A resident of Wrocław since 1968, poet, playwright and prose author, outstanding representative of Polish post-war lyrical poetry, master of limerick, co-creator of the fundamental portion of contemporary European poetry as an element of world poetry, made his poetic debut in the youth press in 1938.
Tadeusz Różewicz was born on 9 October 1921 in Radomsko to a family of civil servants. One year prior to the outbreak of WWII his education was interrupted as a result of financial difficulties; he later supported himself by private tutoring, as a page for the Municipal Council and doing physical labour. After completing an underground officer cadet course (1942), he fought in partisan units of the Home Army, as well as cooperating with the underground press. At that time, he published a collection of poems and stories entitled “Echa leśne” (“Forest Echoes”) under the pseudonym Satyr. During the last year of the war, Różewicz passed his high school diploma examinations while attending courses for working students in Częstochowa, and subsequently enrolled at the Division of Art History of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. One year later, he published a collection of satirical prose and verse entitled “W łyżce wody” (“In a Spoonful of Water”). From 1949, Różewicz lived and worked for twenty years in Gliwice, then moved to Wrocław.
The creative output of Tadeusz Różewicz has become an integral element of both the cultural legacy of the city on the Odra and of the world’s cultural heritage, by which it has become an element in the promotion of Wrocław abroad. The constantly published and renewed tomes of Różewicz’s work are eagerly sought, and stage adaptations of his dramatic poems and plays are attracting new audiences both at home and abroad. His works have been translated into more than 20 languages. They are presented on the theatre stages of every continent, and most often in the German-language cultural sphere. As a result, Różewicz has been recognized with awards such as that of the Austrian State Prize and the Silesia Cultural Award (1994) and became a member of the German Academy of Arts.
The source – so important for Wrocław – of Różewicz’s worldwide popularity, especially in a Germany living through the experiences and consequences of a lost war, can be found in the first collection of poems from 1947 “Niepokój” (“Anxiety”). It contains nearly all of the characteristic elements found in the later output of the author. It is also without doubt that, among poetry shaped by war and occupation, as well as being a sort of testament of the times and an admonishment, his creative output is characterized by dissimilarity of form. This form was simple and restrained, laconic. As a consequence, Różewicz’s poetry was free of ornament and metaphor, free of loquaciousness and pathos, and the reflexion contained within was a barrier offering protection from a moral and socio-political lack of sensitivity. The famous German poet Hans Kruger, a critic, editor and the director of the influential literary publishing house Carl Hanser in Munich, wrote about the simple words of Różewicz that they are “beautiful – an internal truth: forms of anxiety”. This description is the result of the composition of the titles of two poetry collections, the afore-mentioned “Niepokój” (“Anxiety”), and another issued 11 years later, “Formy” (“Forms”). In this manner Różewicz became a poetry “teacher” for the post-war generation of Germans. Their anxiety, similarly to that of Różewicz, stemmed from their personal experience as well as the situation in which society, the nation and the state found itself. The general human qualities of his poetry, its strength and longevity, reside above all in the manner in which they present the condition of the human soul in the 20th century at various latitudes: of entities often abandoned and lost, without any sense of direction in some community.
The equally rich theatrical output of Różewicz occupies a separate and significant place in modern dramaturgy, although the subject matter is taken from his poetic output. It is undoubtedly an attempt at bringing to life his own conception of the “realistic-poetic” theatre, juxtaposed to both classic and avant-garde theatre. “Kartoteka” (“The Card Index”) (1960), “Stara Kobeta wysiaduje” (“The Old Lady Sits Waiting”) (1969), “Akt przerywany” (“The Interrupted Act”) (1970), “Na czworakach” (“On All Fours”) (1972), “Białe małżeństwo” (“White Wedding”) (1975) and “Pułapka” (“The Trap”) – these are only some of the titles whose performances have contributed to an unusually rich panorama of cultural phenomena and events, and not only in Wrocław.
Różewicz’s creative output constitutes a rich subject of countless studies and analyses primarily for two reasons. None of his contemporaries have defined their dissimilarity so strongly, and none have defended it so stubbornly and effectively like the author of “Niepokój” (“Anxiety”). As a result, Różewicz has exerted significant influence not only on post-war poets in Poland – although not everyone admits such – but also outside his country. Shortly before his death, Stanisław Grochowiak admitted to the influence of Różewicz when he commented that “After the war a comet of poetry flew over Poland. Its head was Różewicz, the rest a tail.” The reflexivity contained in the works of Różewicz protect the world and its inhabitants from moral and socio-political numbness. In this wall, Tadeusz Różewicz, a distinguished figure in the literary and theatrical community of Wrocław, has brought our city closer to the world.