Rymkiewicz, Jaroslaw (Marek)

views updated

RYMKIEWICZ, Jaroslaw (Marek)

Nationality: Polish. Born: Warsaw, 1935. Education: Studied Polish philology at the University of Lodz; holds a Ph.D.Career: Worked at the Literary Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Warsaw.



Konwencje [Conventions]. 1957.

Czlowiek z glowa jastrzebia. 1960.

Metafizyka. 1963.

Animula. 1964.

Anatomia. 1970.

Co to jest drozd. 1973.

Thema regium. 1978.

Moje dzielo posmiertne [My Posthumous Works]. 1993.


Umschlagplatz. 1988; translated as The Final Station: Umschlagplatz, 1994.


Kochankowie piekla [The Lovers of Hell]. 1975.

Krol Miesopust; Porwanie Europy [The King of Meat; The Abduction of Europe]. 1977.

Dwie komedie (includes Dwor nad Narwia and Ulani ). 1980.


Kwiaty nowy, starych romanc, czyli, Imitacje i przeklady hiszpanskich romances. 1966.

Czym jest klasycyzm: Manifesty poetyckie [What Is Classicism? Poetical Manifestos]. 1967.

Mysli rozne o ogrodach [Various Thoughts about Gardens]. 1968.

Wybór wierszy. 1976.

Aleksander Fredro jest w zlym humorze [Aleksander Fredro Is in a Bad Mood] (biography). 1977.

Juliusz Slowacki pyta o gozine [Juliusz Slowacki Inquires about the Time] (biography). 1982.

Wielki ksiaze z dodaniem rozwazan o istocie i prymiotach ducha poskiego (Polish history). 1983.

Rozmowy polskie latem [Conversations in a Polish Summer]. 1984.

Zmut (biography). 1987.

Baket (biography). 1989.

Ulica Mandelsztama i inne wiersze z lat 1979-1985. 1992.

Kilka szczegolow [A Few Particulars]. 1994.

Mickiewicz, czyli, Wszystko: z Jaroslawem Markiem Rymkiewiczem rozmawia Adam Poprawa. 1994.

Do Snowia i dalej [To Snow and Beyond]. 1996.

Znak niejasny, basn pólzywa. 1999.

Translator, Zycie jest snem, by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. 1971.


Critical Study:

"A New Generation of Voices in Polish Holocaust Literature" by Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, in Prooftexts, 9(3), September 1989, pp. 273-87.

* * *

Born in Warsaw in 1935, Jaroslaw Marek Rymkiewicz is a literary critic and historian of literature, an essayist, a poet, a translator, and a playwright. He studied Polish philology at the University of Lodz, and his first volume of poems was published in 1957. He has translated poetry into Polish from English (Eliot and Stevens) and Spanish (Lorca and Calderón). Rymkiewicz's only novel was originally published in Polish under the title Umschlagplatz in Paris in 1988. According to Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, what made the novel unacceptable to the Polish censorship authorities was not so much that it was critical of Polish attitudes toward Jews as that it presented a critical image of Communist rule. The novel was published in French under the title La Derniére Gare (Umschlagplatz) in 1989 and in German under its original title of Umschlagplatz in 1993. Nina Taylor's English translation was published in the United States under the title The Final Station: Umschlagplatz in 1994.

Parts of Rymkiewicz's research for the novel are represented within the text. The narrator's aim is to describe the Umschlagplatz, which was the area of the Warsaw Ghetto where Jews were gathered for deportation by train to Treblinka. As he knows neither Hebrew nor Yiddish, the narrator consults only works written in, or translated into, Polish, of which he has read "several dozen." Many of these works are cited and discussed in the novel. The same applies to his research on the deportation of Jews to Treblinka from a resort near Warsaw called Otwock; conflicting testimony is considered and evaluated.

Adamczyk-Garbowska describes Umschlagplatz as "the first full-length novel written by a Polish gentile writer that deals exclusively with the Holocaust." It was published soon after Jan Blonski's controversial 1987 article "The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto." Blonski argued that the Poles should "stop haggling, trying to defend ourselves" and accept responsibility for insufficient resistance to the murder of Polish Jews: "We should acknowledge our own guilt, and ask for forgiveness." Rymkiewicz has a similar agenda in Umschlagplatz.

Umschlagplatz was well received. Michael André Bernstein has praised Rymkiewicz for successfully making the Holocaust the center of his work without relying on historical back shadowing or caricature and for making a confrontation with the moral dilemmas of writing about the Holocaust a central part of his text. Bernstein describes the dramatization in Umschlagplatz of Rymkiewicz's quandary about his right as a Pole to speak about the Holocaust at all as the author's most significant breakthrough, which "owes as much to [Rymkiewicz's] willingness to take artistic risks as it does to the seriousness of his moral imagination and historical scrupulousness."

—Alan Polak

See the essay on The Final Station: Umschlagplatz.