Witkiewicz, Stanislaw Ignacy

Tagged: Author

(1885-1939) Polish painter, playwright and author, who also signed himself Witkacy, a combination of his last and middle names; he committed suicide just after the Nazi invasion of his country when he learned that Soviet armies had attacked from the east, the direction in which he was fleeing. Much of his work, some eerily prophetic, deals darkly and humorously with the theme of a conservative world suddenly subjected to change, the clash of cultures, future totalitarianisms and apocalypse (see Fantastika). Of his surviving plays (at least twenty out of a total of forty or more), the most notable in this vein include the Dystopian fantasy Gyubal Wahazar, czyli Na przeleczach besensu ["Gyubal Wahazar, or Along the Cliffs of the Absurd"] (written 1921; in coll 1962), Mątwa, czyli Hyrkaniczny światopogląd ["The Cuttlefish, or The Hyrcanian World View"] (written 1922; 1923), and most of the violent dramas of a surreal future assembled in The Madman and the Nun and Other Plays (all written 1920-1930, published 1925-1962; coll trans Daniel C Gerould and C S Durer 1968). Of these latter, perhaps the most important is the blackly terrifying Szewcy (written 1930; 1948; here trans as The Shoemakers), which predicts World War Two.

Witkiewicz's two published novels are sf: Pozegnanie jesieni ["Farewell to Autumn"] (1927) and Nienasycenie (1930; trans Louis Iribarne as Insatiability 1977). In the former, Communists take over a future Poland. The latter, set in the twenty-first century, shows a fractured, ersatz West, a consumer society subject to a growing appetite for novelty, being taken over by Chinese Communists and Eastern mysticism, whose purveyors also provide happy pills. It is a distinguished and important novel. An uncompleted further tale, Jedyne wyjécie ["The Only Way Out"] (written 1931-1933; 1968), furthers the discourse of its predecessor. It was not until decades after his death that the Polish Government began, gingerly, to publish a collected edition of Witkiewicz's work with Dramaty ["Plays"] (coll 1962 2vols; exp 1972). [PN/JC]

see also: Poland.

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

born Warsaw, Poland: 24 February 1885

died Zeziory, Poland: 18 September 1939

works

  • Pozegnanie jesieni ["Farewell to Autumn"] (Warsaw, Poland: F. Hoesick, 1927) [binding unknown/]
  • Nienasycenie (Warsaw, Poland: Dom Książki Polskiej Spółka Akcyna, 1930) [hb/nonpictorial]
  • Jedyne wyjécie ["The Only Way Out"] (Warsaw, Poland: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1968) [written 1931-1933: binding unknown]

plays (selected)

  • Teatr. Wstęp do teorii czystej formy w teatrze (Kraków, Poland: Krakowska Spólka Wydawnicza, 1923) [plays: coll: contains Mątwa, czyli Hyrkaniczny światopogląd ("The Cuttlefish, or The Hyrcanian World View"), written 1922: first performed 7 December 1933 Teatr "Cricot", Kraków: binding unknown/]
  • Szewcy (Kraków, Poland: Biblioteka Dramatyczna "Nowy Teatr", 1948) [play: trans by Daniel C Gerould and C S Durer in The Madman and the Nun below: written 1921: first performed 12 October 1957 Teatr "Wybrzeze", Gdańsk: performance halted by censor: binding unknown/]
  • Dramaty (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1962) [plays: coll: published in two volumes: edited by Konstanty Puzyna: contains Gyubal Wahazar, czyli Na przeleczach besensu ["Gyubal Wahazar, or Along the Cliffs of the Absurd"] (written 1921: first performed 10 September 1966 Teatr Polski, Poznań): binding unknown]
    • Dramaty (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1972) [plays: coll: exp of the above: binding unknown/]
  • Gyubal Wahazar, czyli Na przeleczach besensu ["Gyubal Wahazar, or Along the Cliffs of the Absurd"] (written 1921: first performed 10 September 1966 Teatr Polski, Poznań)
  • The Madman and the Nun and Other Plays (Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1968) [plays: coll trans by Daniel C Gerould and C S Durer of plays written in the 1920s: hb/]
  • Tropical Madness: Four Plays (New York: Winter House, 1972) [plays: coll translated by Daniel and Eleanor Gerould: hb/]
  • The Beelzebub Sonata: Plays, Essays, Documents (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1980) [plays: coll trans by Daniel Gerould and Jadwiga Kosicka: with additional material: hb/]
  • The Mother and Other Unsavory Plays (New York: Applause, 1993) [plays: coll trans by Daniel Gerould and Bernard F Durer: pb/]

about the author

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