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Themerson, Stefan

Entry updated 21 February 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1910-1988) Polish-born film director, scriptwriter, photographer, publisher and author, active in Poland from 1928 as the author of at least ten children's books, and in the 1930s as a maker and producer of experimental films, in collaboration with his wife and lifelong creative partner Franciszka Themerson (1907-1988), through their founding of the Polish Filmmakers Cooperative; their short, extremely intense film Europa (1931) – an interpretation of Europa (1929 chap; trans Michael Horovitz 1962 chap) by Anatol Stern (1899-1968) – is a Satire surreally adumbrative of World War Two; the last existing print was long thought lost at the hands of the Nazis, but was retrieved in 2019. Separated by war from Franciszka Themerson, he was able to rejoin her in the UK in 1942, with Stefan in active service with the Polish army in exile; the couple remained in the UK until their deaths. Themerson continued publishing in Polish and French, but increasingly turned to English. He was a member of the Collège de 'Pataphysique and co-founded with his wife the Gaberbocchus Press in 1948, which they ran until 1979. Given over as they were to paradox, games of logic and the dislocations of Semantic Poetry (his own term), Themerson's novels have never been easy to pigeonhole but can be thought of – very roughly – as exuberant Fabulations.

In Professor Mmaa's Lecture (1953), a Satire which comes as close to conventional sf as any of Themerson's books, the eponymous termite lectures his audience on the vast new primitive creatures called mammals, creatures addicted to torture and species-extinctions who are threatening to take over the world; the book had an introduction by Bertrand Russell. Though they radically displace the normal world, none of his other fictions could be called sf; but his last two novels – The Mystery of the Sardine (1986) and Hobson's Island (1988) – assemble many characters from previous books into worlds which are mirrors of our own – an Anti-Earth floats in the heavens of the first tale, and Euclid is refuted – where they engage in levitations, speculations and prestidigitations galore. His last novel, the posthumous Critics and My Talking Dog (2001), again a Satire, examines the consequences of creating a talking dog, which literally undermines the narrator's Perceptions of the world. [JC]

Stefan Themerson

born Plock, Poland: 25 January 1910

died London: 6 September 1988


Pre-World War Two titles, none in English, not listed; English-language titles are selected.


about the author

  • Jasia Reichardt. Fifteen Journeys: Warsaw to London (Champaign, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2012) [nonfiction: pb/Nick Wadley]
  • Jasia Reichardt and Nick Wadley, editors. The Themerson Archive Catalogue (London: Themerson Estate/Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2020) [nonfiction: published in three volumes: pb/]


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