Tadeusz Rózewicz--Polish



Tadeusz Rózewicz
(1921-    )


A poet, playwright and novelist, Rozewicz is hailed as one of the world’s pre-eminent contemporary writers.  Born in Poland in 1921 he studied art history at university, but early on he dedicated himself to writing.  His voice is regarded as having high moral authority, especially for those living in Eastern Europe. During World War II he joined the Resistance, and wrote of the atrocities that he witnessed at the hands of the Nazis.  His book, Our Elder Brother, is a collection of stories dedicated to his brother who was murdered by the Gestapo.  In 1947 he published Anxiety and the following year, A Red Glove, both volumes offering a “restrained verse” that has become known as the “fourth versification system” in literary Polish.  In 2000, Rozewicz was awarded the NIKE prize for his book Matka Odchodzi (Mother Departs).


Massacre of the Boys

The children cried 'Mummy!

But I have been good!
It's dark in here! Dark!'

See them They are going to the bottom
See the small feet
they went to the bottom Do you see
that print
of a small foot here and there

pockets bulging
with strings and stones
and little horses made of wire

A great plain closed
like a figure of geometry
and a tree of black smoke
a vertical
dead tree
with no star in its crown


The Survivor

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.

The following are empty synonyms:
man and beast
love and hate
friend and foe
darkness and light.

The way of killing men and beasts is the same
I've seen it:
trucks full of chopped-up men
who will not be saved.

Ideas are mere words:
virtue and crime
truth and lies
beauty and ugliness
courage and cowardice.

Virtue and crime weigh the same
I've seen it:
in a man who was both
criminal and virtuous

I seek a teacher and a master
may he restore my sight hearing and speech
may he again name objects and ideas
may he separate darkness from light.

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.