11 January 1938, Tuesday

(A) Warsaw. Bruno Schulz delivers a talk on Witold Gombrowicz’s novel Ferdydurke in the Polish Writers’ Union.

(A) Schulz delivers an enthusiastic talk on Gombrowicz’s* novel during the Polish Writers’ Union* meeting at 16A Pierackiego St.1. A large group of people listens to his talk –“almost everyone from the young Warsaw literary gang”2, as the editor of Czas puts it – following a stormy discussion during which many people speak, including Wanda Kragen*, Maria Kuncewiczowa*, Stefan Napierski* and Rafał Blüth*.

The discussion reveals big differences of opinion and leads to many misuderstandings3.  The first to take the floor, Wanda Kragen, evaluates Gombrowicz’s novel in extremely negative terms4. Despite being polemical, Kragen receives Schulz’s approval, who appreciates her courage and enthusiasm5. Both speeches, presenting diverse judgment, do not convince the audience6. Wanda Kragen meets with the most fierce criticism of the delegates7. Rafał Blüth compares her to Ms. Młodziakowa from Ferdydurke8, and according to the account published in Czas her “low intellectual level contended…with a very feeble knowledge of correct language”9. Next is Stefan Napierski, who condemns Schulz’s enthusiasm in an outright manner. According to Napierski, Gombrowicz’s novel is “directed against the intelligentsia […] who boldly oppose destruction, which simultaneously is a symptom of regression characteristic of postwar culture”10. As a result of Napierski’s vehement speech, a few days later Romana Halpern*, who was the prime mover behind the talk on Ferdydurke, will ask Schulz how he feels11

Schulz was not satisfied with his performance: – “I left a little low after the fine speeches of the debaters and with a bad aftertaste after my talk”, he confesses to Romana Halpern12. He leaves the Polish Writers’ Union premises before the discussion ends as he feels overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to talk to him and dispute with him13. He receives 50 złoty14 for his talk, despite Wanda Melcer’s15 objections as to its insufficient length16. The discussion opened with the talk on Ferdydurke, then moves onto magazine columns, where many accounts and comments appear. At the end of January Stanisław Piasecki will call Schulza’s enthusiasm a kind of  psychosis17.

Schulz’s talk will be published in July 1938 in the Skamander18. (ts) (transl. ms)


See also: first half of November 1937, 12 January 1938, 18 January 1938, 31 January 1938. 


(B) [in preparation] (pls)

  • 1
    The press report on Schulz’s reading only mentions the premises of the Polish Writers’ Union. It is known that, from 1936, that the premises of the Union were located on 16A Pierackiego St. (see Studio R. 1, December 1936, no 9, p. 350; available online, http://cyfrowa.chbp.chelm.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=8710&dirids=1, date of access: 10 October 2017). For several years, Tuesday’s literary readings were regularly organised there: “For several years, the Warsaw branch of the Polish Writers’ Union has been organizing on the Union’s premises at 16A Pierackiego St, discussions taking place on Tuesdays, with the participation of eminent local and visiting speakers.” (“Odczyty w Związku Literatów”, Wiadomości Literackie R. XVI, 19 March 1939, no. 12 (804), p. 8; available online, http://cyfrowa.chbp.chelm.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=8983, date of access: 10 October 2017).
  • 2
    “To nie była dyskusja, lecz demonstracja”, Czas R. 90, 19 January 1938, no. 18, p. 6 (available online, http://mbc.malopolska.pl/dlibra/publication?id=55908&tab=3, date of access: 10 October 2017).
  • 3
    “Tydzień kulturalny. W kraju”, Tygodnik Ilustrowany, 23 January 1938, no. 4, p. 81 (available online, http://bcul.lib.uni.lodz.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=222&dirids=1, date of access: 10 Oct. 2017).
  • 4
    “Odczyt o Gombrowiczu”, Apel, 16 January 1938, no. 17, artistic and literary  supplement to Kurier Poranny no. 16.
  • 5
    Bruno Schulz’s letters to Romana Halpern from 12 January 1938 and 18 January 1938, [in:] Bruno Schulz, Księga listów, compiled and edited by Jerzy Ficowski, revised by Stanisław Danecki, Gdańsk 2016; Wanda Kragen’s letter to Bruno Schulz from 31 January 1938, [in:] ibidem.
  • 6
    “Odczyt o Gombrowiczu”…
  • 7
    In one of the letters, Schulz will state that this criticism was a reaction to Wanda Kragen’s enthusiasm for him, see Bruno Schulz’s letter to Romana Halpern from 23 January 1938, [in:] Bruno Schulz, op. cit.
  • 8
    Wanda Kragen’s letter to Bruno Schulz from 31 January 1938. 
  • 9
    “To nie była dyskusja, lecz demonstracja”…, p. 6.
  • 10
    “Odczyt o Gombrowiczu”…
  • 11
    “You are overestimating my sensitivity and my explosion after Eiger’s speech” (Stefan Napierski’s real name was Stefan Marek Eiger), see Bruno Schulz’s letter to Romana Halpern  from 18 January 1938.
  • 12
    Bruno Schulz’s letter to Romana Halpern from 12 January 1938.
  • 13
    “I am not immune to people who impose themselves on me, and there were many people who threw themselves on me” (ibidem, letter no. I 95, p. 160; see also: Witold Gombrowicz, Dziennik 1953–1969, Kraków 2013, p. 656).
  • 14
    It was not a little money if, in 1937, Schulz earned 300 złoty a month in a state  post in Drogobych, and as he claims, in Warsaw he could even live on just 200 złoty a month (see Bruno Schulz’s letter to Romana Halpern from 30 August 19387, [in:] Bruno Schulz, op. cit.).
  • 15
    Wanda Melcer coordinated Tueday discussions organised by the Polish Writers’ Union.
  • 16
    Bruno Schulz’s letter to Romana Halpern from 18 January 1938.
  • 17
    Stanisław Piasecki, “Czarowanie gałązką w zębach”, Prosto z mostu R. IV, 30 stycznia 1938, no. 7 (173). Schulz’s does not appear in the article but the context of the talk does not leave any doubt.
  • 18
    Bruno Schulz, “Ferdydurke”, Skamander R. XII, t. 12, July–September 1938,  z. XCVI–XCVIII, pp. 183–189 (available online, http://ebuw.uw.edu.pl/dlibra/publication?id=121250&tab=3; date of access: 10 October 2017).