Marek Edelman, the Last Surviving Leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.