Bronisław Wildstein

(born 1952) – journalist, columnist, novelist and activist in the democratic opposition, who spent the 1980s in emigration in France. After returning to Poland he worked as a journalist for newspapers including Życie and Rzeczpospolita and for the weekly Wprost. In May 2006 he became head of TVP, Poland’s main public television channel, but was dismissed in March 2007 for political reasons.

The theme of his own generation occupies an important place in Wildstein’s fiction; almost as it was happening he aimed to describe the experiences of the opposition activists who were forced to leave Poland in the 1980s (e.g. in his roman à clef The Brother), and he has also described how they coped in the new situation, in independent Poland, where the world ceased to look quite so black and white, and life became much more complicated, bringing the former heroes of the opposition a lot of disappointment (as in his collection of short stories, Future Limited). Wildstein has also tried to tackle other topics; On Betrayal and Death is set in Alexander the Great’s empire following the death of the ruler, and the main character in The Master is the guru of Polish alternative theatre, Jerzy Grotowski. Wildstein has used various styles in his fiction, starting with more avant garde writing full of metaphors where the descriptive level was the most important thing, then gradually progressing towards classic narrative forms.

Regardless what he writes about and how he does it, whether newspaper articles or fiction, Wildstein never loses sight of the universal, fundamental issues. As Stanisław Obirek says: “Wildstein’s writing is a bit like black-and-white photography. Of course, it does not lack shadows and grey areas, but it is free of any deceptive wealth of colours and makes the reader think about what really matters.”

Works
Translations
Awards
Excerpts
  • Jak woda, Oficyna Literacka, Kraków 1989.
  • Brat, Oficyna Literacka, Kraków 1992.
  • O zdradzie i śmierci, Oficyna Literacka, Kraków 1992.
  • Dekomunizacja, której nie było, Ośrodek Myśli Politycznej, 2000.
  • Profile wieku, Świat Książki, Warszawa 2000.
  • Przyszłość z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością, Arcana, Kraków 2003.
  • Mistrz, Świat Książki, Warszawa 2004.
  • Długi Cień PRL-u, czyli dekomunizacja, której nie było, Arcana, Kraków 2005.
  • Dolina nicości, Wydawnictwo M, 2008.
  • Czas niedokonany, Zysk i S-ka, 2011.
  • Ukryty, Zysk i S-ka 2012.
  • Cienie moich czasów, Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 2015.
  • Dom wybranych, Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 2016.
  • O kulturze i rewolucji, PIW, Warszawa 2018.
  • Bunt i afirmacja. Esej o naszych czasach, PIW, Warszawa 2020.

Bulgarian:

  • K”ŝata na izbranite [Dom wybranych], Lina Vasileva, Sofiâ: Knigoizdatelska k”ŝa “Trud”, 2019

English:

  • An imperfect time [Czas niedokonany], Chicago: Zmok Books, 2020

Czech:

  • Nedokonaný čas [Czas niedokonany], Lucie Szymanowská, Praha: Volvox Globator, 2018
  • Údolí nicoty [Dolina nicości], Petruška Šustrová, Jan Wünsch, Praha : Pulchra, 2010.

German:

  • Das Camp der Auserwählten [Dom wybranych], Herbert Ulrich, Berlin; Münster: LIT, 2019

Hungarian:

  • A velünk élő múlt [Czas niedokonany], Orsolya Németh, Göd: Rézbong, 2019

Romanian:

  • Casa celor aleşi [Dom wybranych], tłum. Constantin Geambasu, Cluj-Napoca: Casa Cartii de Stiinta, 2019
  • Un trecut care se încăpăţânează să nu treacă [zbiór esejów], Anca-Maria Cernea, Bucureşti: Humanitas, 2014.
  • 1990 the Kościelski Foundation Award
  • 2004 the Andrzej Kijowski Award – for the volume of short stories Przyszłość z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością (“Limited Liability Future”)
  • 2005 Honorary Member of the KoLiber Association
  • 2009 the Dariusz Fikus Award for 2008 in the category ‘creator in the media’
  • 2009 the Józef Mackiewicz Literary Award for Dolina nicości (“The Valley of Nothingness”)
  • 2012 the Jerzy Zieleński Award granted by the Polish Journalists Association for the book Polska, antysemityzm, lewica (“Poland, Anti-Semitism, Left-wing”)
  • 2016 the Polish Journalists Association Award for 2015 ‘for courage, prudence, and talent used wisely and nobly”.
  • 2018 the Annual Award of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage in the literature category

Rebellion and Affirmation. An Essay about Our Times

Contemporary disputes placed in a broad historiosophical context

Voltaire was not a radical. His maxim is often quoted: ‘If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him,’ which should be considered as an expression of a kind of ideological and political moderation. Less known is the justification preceding it: ‘I want my lawyer, my tailor, my servants and even my wife to believe in God, because then I will be cheated, robbed and betrayed less often.’

This statement manifests the striking paternalism of Enlightenment intellectuals, which will become the trademark of the vanguard fighting for equality and emancipation. Nothing will change this even today. It sounds a bit paradoxical, but these are merely appearances. ‘You must not rely on the opinion of the crowd on issues of reason and philosophy; the voice of the crowd is vicious, stupid, inhuman and prejudiced. The crowd is dark and stupid. Do not trust it in matters of morality.’ This is Diderot’s statement. I am not saying that he does not indicate the real threats that his countryman Gustave Le Bon wrote about a hundred years later in The Psychology of Crowds. Another thing is that the author of Jacques the Fatalist was writing not about the specific phenomenon of the human mass, which in its momentary connection can unleash specific emotions and attitudes. The term “crowd” should be rather be translated as “plebeians”. One can agree that humanity as a whole is not particularly inclined to philosophising or moral considerations. The question remains, as to what conclusions should be drawn from this.

Les philosphes were extremely outraged that the people did not follow their enlightened ideas, especially where the “prejudiced” did not want to reject Christianity. And yet: ‘Every reasonable and righteous man must feel disgust at the Christian sect,’ wrote Voltaire. It seems inconsistent with the declaration of the need for God. But the author of Candide justified it only as a means of keeping society, along with his own imaginary wife, in check, as until his death he remained a bachelor. The fact that he did not count them among the “reasonable and righteous” seems unquestionable. In this context, his next declaration sounds logical: ‘We never pretended to try enlightening shoemakers and servants; that is work for apostles.’ The waves of literary passion that allowed him to pose as an apostle remained only on paper. Voltaire, Diderot or d’Alembert definitely preferred enlightening Frederick II or Catherine II. No wonder, as this was undoubtedly associated with more tangible rewards.

Without being unkind, it can be assumed that an enlightened despot is a gift from heaven for (not only) an eighteenth-century intellectual who is preparing an all-encompassing and unique project to remake the world. Ordinary politics must take into account the attitudes of the general public, at least the subjects who are moulded by their devotion to a dark tradition – one that is considered inimical to the enlightened. The ruler embedded in it is bound by custom and religion and though he sometimes breaks the rules, this is not the norm but the exception. Power in monarchical systems is inscribed in an organic, not only social, but even cosmic system, which imposes laws and limits the arbitrariness of those in power. Enlightened despots have already given up these principles, they consider them superstitions, so they do not have to reckon with them.

Excerpt translated by Peter Obst

To the top

© 2021 The Polish Book Institute