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Ważyk, Adam

(Ajzyk Wagman; 1905–1982), poet, prose and essay writer, and translator. The brother of Saul Wagman, a poet and publicist associated with the Zionist journal Nasz Przegląd, and Leon Trystam, an actor, film critic, and screenwriter, Adam Ważyk became one of the leading poets of the Polish avant-garde movement. During World War II, Ważyk was in the USSR, where he joined the Polish Army. After the war, he returned to Poland, where he actively participated in Communist-sponsored literary life as a theorist of socialist realism, laureate of state awards, contributor to Kuźnica (1946–1949), and editor in chief of Twórczość (1950–1954). In 1955, he dramatically settled scores with Stalinism in “Poemat dla dorosłych” (Poem for Adults), which marked a literary and ideological turning point in the political thaw of 1956. In 1957, he quit the party and distanced himself from politics.

Ważyk’s published works include the poetry collections Semafory (Semaphores; 1924), Oczy i usta (Eyes and Mouth; 1926), Serce granatu (A Grenade’s Heart; 1943), Poemat dla dorosłych (1956), Labirynt (Labyrinth; 1961), Wagon (1963), and Zdarzenia (Events; 1977); a volume of short stories, Człowiek w burym ubraniu (Man in a Gray Dress; 1930); and the novels Latarnie świecą w Karpowie (Streetlights Shine in Karpov; 1933), Mity rodzinne (Family Myths; 1938), and Epizod (1961). He also published literary historical studies devoted to Polish poetry and versification. These were followed by his intellectual autobiography Kwestia gustu (Question of Taste; 1966). Ważyk also translated Russian, Latin, and French works.

Inspired by cubism and Guillaume Apollinaire during his avant-garde period, Ważyk wrote experimental prose as well as psychological novels. His wartime writings exploring patriotic and military themes leaned toward classicism. Classicism is also present in his socialist realist political poetry, including “Rzeka” (River), a poem about Stalin. The poet returned to cubism in the 1960s in poems using the technique of association and juxtaposition.

Ważyk avoided Jewish themes, emphasizing instead his ties with Polish tradition and European art. However, his wartime output contains allusions to the Holocaust: poetic scenes of a burning city, of ruins and destruction, dated April 1943, undoubtedly refer to the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Ważyk’s postwar poetry takes note of the murders of Holocaust survivors in Poland.

Suggested Reading

Tadeusz Brzozowski, Orientacja wizualno-plastyczna w twórczości poetyckiej Adama Ważyka (Szczecin, Pol., 1994); Artur Sandauer, On the Situation of the Polish Writer of Jewish Descent in the Twentieth Century, trans. Abe Shenitzer and Sarah Shenitzer (Jerusalem, 2005); Adam Ważyk, Kwestia gustu (Warsaw, 1966).



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski