From the editor
August 29, 2013
A friend of mine, an American professor of literature, was worried when the dawn of the Gorbachev era softened the edges of Soviet totalitarianism. It was better for the people, he said, but worse for literature, because writers would be less stressed and thus less creative. That does not apply to writers as great as Sławomir Mrożek, who has recently died.
Mrożek was in a permanent state of stress. He wrote nonstop, even despite the severe aphasia—which causes problems with speaking, reading and writing—he suffered after a stroke. He could not live without writing. When somebody asked him how life should be lived, Mrożek said he did not know and spent all his time in search of an answer—but was never able to find one.
It would be wrong to say this extraordinary dramatist needed Poland to feel pain. He would have been a tortured individual even without Poland. Still, somebody once said that Poland was like bungee jumping to Mrożek—it drew him in and pushed him away with equal force.
When we watch his famous play Tango, an archetypally Polish drama, we see the whole world reflected in it. Sławomir Mrożek was a writer with global appeal. The great Polish actress Marta Lipińska, who appeared in many of his plays, has said that Tango is the best drama of the 20th century. But Mrożek never became a celebrity. He determinedly kept a low profile, avoiding journalists and TV cameras. He skipped from country to country and from continent to continent, pausing for breath only in Cracow and Nice. He has now moved for the last time. Thankfully, the power of his words remains, as do his incisive portrayals of the human condition. And his sense of the grotesque lingers long in the memory.