Janusz Krasiński

(born 1928), writes fiction, stage plays, radio plays, screenplays and reportage. During the war he was in the Home Army, took part in the Warsaw Uprising and was a prisoner in Auschwitz and Dachau. From 1947 to 1956 he was imprisoned by the communist regime on a false charge of spying for the USA. His first work of fiction was the novel Ransom of the Grey Day (1959).

Janusz Krasiński is a versatile writer. He has published more than a dozen books of both fiction and reportage. Two of his many stage plays, The Hat, or Death By Instalments (1965) and Breakfast at Desdemona’s (1971) have been successfully performed from Paris to Moscow. He has won many prizes, including the Polish PEN Club award for his lifetime’s work (2003) and the prestigious Józef Mackiewicz prize for his novel Before the Agony (2006).
    Krasiński began writing his major work, a monumental cycle of novels, in the late 1980s. It ended up as a tetralogy consisting of the following novels: To the Execution, Face to the Wall, Impotence and Before the Agony. Having experienced two inhuman political systems, fascism and communism, Krasiński has created a literary document covering a very large time span. He has used a format closest to that of fictionalised memoirs. He has given his own life story to the main character in the tetralogy, Szymon Bolesta. The first two novels in the cycle cover the years when Bolesta was serving a long sentence in communist prisons. The plot is on two levels, depicting everyday life in the prison in present time, and the events preceding Bolesta’s imprisonment in flashback. So these books present the nightmare of life in the Nazi camps, and also include scenes set in Germany just after the war, when it was divided into occupied zones. The action of the third, most sweeping novel takes place in the period from 1956 to 1968. On the strength of an amnesty, the hero is released after nine years behind bars and decides to become a writer. He is soon facing the typical dilemmas of that era (the late 1950s and early 1960s). On the one hand he dreams of a literary career, but on the other he wants to avoid compromises. He pays a high price for the opportunity to be a creative artist in a country that is still totalitarian – he is condemned to writing half-truths and has a constant battle with the censors. The fourth part of the cycle covers the years from 1968 to 1984, from the unrest preceding the events of March 1968 in Poland (when a student protest was brutally suppressed) to the murder of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko. By now the hero is an acclaimed writer and active member of the Polish Writers’ Union. The ups and downs of Szymon Bolesta, both in the final novel in the tetralogy as well as in the earlier books, can be taken as representing the collective fate of all Polish intellectuals.

Bibliography

(since 1989):

  • Na stracenie (“To the Execution”), Białystok: Versus, 1992.
  • Twarzą do ściany (“Face to the Wall”), Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1996.
  • Niemoc (“Impotence”), Warsaw: Prószyński i S-ka, 1999.
  • Przed agonią (“Before the Agony”), Kraków: Arcana, 2005.
  • Bracia syjamscy z San Diego, Kraków: Arcana 2009.
  • Tabliczka z chleba, Polski Fundusz Wydawniczy w Kanadzie 2009.