him, the essay form has become an eloquent expression of his role as an émigré writer.
Emigration is a difficult and painful choice. . . . But in the Polish essay of the last half century, the memory of history makes itself felt perhaps more often and certainly more clearly than it does in the reflections of writers from happier countries. (3)
Thus, whether the topic is literary or social, essayists infuse their experiences into the text.
Stanislaw Baranczak is among the most recently arrived of the Polish émigré writers of the late 1970s, and he carries with him no firsthand memories of World War II nor of a pre-war Poland, because he was born in 1946. As both a poet and an essayist, he combines the two genres, which predominate among Polish émigré writers and which appear to hold equal importance in their creative work. The author of eight collections of poems, eight books of literary criticism, and numerous volumes of translations, among them a collection of East European essays entitled Breathing under Water and the poetry collection Under My Own Roof, Baranczak permeates his work with a recognition of the limitations imposed on the émigré writer by his exiled state. He observes in the 1990 essay "Tongue-Tied Eloquence" that "the exiled writer is someone who has left the cage of an oppressive political system; but if he is to remain a writer at all, he must never really leave another cage--that of his native language" (348). Thus, despite the need for any writer if he is to say anything relevant to "break a norm. . . . this is precisely what an outsider cannot afford" (348), if he is to maintain credibility in his adopted land.
With rare exception, the majority of Polish émigré writers have channeled their thoughts into two genres, poetry and the essay, which have permitted them the greatest range for developing their distinct voices. Among the reasons for this may well be, as Kott suggests in his preface to Four Decades of Polish Essays, that both genres use the first person, "even if this first person is hidden under many stylistic disguises" (1). Therefore, both the poet and the essayist are able to relate real-world experience as a personal story that is, at the same time, "the most universal image and reflection" (1).
Baranczak Stanislaw L. Breathing under Water and Other Eastern European Essays. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990.
-----. "Tongue-Tied Eloquence: Notes on Language, Exile, and Writing." Four Decades of Polish Essays. Ed. Jan Kott. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1990.
-----. Under My Own Roof. Trans. Frank Kujawinski. Portland, OR: Mr. Cogito Press, 1980.
Kosinski Jerzy. Being There. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971.
-----. Blind Date. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.