Agata Tuszyńska

#
  • photo by Agnieszka Herman

(b. 1955), a theatrologist and literary historian by education, is a poet, an admired reporter, and a writer who specializes in non-fictional, personally engaged biographies (of women in particular).

Tuszyńska's very first book (a biography of actress Maria Wisnowska) clearly indicated her field of interest: problems with memory. Tuszyńska is not only sensitive to things that are erased from memory, but also to gaps in memory, omissions, blind spots, or memories weighed down by infamy. In every form of her writing (in her poetry, non-fiction prose, memoir editing, academic and monograph publications) Tuszyńska broadens our understanding of factors that affect how we remember and evaluate people's behavior, how we marginalize significant achievements, as well as shame, and deprecation. Tuszyńska's creative work as a whole strives to save the world from terrible annihilation, in this case from oblivion: the Holocaust, loss, mourning, infamy, forgetfulness, postmemory, and affects are the key motifs and main themes of Tuszyńska's work. Tuszyńska looks at her (mainly female) protagonists from as unbiased a perspective as possible, yet one that is close, attentive, and keenly interested. The reporter and biographer attempts to be as just as possible to the figures to whom she devotes her various books. This means she engages less in the creation of hagiography than in empathic portraiture.

Tuszyńska is a precursor not only of a feminist “rewriting of history,” but also for showing the essential links between a “minor,” private history and a shared History. Her two most personal prose books, i.e. Family History of Fear (2005) and Exercises in Loss (2007) are family histories and valuable post-memory voices from the “second generation of survivors.” The first is a story of Tuszyńska's family home and her path to learning of the fates of her parents: Bogdan Tuszyński, a sports historian and reporter, and Halina Przedborska, a journalist. The latter is a testimony to love and accompaniment through the illness and final departure of Henryk Dasko, the writer's husband. Both books are also histories of the twentieth century in Central Europe in the shadow of the Holocaust. Tuszyńska shows how much can be achieved through adopting the private perspective, and how much can be lost by adopting the general view, divorced from personal experience. 

Tuszyńska attempts to regain memory of powerful and important female figures in Polish culture, as we see as well in her books not solely devoted to women (for example, The Tyrmands: An American Romance, where she shined a light on the traditionally marginalized figure of Mary Ellen Fox, with whom Leopold Tyrmand started a family in the United States, spending the rest of his life at her side). To date, apart from the aforementioned Wisnowska, she has written books about Irena Krzywicka (The Long Life of a Seductress, 1999), Wiera Gran (Wiera Gran The Accused, 2010), and Józefina Szelińska (Schulz's Fiancée: Apocrypha, 2015). Each of these figures might be called an icon of modern femininity: creative, defying social taboos, independent, and paying a high price for their choice of freedom in a patriarchal society.   

Bibliography

  • I znowu list. Warszawa: Oficyna Poetów, 1990.
  • Wisnowska. Warszawa: WAiF, 1990.
  • Rosjanie w Warszawie. Warszawa: Interim, 1992.
  • Wyznania gorszycielki. Pamiętniki Ireny Krzywickiej. Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1992.
  • Zamieszkałam w ucieczce. Lublin: Kresy, 1993.
  • Kilka portretów z Polską w tle. Reportaże izraelskie. Gdańsk: Marabut, 1993.
  • Singer. Pejzaże pamięci. Gdańsk: Marabut, 1994.
  • Wygrać każdy dzień. Warszawa: Diana, 1996.
  • Adresat nieznany. Warszawa: Diana 1998.
  • Długie życie gorszycielki. Losy i świat Ireny Krzywickiej, Warszawa: Iskry, 1999.
  • Maria Wisnowska. Jeśli mnie kochasz - zabij!, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Książkowe Twój Styl, 2003
  • Miejsce przy oknie, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Nowy Świat, 2004
  • Rodzinna historia lęku, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2005.
  • Ćwiczenia z utraty, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2007.
  • Krzywicka. Długie życie gorszycielki, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2009.
  • Oskarżona: Wiera Gran, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2010
  • Tyrmandowie. Romans amerykański, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo MG, 2012
  • Wiera. Dramat w sześciu obrazach (with Jerzy Żurek), "Dialog" 11/2013 (684)
  • Narzeczona Schulza, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2015.

Translations:

Czech:

  • Singer. Krajiny pameti [Singer. Pejzaże pamięci], trans. Vlasta Dvorackova, H&H Vysehradska s.r.o., 2006

Dutch:

  • Vera Gran. De zangeres van het getto van Waschau [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Liesbeth van Nes, Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2011

English:

  • Lost Landscapes: In Search of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Jews of Poland [Singer. Pejzaże pamięci], trans. Madeline Levine. New York: William Morrow, 1998
  • Vera Gran The accused [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Charles Ruas (trans. from French), New York: Knopf. Random House, Inc., 2013.

French:

  • Les disciples de Schulz [Uczniowie Schulza], trans. M.Carlier, G.Erhard. Paris: Noir sur Blanc 2000
  • Singer. Paysages de la memoire [Singer. Pejzaże pamięci], trans. Jean Yves Erhel. Paris: Noir sur Blanc 2002
  • Une histoire familiale de la peur [Rodzinna historia lęku], trans. Jean-Yves Erhel. Paris: Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle 2006
  • Exercices de la perte [Ćwiczenia z utraty], trans. Jean-Yves Erhel. Paris: Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle 2009
  • L'Accusée: Wiera Gran [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Isabelle Jannès-Kalinowski, Grasset & Fasquelle 2011

German:

  • Die Sängerin aus dem Ghetto - Das Leben der Wiera Gran [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Xenia Osthelder (trans. from French), Suhrkamp/Insel, 2013.

Greek:

  • Oskarżona: Wiera Gran, trans. Thomas Skassis (trans. from French), Rachel Kapon 2011

Hebrew:

  • Vera Gran [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Arieh Uriel (trans. from French), Kinneret, 2012

Italian:

  • L'accusata [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Margherita Botto, Giulio Einaudi, 2012.

Korean:

  • Ćwiczenia z utraty, DD World, 2011

Macedonian:

  • Obwinieta: Wjera Gran [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Milica Mirkulowska, Skopje: Antolog, 2015
  • Narzeczona Schulza, trans. Milica Mirkulowska, Skopje: Antolog, 2016

Slovenian:

  • Obtožena: Wiera Gran [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Tatjana Jamnik, Lubljana: Modrijan 2015

Spanish:

  • La cantante del gueto de Varsovia. Wiera Gran, la acusada [Oskarżona: Wiera Gran], trans. Íñigo Sánchez Paños, Elena-Michelle Cano, Madrid: Alianza Literaria, 2011