Born: Warsaw, Poland, 19 August 1909. Education: Educated at a gymnasium in Warsaw 1919-27; University in Warsaw, 1927-31. Family: Married Maria Abgarowicz. Career: Took part in underground cultural work in Warsaw during World War II. Writer from 1932; editor of literature section of weekly Prosto z mostu, 1935-37; after the war moved to Cracow: chair of the Cracow Division of Polish Writers Union, 1946-47; involved in social work in Szczecin, 1948-52; joined Polish Communist Party, 1949; editor-in-chief of weekly Przegld kulturalny [Cultural Review], 1952-54; His book Apelacja (The Appeal) was banned in Poland, 1968. Awards: Polish Academy of Literature Young Writers prize, 1939; Cracow prize, 1946; Odrodzenie award, 1948; Order of the Banner of Labour (1st Class), 1949; Polish Readers prize, 1959, 1964, and 1965; Zloty Klos award, 1965. Member: Polish parliament, 1952-56: resigned his Party membership in protest when the government banned a new literary magazine, 1957. Died: 19 April 1983.



Drogi nieuniknione [Inescapable Ways] (stories). 1936. LadSerca [Peace of Mind]. 1938.

Wielki tydzien [Holy Week] (novella). 1943. Noc [Night] (stories). 1945.

Popiol i diament. 1948; as Ashes and Diamonds, translated by D.F. Welsh, 1962.

Wojna skuteczna [An Effective War]. 1953.

Zloty lis [The Golden Fox] (story). 1955.

Ciemnosci kryjq ziemie [Darkness Covers the Earth]. 1957; as The Inquisitors, also translated by Konrad Syrop, 1960. Bramy Raju. 1958; as The Gates of Paradise, translated by James Kirkup, 1962.

Niby gaj: Opowiadania 1939-58 [As if the Grove] (stories). 1959.

Idzie skaczc po gorach. 1963; as A Sitter for a Satyr, translated by Celina Wieniewska, 1964; as He Cometh Leaping upon the Mountains, translated by Wieniewska, 1965. Apelacja. 1968; as The Appeal, translated by Celina Wieniewska, 1971.

Teraz na ciebie zaglada [Now Annihilation Is Coming upon You]. 1976.

Juzprawnie nic [Already Next to Nothing]. 1979.

Miazga [Pulp]. 1979.

Nowe opowiadania [New Tales]. 1980.

Nikt [Nobody] (novella). 1983.

Intermezzo, i inne opowiadania. 1986.


Swieto Winkelrida [Winkelreid's Day], with J. Zagorski. 1957.

Prometheus. 1972.

Screenplays: Popiol i diament, with Andrzej Wajda, 1958; Niewinni Czarodzieje (collaborator), 1959.


Aby pokojzwyciezyl [May Peace Win]. 1950.

Wyznania i rozmyslania pisarza [Confessions and Thoughts of a Writer]. 1950.

O czlowieku radzieckim [About the Russian Man]. 1951.

Ludzie i zdarzenia [People and Events]. 1952.

Partia i tworczoscpisarza [The Party and Writer's Works]. 1952.

Ksiqzka dla Marcina [The Book for Martin: Reminiscences]. 1954.

Gra z cieniem (diary). 1987.

Zdnia na dzien: Dziennik literacki 1972-1979 (newspaper articles). 2 vols., 1988.

Listy [Letters], with Andrzej Fiett. 1991.

Critical Studies:

Andrzejewski by Waclaw Sadkowski, translated by Krystyna Cgkalska, 1975; Jerzy Andrzejewskis Roman "Ciemnosci kryj ziemie” und die Darstellung der Spanischen Inquisition in Werken der fiktionalen Literatur by Jurgen Schreiber, 1981; Andrzejewski by Anna Synoradzka, 1997.

Jerzy Andrzejewski is one of the best Polish novelists of the 20th century. It would be difficult, however, to pin down his literary masterwork. He has left a number of novels and short stories of challenging content and skilful narration. Following various narrative styles of modern times that reflect the meanders of his intellectual search and formal experiments, and being, in turn, a Catholic, a Communist, and an outspoken dissident, Andrzejewski defies easy classifications. It appears, however, that the impact of Conradian solipsism, apart from his Marxist phase, influenced him until the last days.

