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Hemar, Marian

(1901–1972), poet, satirist, and author of cabaret pieces. Born and educated in Lwów, Marian Hemar (born Jan Marian Hescheles), moved to Warsaw in 1924 after fighting on the Polish side in the Polish–Soviet war. He joined the literary circle around the journal Wiadomości Literackie (Literary News) and wrote for theater and cabaret. He was a master of sentimental song and comedic routine (shmontses, a genre of cabaret popular in Central Europe particularly associated with Jews), and jointly composed political sketches with poets Julian Tuwim and Antoni Słonimski. In 1939, he left for Palestine but settled in England in 1941.

Hemar worked for the BBC during World War II and for Radio Free Europe from 1953 to 1969. A leading broadcaster for the Polish expatriate community, he ran London’s Polish theater and wrote for émigré publications. These activities earned him a publication ban in Poland.

Hemar published collections of poems, including Koń trojański (Trojan Horse; 1936), Dwie ziemie święte (Two Holy Lands; 1942), Siedem lat chudych (Seven Lean Years; 1955), Ściana płaczu (Wailing Wall; 1968); the comedies Dwaj panowie B. (Two Mr. B’s; 1929) and Firma (The Company; 1933); and a collection of feuilletons, Awantury w rodzinie (Family Feuds; 1967). Hemar’s interwar poetry explored the question of identity of the Polish writer of Jewish descent confronted with antisemitism, and his political satire targeted antisemitism and fascism.

Despite his baptism in 1935 and his attachment to Polish tradition and literature, Hemar never entirely severed ties to Jewish culture. Trips to Israel in the 1960s made him reflect on the Diaspora, the Jewish state, and the fate of Polish Jews; he wrote on this topic in Świstki z podróży (Scraps from a Journey; 1964). Patriotic Polish and historical themes and nostalgic memories of Lwów dominate his postwar poetry.

Suggested Reading

Jan Bil, Poetycki świat Hemara (Wybrane zagadnienia z twórczości Mariana Hemara) (Wrocław, Pol., 1999); Ryszard Marek Groński, Kabaret Hemara (Warsaw, 1988); Anna Mieszkowska, Marian Hemar. Od Lwowa do Londynu (London, 2001).



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski