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The Past as Palimpsest:

The Gdansk school of writers in the 1980s and 1990s

Teresa Halikowska-Smith

This article deals with the prose writing of the so-called Gdansk school of writers considered within the context of the change of direction in Polish literature in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My contention is that what links them together is an engagement, frequently on a very personal level, in the ongoing process of reappraising recent history expunged from the Communist historiography in Soviet-occupied Poland.

This is particularly true of the generation of writers who started their literary careers in the mid-1980s and whose work focuses on the theme of their post-Second World War childhood in their native city of Gdansk. While the official version of history insisted on homogeneity when dealing with the past of the region which for centuries was a contested Polish-German borderland, writers of the younger generation have engaged in redefining the cultural identity of their homeland by rediscovering its multicultural past. It might be helpful to start by placing this group of writers in the broader context of the developments in Polish fiction during the two decades prior to their emergence on the literary scene. From the late 1960s on, Polish literature was locked in a political struggle with the ailing Communist regime. The engagement of dissident writers with politics can be seen as the continuation of a historical tradition that began in the nineteenth century. In this struggle, the writer's personal integrity was a guarantee of his trustworthiness to the reader. Przemyslaw Czaplinski, the author of an award-winning scholarly analysis of major trends and developments in Polish prose during the "run-up" time to the period of transition in the 1990s, suggests that it may be for this reason that Polish literature of the 1970s and 1980s was turning away from the traditional narrative forms of fiction. Numerous surveys of readership trends confirmed popularity of such genres as the essay, the intimate journal, the reportage, as well as the new hybrid genres which Czaplinski designated by the name of sylwa (as in silva rerum): all of these are non-fictional.

One of the preeminent ambitions of writers of that period was to be "authentic," that is, true to life. Literature's aim was simply to register, to take minutes, to witness, record and present "life in the raw." Such diverse literary offerings as the novels of Kazimierz Brandys, the prose writings of Edward Stachura, the novels of Tadeusz Konwicki, and the short stories of Marek Nowakowski were frequently classified as belonging to this category. In my opinion, it was Janusz Anderman who took this writing method to the most extreme lengths.(1)

Until well into the mid-1980s, the leading writers in Poland aspired (and were expected) to play a role in public life. They felt themselves bound by a sense of mission to speak the truth at a time when, to most citizens, it had become apparent that the Communist system was built on a monumental lie. Marek Nowakowski in Karnawal i post (Carnival and fast, 1989) asserts: "Taking minutes becomes the most important literary job of our epoch. . . . How to write in order to make the word express most faithfully the nature of things; so that it could become a faithful representation of the world as it is."(2) However, despite this statement of intent, in the most important works of this period reality was either being bypassed or shunned altogether, becoming "the world not represented," to borrow the phrase from the manifesto of the 1970s generation formulated by Kornhauser and Zagajewski.(3)

Thus, truth became the measure of aesthetics. It is easy to see how this limited literature's autonomy. The resolutely anti-fictional stance became a severe limitation on the range of artistic expression. Czaplinski proposes the label of "anti-socialist realism" for the engagé prose of the 1970s.(4)

In the 1990s, the sham which this supposed "authenticism" turned out to be became apparent in the work of the leading novelists of the time: Nowakowski and Konwicki. In 1992, it prompted one critic, Boguslaw Bakula, to conclude his review of Konwicki's "poetics of copying from life" with the damming verdict: "Im bardziej jest to prawdziwe, tym slabsze literacko" (The more real it is, the weaker it becomes artistically).(5) Thus, "truth" and the author's integrity ceased to be literature's guarantee of quality.

