Jacek Bocheński

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  • fot. Ela Lempp

Born in Lvov in 1926, this eminent essayist, journalist, translator and writer of fiction broke into print in 1949 with Violets are Unlucky, a collection of stories. In the following years, he built a reputation as a non-fiction writer, because he is also by temperament an essayist and writer of argumentative prose. Along with several other artistic figures, Bochenski stood at the head of the emerging democratic opposition in the 1970s. He played an active role in artistic protest campaigns, becoming a co-founder and editor of Zapis (founded in 1977), the most important uncensored journal in Poland. His opposition activity led to his books being banned from printing and exclusion from official cultural life.

In the 1980s, Jacek Bocheński continued to be a leading figure in the openly anti-communist culture. His most important work of the period is the novel Post-Breakdown, which was published underground in 1987 and won him the "Solidarity" Prize that same year. His first book to win wide popularity was an account of an African journey, Farewell to Miss Syngilu or the Elephant and the Polish Question. His most highly regarded books, however, are essayistic novels with the ancient Roman figures of Julius Caesar and Ovid as their protagonists. The Divine Julius: Notes of an Antiquary is a belletristic essay-portrait in which Bocheński takes up the drama of power and the ethical dilemmas of history in relation to contemporary times. Naso the Poet is a novel based on events from the life of the greatest ancient Roman lyric poet, with Bocheński focusing on Ovid's exile and fall from grace with the emperor. Both works are, to a degree, political fictions in which the author traces the degeneration of authority and the gradual disintegration of the society terrorized by that authority. The political allusions (Caesar and the cult of the individual, Ovid and the conflict between the artist and the ruler) are accompanied by a historiographical perspective. Both books, and especially The Divine Julius, were widely discussed and won Bocheński renown as a master of subtle polemics concerning the world of politics and power.  Subsequently, following the fall of the old system in 1989, Bocheński went back to concentrating on journalism. He has published regularly in the leading newspapers, concentrating on media ethics and the civic responsibilities of cultural figures.

"Fables do not do much for me. It is rather ideas that mobilize me. For instance, asking why certain events turned out the way they did." - Jacek Bocheński

Bibliography

  • Pożegnanie z panną Syngilu albo słoń a sprawa polska, Warszawa: Iskry, 1960.
  • Boski Juliusz. Zapiski antykwariusza, Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1961; Świat Książki, 2009.
  • Tabu, Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1965.
  • Nazo poeta, Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1969; Świat Książki, 2009.
  • Stan po zapaści, Warszawa: NOWA, 1987.
  • Retro, Chotomów: Verba, 1990.
  • Kaprysy starszego pana, Kraków, WL, 2004.
  • Trzynaście ćwiczeń europejskich, Warszawa, Świat Książki, 2005.
  • Tyberiusz Cezar, Warszawa: Świat Książki, 2009.

Translations:

Estonian:

  • Tabu, Tallin: Loomingu, 1969.

French:

  • État de pesanteur [Stan po zapaści], Montricher: Édition, 1995.

German:

  • Göttlicher Julius, Aufzeichnungen eines Antiguars,[Boski Juliusz], München: Ehrenwirth, 1961.
  • Der Täter heisst Ovid [Nazo poeta], Wien: Europaverlag, 1975.
  • Tabu, Roman, prosa viva, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 1966.
  • Tabu. Hamburg: Vertriebsstelle u. Verlag Deutscher Bühnenschriftsteller, 1967.

Hungarian:

  • Aszáműzött Oviduis, Budapest: Europa, 1972.

Russian:

  • Bożestwiennyj Julij [Boski Juliusz], Moskwa: Chudożestwiennaja Literatura, 1974.

Slovak:

  • Rozlučka so slečnov Syngilu, Bratislava: Vydavatelstvo Politickej Literatury, 1967.

Ukrainian:

  • Boszcziestwiennyj Julij [Boski Juliusz], trans. Nina Biczyja, Lviv: Piramida, 2012
  • Tibierij Cezar [Tyberiusz Cezar], trans. Igor Andruszczenko, Lviv: Piramida, 2014
  • Stan pislja kolapsy [Stan po zapaści], trans. Wiktor Dmitruk, Lviv: Piramida, 2014