Grażyna Plebanek

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  • Grażyna Plebanek / photo by Katarzyna Krawczyk

Grażyna Plebanek (born 1967) is a writer and journalist. She holds a degree in Polish literature from the University of Warsaw. She has worked as a reporter for Reuters and Gazeta Wyborcza.

She made her debut in 2002 with the novel Box of Stilettos [Pudełko ze szpilkami], which was awarded in a contest organised by Zysk i S-ka Publishing House. ‘I took the convention of a romance novel – a basic hallmark of the ghetto of women’s literature. He and she meet each other, they have some ups and downs, and then they live happily ever after. I wouldn’t be able to write something like that seriously, and so instead of a romance between two people, I wrote a one-person romance. The heroine has a male lover, some female friends and so forth, but this is not the meaning of her life. The most important thing is the woman, herself’, stated Grażyna Plebanek in an interview for Lampa.

In 2005, she published Girls from Portofino [Dziewczyny z Portofino] – a story of friendship between young women who grow up together, set against a backdrop of the transformations that occurred in Poland from the 1970s to the 90s. The title makes reference to Girls from Nowolipki [Dziewczęta z Nowolipek] by Pola Gojawiczyńska, although in Grażyna Plebanek’s book, the source of oppression does not lie in the boundaries between social classes, but rather in tradition, education and the Church. Girls from Portofino is a book with a clear feminist stance, and is also a vivid portrait of Warsaw, in particular the district of Ursynów.

In 2007, her book A Girl Called Przystupa [Przystupa] was published – a story about the necessity of taking control of one’s own life. Przystupa, of the book’s title, is a young girl from a Polish village who travels to Sweden in order to earn some money. She works as a house-cleaner and becomes acquainted with Sweden, discovering religiosity (completely different than the kind of religiosity in Poland) and nature.

The action in Illegal Liaisons [Nielegalne związki] (published in 2010) takes place in Brussels, in the milieu of international bureaucratic officials. The author poses questions about the validity of traditional relationships – including marriage – in an increasingly “fluid” world. Eroticism plays a very important role in the book.

An important theme in Grażyna Plebanek’s work is physicality – an attempt to find a language with which to talk about the body. With this aim, the author sometimes takes on a male perspective (Illegal Liaisons), or the perspective of a woman-urchin, a “rogue” (A Girl Called Przystupa). The body becomes a key to inner spheres: ‘Through her physical experiences, Przystupa builds her spirituality; her sensual experiences don’t have to be experiences involving heterosexual sex, as she frequently points out – it can be the stroking of a rock, mopping a floor, eating chocolate meringue’, the author stated in an interview for Wysokie Obcasy.

Grażyna Plebanek lived for five years in Sweden, and currently lives in Brussels. The places where she lives are sources of inspiration for her, and she describes them in her books.

In 2013, W.A.B published The Robber-Woman’s Daughters [Córki rozbójniczki] – a non-fiction book – and her newest novel in 2014, titled The Boxer [Bokserka].

Plebanek’s short stories have been published in anthologies and she has written opinion pieces for Polityka. Her articles have appeared in magazines, including Wysokie Obcasy, Wysokie Obcasy Extra, Elle and Trendy.

Bibliography

  • Pudełko ze szpilkami, W.A.B., Warszawa 2002
  • Dziewczyny z Portofino, W.A.B., Warszawa 2005
  • Przystupa, W.A.B., Warszawa 2007
  • Nielegalne związki, W.A.B., Warszawa 2010
  • Córki rozbójniczki, W.A.B., Warszawa 2013
  • Bokserka, W.A.B., Warszawa 2014

Translations:

English:

  • Illegal Liasons [Nielegalne związki], tłum. Danusia Stok, Stork Press, London 2012
  • Illegal Liasons [Nielegalne związki], tłum. Danusia Stok, New Europe Books, Williamstown 2013