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Lipski, Leo

(1917–1997), Polish prose writer. Born in Zurich into a Polonized Jewish family, Leo Lipski (originally Lipschütz) spent his childhood and youth in Kraków where he studied psychology and philosophy and made his literary debut. He fled to Lwów in 1939, where he was arrested by the Soviets and sent to labor camps in 1940. Managing to leave the USSR with the Polish Army, he fell ill with typhoid fever and encephalitis in Tehran and, as a result, was discharged from the army. After briefly studying in Beirut, Lipski settled in Tel Aviv in 1944. Partially paralyzed and unable to speak clearly, he typed his works with one hand, later switching to dictation. In 1975 he traveled to Paris with the poet Lucja Gliksman, who cared for him.

Lipski’s autobiographical novel Niespokojni (The Restless), which he began to write in prewar Kraków and published in Wiadomości (a Polish émigré paper in London) in 1952, describes the artist’s youth and crucial intellectual and erotic experiences. A collection of labor camp stories, Dzień i noc (Day and Night; 1957), and the novel Piotruś (Little Peter; 1960) were published by the Polish émigré publishing house Kultura in Paris. Lipski’s first publication in Poland was Sarni braciszek (The Little Doe Brother; 1981), an epitaph for the vanished Jewish world, followed by Opowiadania zebrane (Collected Stories; 1988) dealing with Soviet labor camps; both appeared in the underground press. After the collapse of communism, all of Lipski’s works were published in Poland, including a collection of stories, Śmierć i dziewczyna (Death and the Maiden; 1991). A volume published in 2002, Paryż ze złota (Paris of Gold), includes reminiscences of his trip to France, correspondence, and fragments of prose.

Lipski’s works were translated into several languages. His prose is introspective, psychological, and largely autobiographical, rooted in the experience of the Soviet camps, the trauma of loss of his family and friends in the Holocaust, and his own disability. Dense, grotesque, poetic, and saturated with a symbolism that can be interpreted in a variety of ways, it speaks of loneliness, suffering, degradation, and evil in a world where all cultural and religious values have proven relative and offer no salvation. Polish literary critics regard Lipski as one of the greatest Polish writers of the twentieth century.

Suggested Reading

Hanna Gosk, Jesteś sam na swojej drodze: O twórczości Leo Lipskiego (Izabelin, Pol., 1998); Natan Gross, “Lipski,” Kontury 9 (1998): 10–15; Alina Kochańczyk, “‘Z głębokości wołam do Ciebie’: O prozie Leo Lipskiego,” in Literackie portrety Żydów, pp. 137–153 (Lublin, Pol., 1996).



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti