Jacek Dehnel

  • photo by Krzysztof Dubiel / Instytut Książki

b. 1980, prose-writer, poet, translator, painter; made his debut with a collection of short stories called The Collection (1999), then continued with the novel Lala (2006) and the further short-story collections The Square in Smyrna (2007) and Balzacalia (2008); he has also published books of poetry: Parallel Lives (2004), Journey Southward (2005), and Poems 1999-2004 (2006), which contains the previously unpublished poem cycle In Praise of the Passage of Time; he has won the Kościelski Prize (2005) and the POLITYKA Passport (2006); he lives in Warsaw.

From his debut volume of poetry onward, Jacek Dehnel has written verses which the critics acknowledge as "an aestheticizing neo-classicism, approaching academism" (Anna Kałuża). He often turns toward the past, taking liberally from high culture, and particularly drawing from modernism. On the surface his poetry is ostentatiously old-world, but he often mixes the past with the present (for example: in Journey Southward all the poems bear dates from the beginning of the 20th century), often using pastiche, paraphrase or stylization.

The novel Lala brought Dehnel considerable popularity, and a reputation as one of the most promising prose-writers of the younger generation; it is a family saga, in which the central figure is the author’s grandmother, Elżbieta (‘Lala’) Bieniecka. This extraordinary old woman clearly fascinates her grandson, enchanting him with colorful stories from their family history, and those of the European intelligentsia. "Lala" is also a compelling tale about the passage of time, sickness and death. Dehnel describes the grandson’s efforts with exceptional feeling and depth, as he devotes himself to taking care of his increasingly ill grandmother.

The short stories in The Square in Smyrna include texts written from 1999-2002, and thus when the author was very young. But these are not just literary warm-ups. Dehnel speaks in a confident voice right from the start. These stories by the author of Lala are elegant literature, full of cultural references and poetry crossed with subtle irony. The title story stands as a sort of introduction to Lala, while in others the writer presents a whole gallery of various intriguing figures, including a would-be priest, who helps to paint a whorehouse and ends up becoming a lover to one of its employees.


  • Kolekcja, Wydawnictwo Marpress, Gdańsk 1999.
  • Żywoty równoległe, Wydawnictwo Zielona Sowa, Kraków 2004.
  • Wyprawa na południe, Teatr Mały, Tychy 2005.
  • Lala, W.A.B., Warszawa 2006.
  • Wiersze (1999-2004), 2006.
  • Rynek w Smyrnie, W.A.B., Warszawa 2007.
  • Balzakiana, W.A.B., Warszawa 2008.
  • Ekran kontrolny, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2009.
  • Fotoplastikon, W.A.B., Warszawa 2009.
  • Saturn. Czarne obrazy z życia mężczyzn z rodziny Goya, W.A.B., Warszawa 2011.
  • Rubryki strat i zysków, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2011
  • Młodszy księgowy. O książkach, czytaniu i pisaniu, W.A.B., Warszawa 2013.
  • Języki obce, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2013.
  • Matka Makryna, GW Foksal/W.A.B. 2014.
  • Dziennik roku chrystusowego, GW Foksal/W.A.B. 2015.
  • Krivoklat, Kraków: Znak, 2016.



  • Lala, trans. Michael Alexa, Praga: Větrné mlýny, 2015


  • Saturnus [Saturn], trans. Esselien't Hart, Baarn: Uitgeverij Marmer, 2012


  • Saturn, transl. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Dedalus Books, 2013


  • Lala [Lala], trans. Renate Schmidgall, Rowohlt, 2008


  • Lala, trans. Boris Gerus, Keter, 2009


  • Lala, trans. Gáspár Keresztes, Kalligram, 2010
  • Saturn [Saturn], transl. Pályi Márk, Pozsony: Kalligram, 2014


  • Sotto il segno dell'acero [Lala], trans. Raffaella Belletti, Milano: Salani, 2009
  • Il quadro nero [Saturn], trans. Raffaella Belletti, Milano: Salani Editore, 2013


  • Lialé [Lala], trans. Birute Jonuškaite, Vilnius: Kronta, 2010


  • Ljalja [Lala], trans. Jurij Czajnikow, Moskwa: Bertelsman Media, 2015
  • Saturn [Saturn], trans. Olga Łobodzińska, Moskwa: Tekst 2015


  • Babuľa [Lala], trans. Karol Chmel, Bratislava: Kalligram, 2009
  • Saturn [Saturn], trans. Karol Chmel, Bratislava: Kalligram, 2013.


  • Pupa [Lala], trans. Jana Unuk, Lubljana: EHO, 2012


  • El Jardín de Lala [Lala], trans. Jerzy Sławomirski i Anna Rubió, Barcelona: Duomo Ediciones S.L.


  • Lala, trans. Seda Köycü, Istambuł: Apollon, 2011


  • Saturn [Saturn], trans. Andrij Bondar, Kijów: Komora, 2015
  • Ljalja [Lala], trans. Bożena Antoniak, Lwów: Urbino, 2016