Piotr Szewc

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  • fot. Ela Lempp

Born in 1961, a prose writer, poet, and literary critic. Made his debut in the independent underground press with a volume of poetry entitled Testimony. He gained a wider public as a novelist, with The Annihilation. Julian Stryjkowski wrote of this work: “A small and peculiar book, dense with content, and with no plot line. The contents are detailed, the descriptions realistic, so realistic and detailed that they transcend material reality and become surreal, though this may be against the author’s intention." Thus begins one of the most extraordinary phenomena in contemporary Polish literature. For in his three novels (The Annihilation, Sunsets and Daybreaks and Storks over the State) Piotr Szewc describes a single day and a single place. This day, always from dawn till dusk, always in the middle of a sweltering summer, is a couple of hours in the life of pre-war Polish-Jewish Zamość and its near vicinity (the “state” of one of the titles). This selected day is particular because – paradoxically – nothing memorable happens. Everything is where it should be, and has profound significance. The ordinary protagonists (merchants, small-time craftsmen and office workers) are occupied with their ordinary work... as usual, they take on the duties ascribed to them. Szewc tries to translate the fascinating adventure of living into the language of prose, singing the praises of a life that quarrels with neither himself nor the world, inviting readers to visit a small-town Arcadia. Szewc only appears to be writing the same book over and over. Every new book reveals new plot lines – tiny, marginal ones that do not change the general picture of this mythologized town, caught by only the most careful readers of this extraordinary work. Nuance is all-important here, subtle changes in the language of the narrative, in the gaze of the narrator. This is prose for the connoisseur, refined, personal and unique. Piotr Szewc has also published a volume of conversations with Julian Stryjowski, Spared in the East (1991), a book dedicated to the same writer (The Son of a Priest), and a collection of interviews: Freedom and Sympathy. Conversations with Writers (2002). In 2006 he published a volume of poetry and poetic prose, entitled Entirely Private. This was a collection of lyrical monologues and prose impressions chiefly inspired by works of art, and to a lesser extent by landscapes and recollections from childhood.   

Bibliography

  • Świadectwo, Warszawa: Niezależna Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy, 1983.
  • Zagłada, Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1987.
  • Zmierzchy i poranki, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2000.
  • Syn kapłana, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Sic!, 2001.
  • Bociany nad powiatem, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2005.
  • Całkiem prywatnie, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2006.
  • Moje zdanie, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2009.

Translations:

Hungarian:

  • Alkonyok es reggelek [Zmierzychy i poranki], trans. Korner Gabor, Budapeszt: Balassi Kiadó 2002.

Serbocroatian:

  • Unistenje, trans. Dalibor Blazina, Zagrzeb: Disput 2002.