The change came by means of a number of developments, the most important of which was the political one: the decentralization of cultural life and the cutting back of state subsidies. This coincided with a major shift in the taste of the reading public which, by that time, had grown accustomed to the imports from North and South America, specifically, to the postmodernist and "magical realist" offerings. These two factors finally brought about the breakthrough of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The traditional conventions of popular fiction, principally the art of storytelling, reasserted themselves. This, however, did not signify a return to the conventions of the realistic novel. "Kochankowie--proza i fabula--rozstali sie dosc dawno, a w takich wypadkach powroty nigdy nie bywaja do konca spontaniczne i bezrefleksyjne"(6) (The two lovers, prose writing and the plot, parted company quite some time ago, and--as is usually the case--their coming together again cannot be entirely spontaneous and unselfconscious).

Thus storytelling has returned, but it has now lost its innocence. It has become a different kind of fiction: more sophisticated, self-conscious, self-referential, ironic, playful. It is most at home in the poetics of the pastiche. Like the pipes and the ribs of the Pompidou Center in Paris, its fictionality is made explicit, exposed to view, rather than carefully concealed. The lessons of postmodernism have been assimilated.

What, however, of the subject matter? The dead hand of politics having withered, writers were suddenly free to explore subjects that were hitherto taboo. High on the list were the blank spots of history and the exploration of those aspects of the past which have been "hidden from memory."

Where better to study this than in the area in which the question of identity has been a contentious issue for most of recorded history? I have Gdansk in mind. It really cannot be an accident that the most interesting group of writers, whose interests are so convergent as to legitimize referring to them as a "school" emerged from Gdansk, the city whose long and complicated history left a legacy of ambiguities.(7)

The search for identity is bound up with the process of self-discovery, something which normally accompanies the coming of age. It cannot be accidental that the genre called by Polish critics powiesc inicjacyjna, or Entwicklungsroman (I shall refer to it as the coming-of-age novel) became attractive to the generation of writers who frequently refer to themselves as "the post-Yalta generation."

The first manifestation of the new self-awareness of that generation came in the writing of Pawel Huelle. The first book of this then thirty-year-old writer (b. 1957), Weiser Dawidek (tr. Who Was David Weiser, 1994)(8) appeared in 1987 to immediate critical acclaim from an influential critic, Jan Blonski, who hailed it as the best book of the decade.(9) It was awarded the prize of the literary monthly Literatura, as well as the prestigious Koscielski prize. The book is a classic coming-of-age novel: the young narrator strives to make sense of the mysterious and inexplicable disappearance of a Jewish playmate. The enigmatic figure of the central character, David Weiser, is constructed according to all the rules of postmodern characterization, at the heart of which is the programmatic rejection of the very notion of a firm and clearly definable identity. Indeed, in postmodernism identity is often constructed "negatively," so as to convey an aching sense of absence, of "something that becomes known only in the paradoxical mixture of presence and absence, of proximity and remoteness."(10) Thomas Docherty suggests that postmodern characters always dramatize their own "absence from themselves"(11) in that "the Ďcharacter' or figure constantly differs from itself, denying the possession of and by a self and preferring an engagement with Otherness."(12) It is, of course, hardly incidental that David Weiser is Jewish and, as such, presents an archetypal image of the Other in literature.(13)

The unsettling sense of mystery and Otherness pervading the character of David Weiser makes for many possible readings. This fact , as Marek Zaleski suggests, is the secret of Huelle's almost unparalleled success with the critics.(14) One reading is that the narrator's persistent, but ultimately futile, effort to get at the truth of what really happened can be understood symbolically as the author's own struggle to invest with meaning the intriguing lacunae in his understanding of his country's past, the Jewish past being just one strand in the rich tapestry of different ethnic and cultural traditions which were either suppressed under Communism or eliminated by the post-Second World War fiat of the Great Powers. This, in the case of Gdansk, included not only the multicultural past of the once great Hanseatic city on the Baltic, but also the memory of the atrocities perpetrated in Soviet-occupied Poland during and after the Second World War:(15) the forced evacuation of the German population of the city(16) and the equally traumatic resettlement in the vacated area of Poles expelled from Poland's pre-war eastern borderlands taken away by the Soviet Union on the basis of the agreements concluded between the Great Powers. The memory of these demographic surgeries (a phrase borrowed from Norman Davies's Heart of Europe and first applied in this context by Malgorzata Czerminska) was excised from Polish history textbooks in Soviet-occupied Poland. It burst out as the major theme for the new generation of writers in the 1980s.

