Piotr Ibrahim Kalwas

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  • fot. Piotr Zieliński

(born 1963), writes fiction, essays and television scripts.

In his debut work Salam (the Arabic word for “peace”) Kalwas interweaves two stories. The first is the autobiography of Piotr Kalwas, social misfit, rebel and rock-and-roller. We learn about his life from his earliest years right up to the moment when, approaching forty and desperately tired of his own idle existence so far, he underwent a salutary conversion: from one day to the next he became a deeply committed Muslim, and as a result, a decent human being. This very detailed autobiographical story is interspersed with accounts of lots of journeys Kalwas (known as Ibrahim since his conversion) has made in Islamic countries, mainly in Africa. Notes in the style of reportage or travel writing are supplemented by the convert’s reflections on modern Western civilisation. These are extremely critical, aimed mainly at Polish Catholicism. His novel Time continues and complements the first book. It includes a description of the autobiographical hero’s journey to the land of his childhood dreams. The goal of the journey is a small island in the Red Sea inhabited by pearl fishers that the traveller first read about in early childhood and which has stayed in his imagination for years and years. In Time there is also radical criticism of modern Western civilisation, including contemporary Christianity. At every step Kalwas proclaims the superiority of the Islamic religion and culture over the European version that shaped, and at the same time corrupted him. He accuses the tradition he grew up in of being superficial, not authentic, aggressive and soulless. Kalwas’s third novel, The Door, does not try to settle any scores, though it too is clearly autobiographical. It has a similar shape, describing a forty-something-year-old Polish convert to Islam spending some time in Damascus. He observes and comments on the Syrian world around him, but also talks about his own early childhood in Warsaw, within a rather eccentric family. However, the main thing he does is to try and re-read the works of Witold Gombrowicz – in a double sense, from the perspective of Islam and Near Eastern culture, and also in terms of his own, personal experiences.

Bibliography

  • Salam, Warszawa: Rosner & Wspólnicy, 2003.
  • Czas, Warszawa: Rosner & Wspólnicy, 2005.
  • Drzwi, Warszawa: Rosner & Wspólnicy, 2006.
  • Rasa mystica, Warszawa: Prószyński i S-ka, 2007
  • Dom, Pruszków: JanKa, 2010 
  • Tarika, Pruszków: JanKa, 2012
  • Międzyrzecz, Pruszków: JanKa, 2013