exicon has been present in the Polish book market since 1990, which is already 32 years. During this period Polish literature has experienced numerous events which have had a tremendous impact on Polish cultural, social and political life. Have a cup of coffee or tea, sit down comfortably and immerse into the Polish literary life of the past decades.
This year was a breaking point for Polish literature. Censorship was abolished due to the change of the political system into the democratic one. Polish writers could write and publish whatever they liked within Polish boundaries. Andrzej Sapkowski published the first part of his significant saga about Geralt of Rivia, the witcher – “wiedźmin”. The universe created by this writer is a basis for one of the most popular computer games and TV series broadcast on Netflix.
Andrzej Stasiuk published his first novel, „Mury Hebronu”. He is one of the most significant writers of the last 30 years. He has written novels translated into tens of languages and has created an alternative publishing house. His publishing house named Czarne has published books which huge, conservative publishers did not want to take. Czarne has played an essential role in the evolution of Polish literature after 1991.
This year many legendary authors published their masterpieces. A well-known poet, often nominated for the Nobel Prize, Zbigniew Herbert published his poems. Our legendary journalist who co-created the Polish school of reportage, Ryszard Kapuściński published another reportage. An outstanding author of science fiction novels, Stanisław Lem, published his short stories.
This year Olga Tokarczuk, our future Nobel Prize winner, made her debut.
In 1994 Manuela Gretkowska made her debut with the novel entitled “Kabaret metafizyczny”. She is well known for her feminist and progressive approach. Gretkowska is one of the most recognizable voices of Polish feminism until now.
In 1995 Stefan Chwin, a Polish writer describing Gdańsk, the city of two cultures, Polish and German, published his novel “Hanemman”. This masterpiece presents the reality of Gdańsk in the dramatic times before, during and after World War II.
In 1996 the first Polish woman writer was awarded the Nobel Prize. Wisława Szymborska was a very active, frequently translated poet and a writer who has inspired generations of aspiring authors. In the same year Olga Tokarczuk published her first widely read novel, “Prawiek i inne czasy”.
Enormous and unexpected floods destroyed many important book collections. Despite hard times for Polish people that lost their assets and properties, one of the most important newspapers, “Gazeta Wyborcza”, founded a new literary award. Nike Literary Award is still the most prestigious award for every Polish author. In 1997 it was granted to Wiesław Myśliwski for his philosophical book treating Polish history from the rural point of view. The readers appreciated Olga Tokarczuk for her „Prawiek i inne czasy”.
Czesław Miłosz, an outstanding poet and a Nobel Prize laureate, got the next Nike Award. A journalist specializing in reportage describing the Polish and Jewish society during the demanding times of World War II, Hanna Krall, published a collection of short stories.
That was the year of two meaningful debuts. Janusz Leon Wiśniewski published the first Polish novel concerning the romantic relationship in the times of the Internet, “Samotność w sieci”. Dorota Masłowska made her debut at the age of 19 with her courageous, controversial and linguistically fresh novel, „Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną”.
Dorota Masłowska published her second book and proved to be one of the best authors of the young generation. Next year she was awarded Nike for this extraordinary, rhymed masterpiece, entitled “Paw królowej”.
Władysław Bartoszewski, a diplomat, politician, journalist and writer who had a tremendous impact on Poland in the 1990s and 2000s, published his chosen texts. He played a significant role in cooperation between Poland and Germany and was one of the few people who fostered their positive relations.
Marek Edelman, a Jewish medical doctor and a resident of the Warsaw ghetto published one of his books concerning times of World War II. He is one of the heroes of our history, as a leader of the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw ghetto and a witness of the most dramatic events. Joanna Bator made her debut with “Piaskowa Góra”, a novel about growing up in the poor environment of a postwar industrial town.
Inga Iwasiów, one of the Polish best-known feminists and university professors fighting for democracy and human rights, published her novel, “Ku słońcu”, about the everyday life of Polish scientists during the times of communism and capitalist stabilization.
Olga Tokarczuk wrote “Księgi Jakubowe”, an impressive novel about Polish-Jewish relations. For many Polish people, her theses seem controversial. However, they shed new, necessary light on centuries of our coexistence. In 2022, this novel, translated by Jennifer Croft, was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize.
Szczepan Twardoch, an author who identifies as a Silesian (not Polish), published „Drach”, a novel concerning Silesian heritage.
Cezary Łazarewicz published a drastic reportage for which he got a Nike Award. The book presents one of the communist crimes as an example of the brutality and impunity of the then authorities.
Olga Tokarczuk was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Polish female prose writer “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”.
Zyta Rudzka, one of the most famous authors, proved her uncompromising attitude toward the language and described the current mental condition of middle-class men in her novel “Tkanki miękkie”.
Mariusz Szczygieł, one of the most beloved Polish journalists famous for his admiration for Czechs, was awarded a jubilee award for the 25th anniversary of the Nike Award. His “Nie ma”, is a collection of reportages on average, yet beautiful and fascinating people.
Zbigniew Rokita was honoured for his book about his region, Silesia, entitled “Kajś”, for which he was appreciated both by the jury and readers.
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