The new writing seems also to be dominated by the twin themes of childhood and dislocation. "The post-Yalta, post-war childhood takes place in a dislocated space," says Malgorzata Czerminska as she defines the genre of autobiographical writing which flowered in the early 1990s.(17) In autobiographical accounts which appeared at that time and which are the subject of Czerminska's analysis, the sense of dislocation and loss is a common feature. While for most people the experience of childhood is strongly tied to a sense of place, for those born during or just after the forced migrations, the places "had shifted, as if hit by an earthquake."(18)

The childhood which is captured in these accounts, is A childhood on the move. Suspended between the past and the present, the latter experienced as something provisional; spent in the effort of putting down roots, or else in resisting this process. . . . It was the childhood marked by the trauma of exile, by the refusal to put down roots.(19)

Sometimes the desire to put down roots anew won; the past could be appropriated, especially where its physical remains were not all obliterated. In Gdansk, pointers to the German past were everywhere, waiting to be discovered by a youngster with an open mind and a sensitivity to the still visible traces of the city's "otherness." In an interview titled "The post-Yalta childhood" and conducted for the Gdansk-based periodical Tytul in 1996, the participants Pawel Huelle, Wojciech Konieczny, Pawel Zbierski, and Stefan Chwin, all of whom grew up in the Gdansk of the 1950s, readily agreed that the formative experience of their lives was "dziecinstwo na sladach" (growing up amongst the traces).(20) Pawel Huelle explains: "Na podstawie drobnych okruchów ja sobie rekonstruowalem tamto"(21) (From these small fragments I was able to reconstruct that other world).

The reconstruction of the past, so often alluded to by these writers, required a great effort of imagination: learning to read and interpret the faint traces of a past which is constantly being eroded and overlaid by the present. Most fundamentally, it required a basic understanding that there is more than one story in history; an awareness of the multiple pasts conjugated in the present.(22)

Pawel Huelle was the first to embark on the enterprise of reading the multiple pasts in Weiser Davidek and especially in the collection of short stories Opowiadania na czas przeprowadzki (Stories for the Time of Moving House, 1991).(23) Huelle's past is peopled with characters like the elusive Mr. Polaske, a German who took the last westward-bound train out of Danzig; or "the woman with the wrinkled face," the last survivor of the "lost tribe" of the Mennonites who once settled in the flatlands of the Vistula Delta; or Greta Hoffmann, the widow of a German musician who stayed on in her flat while the city changed its identity around her and who enchanted the young narrator with the music of Wagner. Gdansk is now a Polish city, but the young boy learns about it from a map titled Freistadt Danzig, as in the story "Winniczki, kaluže, deszcz" (Snails, Puddles, Rain). The same approach continues in the second volume of short stories, Pierwsza miilosc i inne opowiadania (First love and other stories, 1996).(24) In this collection there is a story about Jakub, a Holocaust survivor, who is helped in his desperate plight by a survivor of another Holocaust, that of the tiny community of Mennonites who were also slated for destruction by the Nazis. We meet the luminous figure of Gute Luisa, who introduces the twelve-year-old to the secrets of life on the margins of a city which still bears the pockmarks of war. There is his homosexual cousin Lucjan and his vivacious aunt Ida, both survivors of the prewar Polish gentry class from the eastern borderlands, that other world which the Yalta Agreement consigned to oblivion.

