A Trip to the Museum
Tadeusz Różewicz, famous as a poet and playwright, is rather less well known as an author of prose, though some of his stories belong to the classics of the genre in twentieth-century Polish literature. This selection of his stories published by Biuro Literackie presents Różewicz as a writer who is deeply involved in historical events and in his own life story. His main protagonist is first of all a child undergoing his earliest experiences, then a young boy who idolises his older brother who is killed by the Nazis, then a partisan in the forest, and after the war a philosophy student trying to cope with feelings about the meaning of the life that have been damaged by the cruelties of war. Next he visits Paris with some Polish friends, but is unable to feel at home there or experience its beauty, while eternally attached to his Polish fate and memory. At the same time, in the title story he shows how little this memory means to some people on a modern trip to Auschwitz, to whom it is actually impossible to convey the full horror of what the prisoners endured.
In the stories that follow there is a growing sense of alienation as the fundamental experience of modern man, as represented by: an old peasant woman who doesn’t know how to adapt to the “high society” in which her diplomat son lives; a Pole in New York; and Dostoevsky in Paris. Różewicz’s heroes feel cut off from the Western world; they have trouble with it and feel uncomfortable in it, though they realise they need this world in order to authenticate their need for order and a hierarchy of values. In Death in the Old Scenery the simple Polish hero makes a pilgrimage to the origins of tradition and culture when he sets off on the journey of a lifetime to Rome. But he is neither spiritually nor physically able to cope with his encounter with the (disturbed) origins of Mediterranean civilisation, and inside him the “heritage of centuries” turns into an obsessive internal monologue consisting of nothing but platitudes.
Różewicz’s stories are like a review of the traumas and mental injuries that the twentieth century brought to the inhabitant of the European provinces, as well as an expression of his personal “dissenting opinion” with regard to Western civilisation.
Translated by Anotnia Lloyd-Jones
Tadeusz Różewicz (born 1921) is a world famous writer, highly acclaimed as a poet, playwright and author of short fiction. His books have been published in fifteen foreign languages.
FONTE: Book Institute - Instytut Książki