7 November 2010 “We cannot blow into the past” – a fascinating meeting with Marian Pankowski

Yesterday's meeting with Marian Pankowski – an outstanding prose-writer, playwright and novelist, whose work was completely unknown in Poland for a long time – was a fascinating story about literature, which is not afraid to pose inconvenient questions, return to difficult memories, provoke a discussion which takes its course beyond the tracks of social expectations. The author of “Smagła swoboda” (Swarthy Freedom) told about his life, recalled the difficult time of war, the decision of leaving to the West; he also shared his understanding of what literature is: “I am a witness of the fact that my presence at Auschwitz was the presence of a poet, not a patriot. I was there and constantly wondered how I would later describe it all, how I will find the language for it, to be able to introduce it to literature” he said yesterday at the Pod Jaszczurami Club.

When asked by Przemysław Czapliński about the process of shaping his literary otherness and developing a secluded position, he recalled the famous quote from the story “Bukenocie”: “God is my witness that I am not Pankowski”. He also mentioned how in the West memories of the war, the camps, but also childhood spent in Sanok, the only scent of carnations, continually returned to him. These details were the impulse for further stories and novels: “You cannot blow into the past. It is there. The memories are there. You cannot deny it”. The audience in the Pod Jaszczurami Club was charmed by the remarkable frankness and openness of the writer. He posed for photos with great satisfaction, while complaining about the uncomfortable chaise longue. “How am I supposed to keep an upright posture on such a chair” he joked. Impeccable manners and a distance to himself charmed all those present: “People grow old in their own way” he said. “Either sweetly or bitterly...” here he went silent for a moment. “Let's continue” he suggested to the host with a smile. The title of the meeting “I am not an immigrant” he explained as follows: “I was neither a brave immigrant nor a communist. I was simply a left-wing writer.”

It must be mentioned that his latest book entitled “Tratwa nas czeka” [The Raft Awaits] appeared in bookshops yesterday. Although the writer is approaching his ninetieth year, he continues to impress with intellectual and artistic courage, consistently devising “subversive, nightly, mysterious discourse”, he faces rigid standards into which culture and society is pushing us.