The fascination with the past is shared by many of the younger generation of writers. Olga Tokarczuk, a writer of the same generation and connected with another borderland region of Poland, Upper Silesia, was not just speaking for herself when she said, in an interview for the Polish weekly Polityka: "It is because my generation does not have any history that we try to create it for ourselves."(25) The generation which felt itself robbed of history must find or, in a postmodernist way, invent the past for itself:

We find ourselves amongst the ruins and abandoned buildings which were once a playground for us. And the same mystery lingers on, and we are still on the same journey when we ask ourselves today who we are.(26)

The original impulse for all this came from the writer who had first put Danzig on the map of world literature: Günther Grass. The Polish translation of The Tin Drum, (Die Blechtrommel) first circulated in an underground edition in 1979, but it was not until 1991 that the first complete edition became available. This and other works of Grass, in particular Katz und Maus(27), gave strong encouragement to the young writers of Gdansk. Pawel Huelle acknowledges this influence, while at the same time strongly denying the accusation that the impulse was imitative:

I was interested in a formal experiment, that is to say in a "dialogue between the two texts," both focused on the Gdansk theme which is important for both our national literatures, Polish and German. I do not imitate Grass, I continue his theme.(28)

He may be right. The acknowledgement of the truth about the German past of their city allowed the Gdansk writers to confront openly the trauma of their own uprooting and forced resettlement, something which they could not openly discuss before. One of the most moving documents of that experience is the autobiographical book Lida (1990),(29) partly a prose poem, partly a lyrical memoir, describing the journey of the five-year-old Aleksander Jurewicz expelled in 1956 from his place of birth, Lida, in Belarus, and forced to resettle in a small town in Pomerania. In the weeping of the boy, forced to part from his beloved grandmother, one can hear, as Malgorzata Czerminska so sensitively observes, an echo of another cry: that of the little Oscar in Grass's The Tin Drum, when the train with the German refugees aboard leaves Gdansk and heads for Germany, while his Polish grandmother remains at the station.(30)

Searching for roots, especially when so much of the physical evidence has been lost or purposely destroyed, leads to the tendency to mythologize the past, which all too easily can appear in the glow of a lost Arcadia. The generation which lost its homelands as a result of one of the most brutal demographic shifts in modern history had a strong urge to carve out for themselves a new piece of territory which they could call home. The uprooted became ready, at last, to put down new roots. This is how in the late 1980s a phenomenon arose in Polish writing to which the critics, always ready to categorize, swiftly assigned the name literatura malych ojczyzn (the literature of small homelands). Gdansk became one of such "reclaimed territories." It is perhaps in the nature of things that these adopted Heimats were to engender a passionate commitment and a sense of belonging, on a scale previously only encountered in relation to the Kresy literature.

In this process (which can be seen as psychologically repossessing a space and a time), physical remnants of the past were invested with profound significance, rather in the manner of the archaeological remains which "make the silences of history speak." Stefan Chwin (b. 1949), a writer who, like Huelle, grew up in the peculiar atmosphere of post-war Gdansk, takes this fascination with the physical remains of another culture even farther than Huelle. For him, these remains are silent witnesses of an historical past which they preserve in the manner of a fossilized insect in a piece of amber. Amidst the drabness and cultural impoverishment of Soviet-occupied Poland of the 1950s, the objects left behind in the formerly comfortable German homes (now overcrowded and inhabited by those forcibly resettled here at the arbitrary decision of the Great Dictator in the Kremlin and his Western allies), seem mysterious and fascinating. They fascinate him by their very "otherness." Even the most utilitarian of them, like the shining brass taps in the bathroom stamped with strange words in a Gothic script, become transformed, in his eyes, into messengers from a world apart. This sense of magic and mystery pervading even the most commonplace objects is captured in a chapter titled "Things" (Rzeczy) in Chwin's second and very successful novel Hanemann (1995). In a style reminiscent of magical realism, the novel tries to recapture the past through the material objects left behind.

