Krzysztof Rutkowski

(born 1953) is a historian, literary critic, essayist and playwright. Since 1958 he has lived in Paris, where he works as a radio journalist for France International. For some years he dispatched essays to Poland which were published regularly by Gazeta Wyborcza, and later by the daily Rzeczpospolita.
He began his writing career with literary criticism and academic thoughts on literature. To some extent he has remained faithful to these fields, except that from the start his greatest ambition was to find “a more capacious form”, in other words a genre that would combine the merits of literary prose, the essay and the scholarly dissertation. His aim was for his work to be read not only by those with a professional interest in literature, and his book Brotherhood or Death: The Killing of Mickiewicz Within the Circle of God’s Cause (1989) is indeed accessible to a wider audience. It is about the most tempestuous and mysterious period in Mickiewicz’s life, when he collaborated with a sinister mystic from Lithuania called Andrzej Towiański. In the introduction Rutkowski writes: “I think Brotherhood or Death has a certain value for being about not just specific historical events, but also the longing that lies dormant in all of us for a master and mentor, about wandering in the wilderness in search of the truth, and sometimes sanctity.” He also expresses a warning against the tyranny of illusions and the diktat of false prophets in The Church of St Roch (2001), a collection of parables about a mysterious district of Paris known as “Little Poland”.
Rutkowski is best known to the reading public for his Parisian Passages, a series of essays published in the leading dailies, later collected in three volumes. As well as the title volume (1995), they are: Diary for the End of the Century (1997) and Death in Water (1998). The main title of Rutkowski’s notes is a reference to Walter Benjamin, who wrote: “Passages: buildings, arcades that lack an outer side. Like dreams.” For Rutkowski the passage became a new literary form, as capacious as a novel. Passages make it possible to move from the world of historical facts through to the atmosphere of a mythical city, with vivid language bringing the text to life. Rutkowski describes everything around him in detail: people, books, events, discoveries, work and play, carefree times and times of trouble. Above all he describes Paris, in which all the features of modern life converge.
Rutkowski has also written a two-part book entitled The Master: A Performance (1996). The first part, “written in prose,” as we read in the introduction, “is about the adventures of Adam Mickiewicz with the French police, with women and the followers of Towiański. The second part, written in the form of a play, presents these adventures in a different way. The essay shows what happened, and the play shows what might have happened.”

Bibliography


(selection)

  • Ani było, ani jest. Szkice literackie, Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1984
  • Przeciw (w) literaturze. Esej o poezji czynnej Mirona Białoszewskiego i Edwarda Stachury, Bydgoszcz: Pomorze 1987
  • Męczennice z Saint-Denis. Opowiadania, Warszawa: Fundacja Büchnera, 1991
  • Paryskie pasaże. Opowieść o tajemnych przejściach, Gdańsk: Słowo/Obraz Terytoria, 1994
  • Stos dla Adama albo Kacerze i kapłani, Warszawa: Bellona, 1994
  • Mistrz. Widowisko, Gdańsk: Słowo/Obraz Terytoria, 1996
  • Śmierć w wodzie, Gdańsk: Słowo/Obraz Terytoria, 1999
  • Kościół św. Rocha. Przepowieści, Warszawa: Czytelnik, 2001
  • Zakochany Stendhal. Dziennik wyprawy po imię, Gdańsk: Słowo/Obraz Terytoria, 2006.
  • Ostatni pasaż, Gdańsk: Słowo/Obraz Terytoria, 2007.

Translations:

French:

  • Les passages parisiens: chroniques d'un écrivain polonais [Paryskie pasaże: opowieść o tajemnych przejściach], Paris: Exils Éd., 1998.

German:

  • Notizen am Ende des Jahrhunderts, trans. Nina Kozlowski, Hamburg: Rospo, 1999