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Polish Poetry of World War II (Part 5)

Updated on February 23, 2008

Sławomir Mrożek

Mrożek was born near Krakow in 1930 to Antoni and Zofia Mrożek. He received a traditional Catholic education, and his mother died when he was nineteen years old. His opinions on the world developed most clearly during the war years. Events that affected him most were the Nazi occupation, the post-war communist regime, and ultimately the Stalinist repression that overcame Poland. He found himself, along with many other Polish youths, disillusioned by the world.

He first studied architecture, then painting, but with both he became utterly bored. After joining the staff of a Polish newspaper, he studied Oriental philosophy at the University of Krakow in order to avoid being drafted into the army. During the years of his late twenties, he spent his time traveling and living briefly in the Soviet Union and France while drawing satirical illustrations in a Polish humor magazine. After getting sucked into the press business, he eventually found himself editing a weekly newspaper called Postepowiec. He married Maria Oremba, an artist, in 1959. Ten years later she died of cancer in West Berlin. He remarried in 1987 to a Mexican theatre director named Orario Rosas.

Mrożek found himself more and more drawn to writing as a craft. He gained international recognition as a short story writer in his early twenties and late thirties with his satiric and enjoyable writing style. He wrote plays, which soon became extremely widely loved, admired, and performed across the world. He continued to travel, and his works earned him the label of absurdism.

As he became more adventurous in the themes of his works, he was called back to Poland. Instead, he remained in Paris, and much of his work was banned in Poland as a result. He became a French citizen during his exile and wrote many plays in response to it.

He has won countless awards and continues to write today. He returned to Poland in 1997.

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Mrożek's Work

Slawomir Mrożek is Poland’s most famous playwright alive today. Not only a dramatist, he also writes prose and draws cartoons. His works are most famous for their exploration of themes such as alienation, conformity, power abuse, and human freedom limitations.

Employing the styles of surrealistic humor, satire, and grotesque situations, Mrożek reveals the beliefs of his characters, which are often misguided or have distorted views. Influenced by his own experiences with totalitarianism and disillusionment, Mrożek has written many plays about the collapse of youthful illusions. His short stories are renowned for satirizing the oddities of the Communist or totalitarian systems, the Polish mentality, and romanticism. He often targets human behavior and human flaws.

Mrożek historical worlds. Even so, much of what he has written and much of what he continues to write is very political in nature simply because of the influences on his early life. Neither the public nor the censors of the world have failed to notice his criticisms of the modern bureaucracy.

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