The spell of these objects is strong because they belong to a past that has been deliberately erased from collective memory. Chwin said in an interview: "Najistotniejszy jest dla mnie Gdansk, którego juz nie ma, a który ja mam w swojej pamieci" (It is the Gdansk which is no more but which I hold in my memory that is important for me).(31) Critic Tadeusz Komendant, commenting on the urge to "rediscover history" experienced by his own generation (now aged around fifty), concurs:

It may be that this has become for us a psychological necessity. We had to live in a country whose borders were shifting like sand dunes. The generation of our parents, who had been subjected to the cruel experiment of being uprooted, were busy erasing their tracks behind them, rather like a fox when pursued by hounds. From false shame or true fear. We have attempted to read these tracks.(32)

Chwin's first novel: Krótka historia pewnego zartu (A brief history of a certain joke,1991)(33) was just such a reconstruction of the narrator's childhood in the 1950s: the young hero was confronted with the vestiges of the Nazi past, but he could not escape taking part in the spectacles of the fake mass loyalty to the Communist regime, such as the May Day parade so evocatively reconstructed in the chapter entitled "Dotyk" (The touch).(34) Thus his childhood is trapped in-between two lies.

Chwin's next book is an ambitious attempt to recreate something that was beyond the author's own experience. The hero named Hanemann is a German who refuses to flee the city in January 1945, before the advance of the Soviet army. He stays on and becomes a sort of bridge between the past and the present, thus symbolically reconciling the two identities of his native city. Hanemann came out in 1995, and it has since enjoyed critical acclaim both in Poland and in Germany where it has been published under the title Der Tod in Danzig.(35) Chwin seems to believe that "the invention of stories is the most important part of self-understanding and self-creation."(36)

Chwin's invention of history in Hanemann is informed by the new post-Cold War political climate in Europe and the desire to reach reconciliation with the "historical enemies" shared by many of his generation. By his own confession, the guiding spirit of the book was the wish to infuse an element of empathy and understanding into the memory of these events, a process which he terms "dopelnienie pamieci oskaržajacej pamiecia rozumiejaca" (supplementing the accusing memory with a memory which understands).(37) In his vision, the emphasis falls on what we as human beings have in common rather than on what divides us. Significantly, Hanemann is the first "good German" in Polish fiction since the Second World War.(38)

Thus the Gdansk school of writers seems to hold to an anti-Enlightenment view that the past is hardly knowable, in the traditional sense, and that any account of it is a reconstruction and a reading of traces, and as such is filtered through the imperfect human intelligence and anchored in a specific time and place. A book which explicitly proclaimed such views became something of a sensation when it came out in the summer of 1998. The first striking thing about it was that no author's name appeared on the title page: the book purported to be a collection of materials for a doctoral thesis by a certain Helena Szymanska, who supposedly died in an accident before she completed her work. Her American supervisor allegedly edited Szymanska's notes and submitted them for publication. But the real author was Professor Jerzy Limon, an English scholar and a specialist in Elizabethan theater.

The book is titled Wieloryb (The Whale).(39) Its 500 pages provide an anthology of texts consisting of fake Biblical quotations, alleged medieval apocrypha, the Viking sagas, prophesies of Nostradamus, imitations of Boccaccio, Cervantes, Rabelais and other Renaissance writers, excerpts from Elizabethan plays, fragments of unpublished novels supposedly from the pen of the great masters (Joseph Conrad among them) and, finally, an account of the events of the 1980s in Gdansk.

Even though the book resolutely refuses to tell a story, a plot of sorts emerges from these fragments, and it has to do with Pomerania. The turning points in the history of Western Pomerania (a region otherwise bypassed by great historical events) are announced by the mysterious appearance on the beach of the island of Wolin of the body of a great whale, a mammal not usually found in the waters of the Baltic sea. The first such beaching occurs in 1620, the other in 1980. The central problem of the book is the nature of history, in this case the history of the author's own Heimat, the northwestern region of Pomerania, "the country which appears to be a quintessence of greyness," in creating which "the Divine Maker simply ran out of color:"

There have been no famous battles here, no great deeds of heroes which we could read about in history books. . . . But perhaps this only seems so because here great deeds and great men, heroes and leaders, always happened to be on the losing side, and that's why they have been ignored by historians of the victorious side. Because written history is an account of those who have been victorious and who were able to mark their victory with words. To a considerable degree, this is what wars are fought about: they are fought about the Word, about the question of who will write the story of "what happened."(40)

Jerzy Limon's most recent novel, Koncert Wielkiej Niedzwiedzicy. Kantata na jedna ulice, siedem gwiazd i dwa glosy. (Concerto in Ursa Major. A Cantata for One Street, Seven Stars and Two Voices, 1999)(41) takes an even more extreme approach to the "Heimat literature." (42) It purports to illustrate the postwar history of Poland by telling the story of the changing identity of one street in Sopot, the seaside residential suburb of Gdansk. In telling that story, Limon comments on the nature of history and the perennial struggle over the control of memory. History is seen as a palimpsest in which one text is supplanted by another, according to the needs of the moment. History is being used by both the victor and the vanquished. It serves to select what is remembered: to either preserve memory or to erase it.

Because, in effect, wars are being fought over memory. Every day, in every conflict which occurs, the records of someone's memory are wiped out; they are physically destroyed. Libraries and archives are burned, statues are demolished, commemorative plaques are removed, the names of countries, regions, cities and streets are changed. Those who remember are killed. This is what ethnic cleansing is all about. Memory itself is being cleansed by fire to make room for a new text of history.(43)

To conclude: the rulers of Soviet-occupied Poland effectively stifled all historical debate in the country. In the realm of literature, historical novels were only allowed to deal with the safely distant historical subjects. The collapse of Communism has led to a reawakening of interest in the recent and controversial past. For many writers who have been living and writing in Gdansk, this situation provided an opportunity for a voyage of discovery of their own identity. These writers have tried to position themselves in relation to the Other and to the shared past. They have thus contributed to the most significant phenomenon in Polish literature of the last two decades: the emergence of a Heimat literature, or of the literature of "small homelands" (literatura malych ojczyzn). This literature was born out of a passionate commitment to the specific places or regions and to a search for a deeper understanding of the history which made them what they are. This trend towards rebuilding a sense of regional identity is not a uniquely Polish phenomenon but parallels developments elsewhere. Hopefully, in the future it might lead to the demise of nationalism as a single unifying force cementing the sense of identity in Europe and elsewhere.

It is significant that this newly forged local identity first made itself felt in Gdansk. It was forged by the generation whose post-Yalta childhood, pervaded by the sense of loss of their homelands, was spent looking at the traces of "Another's culture." It was also forged by a generation for whom the rise of Solidarity was a formative experience of their youth.


1. Critics often referred to Anderman's sensitive ear in introducing common speech into his works, remarking that some of his dialogues sound as if they had been recorded on the tape recorder. "Poland still?" (translated by Nina Taylor) in Teresa Halikowska and G. Hyde, The Eagle and the Crow (London, 1996), pp.120-127.

2. M. Nowakowski, Karnawal i post (Warsaw, 1989), p. 11: Protokól zaczyna byc najwazniejszym dokumentem literackim epoki. . . Jak pisal, aby slowo przylegalo do rzeczy i zjawisk. zeby moglo byc wiernym obrazem widzianego slowa.

3. J. Kornhauser and A. Zagajewski, Świat nie przedstawiony (Kraków, 1974).

4. Nina Taylor, "Between Reality and Unreality: Social Criticism in Polish Literature of the Seventies," Perspectives on Literature and Society in Eastern and Western Europe, edited by G. Hosking and G. Cushing (London:The Macmillan Press in association with the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 1989), pp. 182-95.

