Jarosław Jakubowski
Hail Barabbas. New plays

Exposing mechanisms that sentence individuals to isolation, loneliness, insanity or even damnation

The Brunette – a woman from the 24-hour pharmacy
The Grey-haired man – old, but maybe not so old after
It was like a film
only I was in it
That man passed me in the pasta aisle
just as I was looking for something to put in my tomato
I don’t know if he bumped into me or just walked by
very close
but I looked at him and was a little frightened
He didn’t seem so threatening himself but his eyes
were like from some other world
and then I heard this shout
it sounded terribly artificial
I remember exactly
and when he came rushing
in my direction
wielding a knife
this guy appeared
right by my side
between the man and me
I’d seen him before
an older ordinary looking guy who used to come to
the pharmacy
and stare
He slumped to the floor
just kind of flopped down as though he wanted to rest
while the other man raised his knife
and in this weird fake way like out of a bad movie started
jumping up and down and shouting
jumping up and down and shouting
Before they got to him he managed to pull a razor
across his neck
slowly this way and that as if he were slicing bread
Meanwhile the other man sat among the scattered
packages and cans
leaning against the pasta
holding his stomach
blood flowing through his fingers
He looked at me and that’s probably when I started
he raised his bloody hand and motioned me over
I bent down and heard him mumble
was that the word
Then he passed out right away and I never saw him
Later they told me he had saved my life
he gave his life for me
died that I might live
I heard this all the time
until I was sick of hearing it
I had to play my role
say what they wanted to hear
they needed that sacrifice
they need a sacrifice because they haven’t had their fill
they have to see the blood
blood in photos looks like tomato soup
there has to be a lot of blood a whole lot
on the floor on the walls even on the ceiling
splattered on things that never had anything to do with
I told them all of that just to be left in peace
the truth is he didn’t mean a thing to me
he was nobody and still is
I don’t even remember his face
he’d show up at the pharmacy and stare at my tits

Excerpt from The Incident [Incydent], translated by Philip Boehm

Jarosław Jakubowski
Hail Barabbas. New plays

Exposing mechanisms that sentence individuals to isolation, loneliness, insanity or even damnation

Publisher: Agencja Dramatu i Teatru ADiT, Instytut Literatury, Warszawa 2020
Translation rights: Agencja ADiT, agencja@adit.art.pl

This collection of Jarosław Jakubowski’s dramatic works presents a wide range of subjects: a forgotten political hero gone mad, the exposure of former communist functionaries, or an eccentric old man bogged down in a murderous routine. But despite this variety, at their core each of these plays is marked by History – in that the personal stories of the protagonists barely constitute a small portion of a larger, less subjective, and more unsparing social or national narrative.

Jakubowski’s protagonists hover close to death – they occupy borderland between life and the beyond or have already passed into that world and are called on by the living to give testimony or pass judgement. This summoning of spirits helps reveal the darker side of the human psyche, the gathering place for experiences that have been expelled from memory, including that of the collective. At the same time, however, certain social mechanisms are exposed that sentence individuals to isolation, loneliness, insanity or even damnation.

The free treatment of figures and events from Polish history helps move them beyond their national context into a more universal, trans-cultural realm. Perhaps precisely such a manner of writing about history – not based on facts but on psychology and enriched with speculations and legends, not avoiding unequivocal opinions no matter how grotesque they might ultimately prove to be – might lead to a mature and mindful discussion of the problem of national identity that is otherwise drowned out by media noise and political clamour.

Katarzyna Wójcik

Translated by Philip Boehm

Selected samples

Jakub Małecki
Wiesław Myśliwski
Elżbieta Cherezińska
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
To the top

© 2022 The Polish Book Institute