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Polish Literature  
 
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In recent years, Polish gay and lesbian authors have timidly begun to develop a "coming out" literature. In earlier eras, however, Polish literature created a poetics of camouflage and disguise to express desires that could not be communicated openly.

The First Half of the Twentieth Century

Although many Polish writers of the earlier twentieth century were homosexual or bisexual, their sexual orientation generally was not clearly expressed or reflected in their literary texts. As modernists, they created texts that were allusive and sublimated rather than direct and open.

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For example, much of the writings of Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz (1894-1980) is permeated with homoeroticism, but it is usually more atmospheric than specific. In his stories from the 1930s, "Zygfryd" and "The Teacher" (Nauczyciel), sexual tensions clash with social repression to culminate in a tragic end. In the later work "The Fourth Symphony" (Czwarta symfonia), Iwaszkiewicz inserts homosexual motifs as part of the main theme, the relationship between art and life. The theme of homosexuality is important and autobiographically resonant in The Gardens (Ogrody, 1974).

Tadeusz Breza's (1905-1970) psychological novel Adam Grywald (1936) also pivots on homosexuality. Reflecting the contemporary medico-scientific theories, the writer attempts to delineate the psychology of his homosexual protagonist.

The Second Half of the Twentieth Century

The question of sexual identity takes central place in the writings of one of the major authors of the twentieth century, Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1961). The homosexual theme is particularly evident in his Diaries (Dzienniki, 1953) and in the novel The Transatlantic (Trans-Atlantyk, 1953). The latter work presents the character of an eccentric Argentinean millionaire, Gonzales, who epitomizes the conflict of normality and diversity, tradition and innovation.

The theme of homosexuality often surfaces in the works of Jerzy Andrzejewski (1909-1993), including the grotesque pastiche Pulp (Miazga, 1969) and A Sitter for a Satyr (Idzie skaczac po gorach, 1973). Homosexuality is the central theme in The Gates of Paradise (Bramy raju, 1960). This historical novel, set during the medieval children's crusade, uses interior dialogue as it considers the relationship between history and individuals caught up in historical forces that they do not understand. With desperation and hope, the young protagonists form homosexual relationships as they are propelled by the historical events and imposed ideals that contradict their personal motivations. Ultimately, they are saved by the purity of their sentiment; and in the novel's moral discourse love is revealed as the principal force behind human actions.

Although various novels of the Polish-Jewish writer Julian Stryjkowski (1905-1996) may be read from a homoerotic perspective, only in Silence (Milczenie, 1983) is homosexuality presented openly and with clear autobiographical connotations. This novel explores love as an obsession and probes the difficulties of accepting sexual identity. It also reflects deeply on the relationship between Polish and Jewish culture. The writer also presents a homosexual theme in Tommaso del cavaliere (1982), a book that focuses on the last years of the life of Michelangelo.

The first really explicitly homosexual novel in Polish literature is Rudolf (1984) by Marian Pankowski (b. 1929), a Pole who emigrated to Belgium. Using explicit and often graphic language, Pankowski introduces the topic of the sexualized body and presents the homosexual theme positively. The novel contrasts its Polish and German characters and explores the difficult relationship between sexual and national identity.

Marek Nowakowski (b. 1935) in the short story "Greek God" (Grecki bozek, 1993) presents a homosexual character as an outsider in the context of urban decay. The protagonist is a Jean Genet-like socially isolated figure who, of his own choice, lives quasi-legally in the slums of Warsaw. Although he is a symbolic figure--the homosexual as outsider--Jerzy Nasierowski nevertheless emerges as a real personality. Nowakowski's novels Crime and . . .. (Zbrodnia i . . ., 1988) and Not My Life (Nie moje zycie, 2002) are considered scandalous. They contain numerous autobiographical references.

The works of poet and journalist Grzegorz Musial (b. 1952) also feature homosexual themes and motifs. They are minor and mostly implicit in his first novels, but more significant and more explicit in such later works as in In the Aviary (W ptaszarni, 1989), In the End (Al fine, 1997), and Diary from Iowa (Dziennik z Iowa, 2000). Musial investigates the relationship between Catholicism, homosexuality, and society. He analyzes the question of the body as the individual's prison and treats the theme of transvestism.

Homoerotic motifs also appear in the novels of Marek Jastrzebiec-Mosakowski (b. 1962). In Footprints in the Sand (Slady na piasku, 1994) and Four Seasons (Pory roku, 1996), set in eastern Prussia, the questions of sexual and national identities are intermingled.

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