5. B.Bakula,"Wieža z papieru," Arkusz, no.11 (1992). Quoted in Czaplinski, 84.

6. Czaplinski, 132.

7. C.Tighe, Gdansk: National Identity in the Polish-German Borderlands (London, 1990).

8. P. Huelle, Weiser Davidek (Gdansk,1987).

9. J. Blonski, "Czarna dziura lat 80-tych," Tygodnik Powszechny, no.13(2127), 1 April 1990, 4-5: "Weiser Dawidek Pawla Huelle to ksiažka bardzo wazna; kto wie, czy nie bedzie uwažana za najwybitniejsze osiagniecie prozatorskie tych lat."

10. B. Waldenfels, "Response to the Other," in G. Brinker-Gabler, editor, Encountering the Other(s): Studies in Literature,History and Culture (Albany, NY, 1995), chapter 2, pp. 35-44.

11. T. Docherty, Alterities:Criticism, History, Representation (Oxford, 1996), p. 60.

12. Ibid., p. 63.

13. Harold B. Segel, "The Jew in Polish and Russian literatures," Sarmatian Review, 22:1 (January 2002). Professor Segel is of the opinion that modern representations of the Jew in Polish literature, including Pawel Huelle's, have "little or no resemblance to reality."

14. M. Zalewski, Formy pamieci (Warsaw, 1996), p.136.

15. Maciej Zakiewicz, Gdansk 1945: kronika wojennej burzy (Gdansk: Oficyna Czec, 2002).

16. It took more than half a century for first publications of personal memoirs relating to these events to appear. In relation to Gdansk, the most important of them is Z. Choderny, J. Glowacka, M. Korczakowska, P. O. Loew, editors, Danzig/Gdansk 1945. Wspomnienie 50 lat pózniej (Gdansk, 1997).

17. M. Czerminska,Autobiograficzny Trójkat: Swiadectwo, Wyznanie i Wyzwanie (Kraków, 2000), p. 146: "Pojaltanskie, powojenne dziecinstwo rozgrywa sie w poruszonej przestrzeni."

18. M. Czerminska, ibid., p.147: "Miejsca poruszone, jakby dopiero po trzesieniu ziemi."

19. Ibid., p. 147: "Dziecinstwo w przeprowadzce. Rozlamane miedzy przeszloscia i terazniejszoscia, z tymczasowscia w tle, w wysilku zakorzeniania sie lub niecheci do niego. . . Zaznaczone traumatyzmem wygnania, odmawiajace zakorzenienia."

20."Dziecinstwo po Jalcie," Tytul (Gdansk, 1996), pp. 86-102.

21. Ibid., p. 94.

22. M. de Certeau,"Science and Fiction," Heterologies: Discourse on the Other, translated by B. Massumi (Manchester, 1986), pp.199-221.

23. 1st Polish edition, London, 1991; English edition, Moving House (London, 1993).

24. 1st Polish edition, London, 1996.

25."Zdarzylo sie i juž: Z Olga Tokarczuk rozmawia Mariusz Urbanek," Polityka-Kultura, no. 5 (43), 1995, pp. i, vi: "Poniewaž moje pokolenie nie ma historii, bedzie próbowalo ja sobie stworzyc."

26. K. Czyžewski, "Jechac do Gdanska, Stanislawowa," Kultura (Paris), no. 5/596 (1997), p. 70."Odnajdujemy siebie na peryferiach, posród ruin i opustoszalych budowli, które kiedys stanowily wymarzony teren naszych dzieciecych zabaw. I kusi nas ta sama tajemnica, i w dalszym ciagu jestesmy uczestnikami tej samej podrózy, gdy pytamy siebie dzisiaj, kim jestesmy."

27. G. Grass, Kot i mysz, translated by I. Naganowska and E. Naganowski (Warsaw,1990).

28. P. Huelle "Testament Arystotelesa: Rozmowa z Pawlem Huelle," Gazeta Olsztynska, 26 July 1992: "[Z]alezalo mi na esperymencie warsztatowym, to jest na'rozmowie dwóch tekstów' odnoszacych sie do tematu gdanskiego, istotnego--jak sie okazuje--dla dwóch narodowych kultur, polskiej i niemieckiej. Nie nasladuj jednak Grassa, tylko go kontynuuj."

29. A. Jurewicz, Lida (Lublin,1990).

30. M. Czerminska, "Northern Borderlands: Ethnic Contacts and Conflicts in Modern Polish Prose," Arcadia, vol. 31(1991), pp. 146-154.

31. Dialog: Deutsch-Polnishes magazin, no. 1 (1997), p. 48.

32. T. Komendant: "Byc može, byla w tym psychologiczna koniecznosc: dano nam žyc w panstwie o ruchomych, jak nadmorskie wydmy, granicach. . . . Pokolenie naszych rodziców, poddane okrutnemu eksperymentowi wykorzenienia, zacieralo za soba, jak lis ogonem, slady: z falszywego wstydu lub prawdziwego strachu. . . . Mysmy te slady próbowali odczytac." Quoted from W. Bonowicz, "Z czuloscia przedrzezniajac swiat: o nowej powiesci Stefana Chwina," Tygodnik Powszechny, no. 38, 17 September 1995.

33. S. Chwin, Krótka historia pewnego zartu: Sceny z Europy srodkowo-wschodniej (Kraków, 1991).

34. T. Halikowska and G. Hyde, The Eagle and the Crow: Modern Polish Short Stories (London, 1996), pp. 183-196.

35. S.Chwin, Tod in Danzig (Berlin, 1999).

36. Ibid., p. 128.

37. S. Chwin, "Pisarz polski i Niemcy," Gazeta Wyborcza, 24-26 December 1997.

38. Since the time this paper was written, a parallel development to the Gdansk school emerged in Szczecin, another city in the Polish-German borderlands. A book by Artur Daniel Liskowacki, Eine, kleine (Szczecin, 2000) deals with a similar problem but in a rather different spirit. The entire book is written from the perspective of the Germans left stranded in Stettin/Szczecin in the immediate postwar years, when the future of the city was still hanging in the balance. The book speaks openly about the Polish-German antagonisms.

39. Wieloryb: wypisy zródlowe (Gdansk, 1998).

40. Ibid., p. 332: "Nie bylo tu slawnych bitew ani wielkich czynów bohaterów, o jakich czytamy w podrecznikach historii . . . . A može tak sie zlozylo, že tutaj wielkie czyny i wielcy ludzie, herosi, wodzowie, naleželi zawsze do strony przegranej, przez co zignorowani zostali przez historyków i dziejopisów zwyciezców. Albowiem spisane dzieje sa tworem pamieci tych którzy zwyciezyli i swoje zwyciestwo mogli równiez zaznaczyc slowem. W dužej mierze to o slowo i o historie tocza sie wojny, o to, kto ja napisze."

41. Warsaw, 1999.

42. According to Czaplinski, it represents "the fullest realization yet of the palimpsest reading of the Heimat myth--an outstandingly ambitious enterprise, sophisticated in terms of its structure and being nothing less than a private epos; it is a true reading of all the cultural strata whose history made one of the streets in Gdansk," Czaplinski, Rocznik 2001, (Warsaw, 2001), p. 309.

43. J. Limon, Koncert, p.15 :"Bo w gruncie rzeczy wojny toczy sie o pamiec. Kazdego dnia w sytuacjach konfliktowych zapisy pamieci sa wymazywane, fizycznie niszczone. Pali sie cale biblioteki i archiwa, burzy pomniki, zrywa pamiatkowe tablice, zmienia nazwy panstw, krain, miast i ulic. Zabija tych, którzy pamietaja. Na tym polegaja czystki etniczne. Ogniem oczyszcza sie pamiec, by zrobic miejsce dla nowego tekstu historii."

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The Sarmatian Review
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