Joseph Conrad’s principle that there is no escape from the prison of the self and that, consequently, one is unable to communicate with others, thus living in solitude and despondency, forms the basis for Andrzejewski’s first collection of short stories Drogi nieuniknione [Inescapable Ways]. The best account of anxieties caused by such a situation was the novel Lad Serca [Peace of Mind], in the mould of Georges Bernanos’s Catholic fiction. Its extraordinary setting in a secluded Belarussian village, surrounded by forests, exudes the atmosphere of symbolic darkness and unavoidable fate. The story of a parish priest, tormented by a guilty conscience, and the misfortunes of his forlorn flock, represents a world of feeble mortals, where God seems far away, His grace scarce, while evil is on the rampage. Christian ideas of love and repentance are eventually engulfed by despair over the absence of justice and moral order. This kind of pessimism dominates the war fiction, the short stories published in Andrzejewski’s first post-war volume Noc [Night], and in later collections. The symbolic ”night” reveals a similar distress, magnified only by a much more ruthless background, where fighting intensifies inborn human wickedness and increases hatred and isolation. The portrayed events polarize between unrestricted killing and preposterous patriotic gestures of sham conspirators.

At the end of World War II Conradian solitude was suspended in favour of a growing belief in the power of collective efforts. In the final, reworked version of the novella Wielki tydzien [Holy Week], one of the underground soldiers advocates a united front of all freedom fighters. According to the writer’s own confession, he was looking for a ”magic circle of a well-ordered world” and eventually found it in Marxism. As a result, he published his controversial novel about the first days of the Polish People’s Republic, Popiol i diament (Ashes and Diamonds), subsequently filmed by Andrzej Wajda. The biased picture of the non-Communist Home Army and staunch support for the party line secured official recognition, and over 25 editions were printed. Nevertheless Andrzejewski’s traditional categories of human loneliness in the world of conflict between good and evil have simply been adjusted to new, Marxist-inspired views on history and progress. The unequivocal condemnation of the recent past and those hostile to communism resulted from that approach.

Andrzejewski’s fairly brief links with communism were reflected in political articles and in the unsuccessful satirical novel Wojna skuteczna [An Effective War]. The publication of Ciemnosci kryjq ziemie (The Inquisitors) marked a fundamental rejection of any political system that upholds the supremacy of ideology over personal freedom. Accordingly, the portrayal of the Inquisition in medieval Spain can be understood as an allegory, referring above all to Stalinism. In this account, absolute power destroys individual conscience and human loyalty, transforming even committed idealists into the blind instruments of terror. Similar scepticism about the human values of any dogma guided Andrzejewski’s experimental short narrative, Bramy Raju (The Gates of Paradise), where several confessions follow each other without any full stops. In this story the authentic pilgrimage to Jerusalem by French youngsters is described as a mundane affair, whose participants are motivated not by divine love but by adolescent sensuality and carnal desires. The worst, however, is their leader, an idealist, whose erroneous belief in Jerusalem’s golden gates to paradise makes him unwittingly a false prophet, deluding others.

Idzie skaczc po gorach (He Cometh Leaping upon the Mountains), set in contemporary France, can be regarded as a pastiche of various narrative styles, including the stream of consciousness, still fashionable at that time. Its portrayal of French writers and artists contains satirical undertones, condemning what amounts to the commercially oriented and relatively decadent western civilization. The author’s irony embraces his own narrative commentaries, where various intellectual trends such as psychoanalysis and anthropology are taunted.

Apelacja (The Appeal), published in the West and subsequently banned in Poland, aims at the simplicity of confession, articulated by a ”little man” whose obvious mediocrity accounts for the impression of documentary truth. A former officer of the ”people’s militia” and a party apparatchik, he eventually finds himself in a mental hospital, persecuted by the Kafkaesque nightmare of being constantly spied upon by secret agents. Once an autocratic and suspicious administrator himself, he can be regarded as a victim of his own standards, but his naive faith in the party, which has survived all ups and downs, shifts responsibility mostly upon the system and its destructive potential.

Andrzejewski’s last novel, Miazga [Pulp], planned first as a portrayal of the Polish cultural and political elite, eventually turned into an experimental attempt to lay open the author’s growing doubts about storytelling and moral commitment. Its crumbled form questions the reliability of fiction by giving two parallel accounts of the same event; blends invented stories with documents (the author’s diary) and quasi-documents (the ”biographies” of Poles); and includes short stories written by the main character, which were published a year later under Andrzejewski’s own name, in Nowe opowiadania [New Tales]. The Conradian prison of the self eventually inhibits all attempts to say anything more than personal truth: ”the writer narrates and asks questions. Nothing more.”

The novella Nikt [Nobody] is Andrzejewski’s final expression of disillusionment and bitterness. This openly personal retelling of the story of ageing Odysseus contains nothing but scepticism about the power of love and the human search for truth. The fear of death, distressing the Homeric hero, is superseded only by his own legend, that is, by his fictitious alter ego.

Next post:

Previous post: