Marian Pankowski
  • Korporacja Ha!art
    Kraków 2005
    174 pages
    ISBN 83-89911-15-9

Marian Pankowski’s Rudolf is now a cult book, carving out an ever stronger presence for itself in Polish gay literature too. On the wave of popularity enjoyed by two recently published novels, Michał Witkowski’s Lubiewo and Bartosz Żurawiecki’s Three Men in a Bed, to Say Nothing of the Cat, this novel issued in 1980 and written by an émigré who has lived in Brussels since 1945 (it has already been translated into French, English and Dutch) has once again been reissued in Poland. Pankowski is a writer of “subversive” literature, a specialist in marginalized, ostracised and taboo themes. Rudolf is the story of a friendship between a Pole, who is an old university professor, political émigré and former German concentration camp prisoner, and a German who is his contemporary, was brought up on the River Vistula, was a soldier in the Wehrmacht (though a shirker at the front) and is a homosexual. The friendship is a surprise to both protagonists as one-time potential enemies, people who are alien to each other not just by token of their different sexual orientations. Full of literary allusions and owing something to Gombrowicz, Pankowski’s novel, large parts of which take the form of letters exchanged by the two main characters, is written in bold and even shocking language and is a perverse “apology for the rite of defilement”, the story of the intellectual (let us stress) seduction of a heretic by a high priest of the religion of the flesh, of the carnival and of laughter. Pankowski himself defines Rudolf as “a heavenly fairy-tale for the emancipated children of God”.

Marek Zaleski