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The Warsaw Voice » Society » August 29, 2013
Politics & Society
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S³awomir Mrożek Dies Aged 83
August 29, 2013   
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Playwright S³awomir Mrożek, whose biting social satire and exposure of the absurdities of life under a totalitarian system won him international fame, died Aug. 15 in a hospital in Nice, southern France. He was 83.

Mrożek was one of Poland’s most internationally acclaimed dramatists and writers, and was widely known for plays written in the style of the theater of the absurd. He was born in 1930 in Borzêcin in present-day southern Poland. His satirical cartoons started to appear in the popular Przekrój weekly magazine, based in Cracow, in 1953.

His first play was Policja (The Police), a drama published in 1958, but it was not until 1964 that his play Tango made Mrożek famous around the world. Translated into 20 languages, Tango still draws crowds at theaters in Poland and abroad.

Probably no other contemporary Polish playwright has had his work staged as frequently as Mrożek, both in this country and overseas. Mrożek was also one of Poland’s most popular prose writers, along with science-fiction legend Stanis³aw Lem. Festivals featuring Mrożek’s work have been held since the 1960s in several cities across Europe, including Amsterdam and Stockholm.

Key work by Mrożek includes the plays Love in the Crimea, The Émigrés, The Turkey, At Sea and Widows. Mrożek also wrote many satirical short stories and humorous sketches such as The Elephant and The Ugrupu Bird.

Mrożek portrayed the world in a distorted and sometimes absurd fashion. He examined subjects such as the relationship between an individual and society, history and universal values. His dramas and prose work often challenged the literary myth of Poles as Romantic heroes.

Mrożek emigrated from Poland in 1963 and lived in Paris, the United States, Germany, Italy and Mexico. In 1968, he wrote an open letter condemning the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces during the Prague Spring. The communist government in Poland responded by banning his books and plays. A similar thing happened when Mrożek condemned martial law, imposed in Poland Dec. 13, 1981. Enthusiastic about the emerging Solidarity movement, Mrożek wrote for Polish émigré periodicals, especially the Kultura monthly published in Paris by his longtime friend Jerzy Giedroyĉ.

Several years after the fall of communism, Mrożek returned to Poland in 1996 together with his Mexican wife Susana Osorio. After suffering a stroke in 2002, Mrożek was unable to speak and write for three years. During his convalescence, he managed to write an autobiography.

For most of his life, Mrożek kept journals that were subsequently published as books. He left Poland again in 2008 and settled in southern France, which had a beneficial effect on his health.

Mrożek received a number of distinctions, including the French Legion of Honor.
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