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Brandys, Kazimierz

(1916–2001), writer. While studying law at the University of Warsaw (1934–1939), Kazimierz Brandys, the younger brother of writer Marian Brandys, worked in socialist youth organizations and wrote for leftist journals. He spent World War II in Warsaw, hiding on the Aryan side. After 1945, as a member of the Writers Union and of the editorial boards of Kuźnica and Nowa Kultura, he promoted socialist realism, a new literary doctrine sponsored by the Communist regime.

The thaw of 1956 led Brandys to reassess his ideological commitments, and he quit the party in 1966. Subsequently, his involvement in the opposition democratic movement and writing for underground publications led to an official ban on his publications. He settled permanently in Paris in the 1980s, writing for émigré publishers and periodicals.

Brandys published several novels, among them Miasto niepokonane (The Invincible City; 1946), the cycle Między wojnami (Between the Wars; 1948–1953; included in this latter work was the novel Samson), Obywatele (Citizens; 1954), Matka Królów (Mother of Kings; 1957 [published in English as Sons and Comrades (1961)]), Sposób bycia (Way of Being; 1963), Wariacje pocztowe (Postal Variations; 1972), and Nierzeczywistość (Unreality; 1977). He also wrote stories, autobiographical novels (Mała księga [The Small Book]; 1970), essays (Listy do pani Z [Letters to Mrs. Z]; 1958–1961), a diary (Miesiące [Months]; 1980–1987), and other autobiographical works (Zapamiętane [Committed to Memory]; 1995).

Brandys’s prose is artistically diverse, ranging from traditional epic style to innovative twentieth-century forms that include elements of essay and autothematism (which concerns literary works about the writing of these works). His works reflect Poland’s historical and ideological experiences in the twentieth century, including the experiences of leftist intelligentsia facing the challenges of fascism, World War II, and postwar communism. Brandys also explores Polish national consciousness and mythology (the novel Wariacje pocztowe, depicting the fate of a Polish noble family from the eighteenth to the twentieth century).

Jewish themes appeared in Brandys’s prose soon after World War II in Samson, a novel belonging to the first wave of Polish Holocaust literature. Jewish involvement in communism is explored in Matka Królów, which, like Samson, bears the mark of ideological tendentiousness and discusses the question of Jewish involvement in communism. In Wariacje pocztowe, written after the 1968 antisemitic campaign, Jews represent an integral part of Polish history, as the saga of the noble clan is paralleled by the story of an emancipating Jewish family.

In the 1970s, Brandys’s Jewish themes acquired an autobiographical dimension, centering on the identity of a Polish writer of Jewish origin confronted with the experience of the Holocaust. Analyzing the survivor’s sense of guilt, Brandys identified himself as a member of the assimilated Polish Jewish intelligentsia reconciling Polish culture with Jewish heritage.

Suggested Reading

Agnieszka Czyżak, Kazimierz Brandys (Poznań, Pol., 2000); Zbigniew Jarosiński, “Świadectwa Kazimierza Brandysa,” in Sporne postaci polskiej literatury współczesnej: Kontynuacje, ed. Alina Brodzka and Lidia Burska, pp. 193–210 (Warsaw, 1996); Eugenia Prokop-Janiec “Żyd—Polak—artysta: O budowaniu tożsamości po Zagładzie,” Teksty drugie 1 (2001): 120–134.



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski