In a brief life deeply and traumatically disrupted by two years in concentration camps as a political prisoner, Tadeusz Borowski
(1922-1951) was tragically destined to become one of the most eloquent witnesses to the Holocaust in Poland. His recollections and stories, the most famous of which is This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
, document in stark historical, literary, and personal terms the experience of the camps and its cost to humanity.
As a student in the underground educational system and a poet published in the underground press under the German occupation of Poland, Borowski had already rejected the traditional Polish faith in heroic martyrdom. He then shocked many by seeing and describing Auschwitz as a cruel free-for-all implicating both prisoners and guards in a meaningless struggle to survive. He embraced Communism as the only bulwark against the bestiality he had witnessed, gained celebrity through his literary service to the Stalinist regime, and then, in part through disenchantment with that regime, gassed himself to death before he was 30.
This volume opens with Borowski's letter to his mother from Pawiak Prison the day after his arrest and closes with an unsigned telegram informing his parents of his suicide. The letters to and from family members, friends, and literary figures offer an indispensable picture of a totalitarian world in the wake of the Nazis – and of the indelible stain that experience left upon the literature, politics, and life of Eastern Europe, in particular upon one gifted and doomed writer.If Elie Wiesel was the great mystic of the Holocaust and Primo Levi was its great analyst, Borowski was its angry young man, a pent-up vessel of pressurized fury that could do nothing in the end but explode.
– Ruth Franklin, The New Republic OnlineTadeusz Drewnowski
, for half a century a prominent essayist, literary critic and historian, and editor, has written highly regarded monographs on such writers as Borowski and Tadeusz Rozewicz. PURCHASE