atch our video conversation: “Traces of memory”. Małgorzata Żebrowska from Lexicon talks with Piotr Paziński, a journalist and a writer.
- What do we need to remember about the Holocaust?
- Where to look for the traces of memory?
- How should we take care of the memory of Polish Jews?
- How to talk about their culture and their language?
Watch this nostalgic conversation, download extra materials after signing up for our newsletter: CLICK and use this video to discuss the modern approach to Polish Jews’ past. English subtitles are available.
Who is Piotr Paziński?
Born in 1973, Piotr Paziński is a writer, journalist, essayist, literary critic and translator. He has written a monograph called “Labyrinth and Tree: Studies of James Joyce’s Ulysses”, and also a guidebook to Dublin. He was editor-in-chief of the journal “Midrasz” and jointly organised the “Jewish Book Days” literary festival.
Before Piotr Paziński found acclaim as the author of “Pensjonat” (“The Boarding House”), for which he was awarded with the Passport Award from “Polityka” magazine in 2009 and won the European Literary Prize in 2012, he was a journalist and a specialist on James Joyce. His doctorate “Labyrinth and Tree: Studies of James Joyce’s Ulysses” (2005) was devoted to that novel, as was his “Dublin with Ulysses”, a guidebook he published in 2008.
He is an active promoter of Jewish cultural and religious traditions. His novel, “Pensjonat”, is a semi-autobiographical story about the collapse of a bygone world and an effort to trace the family past. The narrator returns to the boarding house outside Warsaw, where many years ago he used to come and visit his grandmother; like other residents of the rest home, she was a Jew who had survived the Holocaust. Once buzzing with life, now the home is more and more subdued as its residents die off. Here the past overlaps with the present, and the dead accompany the living as they summon up the irretrievable past in their reminiscences. There are
not many of them left now. They collect faded postcards, letters, photographs and other bits of junk. They have ideological arguments
centring on Zionism, communism, and issues to do with assimilation or, most broadly, they talk about the history of the Polish Jews, picking out the most dramatic themes (“the fate of the Jews crushes you like a boulder”). The narrator is “the last in the chain of generations”, who only knows the Holocaust at second hand. He pays off his ancestors’ debts by becoming the depository of their memories. Ultimately, in his next book, “Ptasie ulice” (“Bird Streets”), which consists of four short stories, Paziński remains true to the lyricism of “Pensjonat” as well as to its Jewish subject matter.
If you are interested in Polish books concerning Jews, check our special list of Judaica and contact us to order all or some of the books enlisted.
„Another moment or two and he would cease to exist – but the more he plunged into nothingness, the more he endured with us, the more he clung to the smallest particles of the Warsaw air”. – Piotr Paziński, “Bird Streets”