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Slawomir Jacek Zurek

The Newest Generation of Polish Writers and Holocaust (Post)Memory

The fundamental categories used in the analyses of texts of the newest generation of Polish writers are the (post)memory of the Shoah’s hecatomb. Authors who published works during the last 25 years are either witnesses of these events (i.e., Children of the Holocaust), or—more often—belong to the second or third generation after the Shoah. For the latter, the Holocaust is only a historical event and a cultural artifact. They are Polish writers—some with Jewish roots, some without. Jewish origin, however, is in this case hardly significant. Most interesting are the new aspects these authors introduce to the reflections on the Shoah in literature. In the early 2000s, several important prose works were published on this topic. These novels are very original, despite the fact that their authors belong to the generation of the Children of the Holocaust, and they seldom use fictional elements, concentrating rather on non-fiction. This presentation will focus on the most recent Polish fiction, published by authors belonging to the second and third generation, and exemplified by the following novels: Tworki (2007) by Marek Bienczyk (b. 1956); the series Zaglada (Annihilation, 1987), Zmierzchy i poranki (Evenings and Mornings, 2001), and Bociany nad powiatem (Storks over the District, 2005) by Piotr Szewc (b. 1961); Noc zywych Zydow (The Night of the Living Jews, 2012) by Igor Ostachowicz (b. 1968); Zydówek nie obslugujemy (We Don’t Serve Jewesses, 2006) by Mariusz Sieniewicz (b. 1972); and Pensjonat (Pension, 2009) by Piotr Pazinski (b. 1973).

Slawomir Jacek Zurek is professor and head of the Centre for Polish-Jewish Literature Studies, as well as director of the International Centre for Research of the History and Cultural Heritage of the Central and Eastern Europe Jews at The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. He has published widely on Jewish motifs in Polish literature and Polish-Jewish literature in Israel. He is a member of the Polish Society for Jewish Studies, the Council of the Polish Episcopate’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, and the Polish Council of Christians and Jews. In 2002-03, he held a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame.