17 July 1901
Klimontów, Congress Poland
|Died||17 August 1938
Butyrka prison, Moscow, Soviet Union
|Notable works||But w butonierce
"Pieśń o głodzie" (Song of Hunger)
Bruno Jasieński pronounced [ˈbrunɔ jaˈɕeɲskʲi]; born Wiktor Zysman (Klimontów, Congress Poland, 17 July 1901 – killed 17 September 1938, Butyrka prison, Moscow) was a Polish poet and leader of the Polish futurist movement, executed during the Genocide of Poles in the Soviet Union (1937–1938) by the NKVD. It was earlier believed that he died in prisoner transport from natural causes.
Wiktor (Bruno) was born to a Polish Jewish family of Zysmans. From his mother's side he was a descendant of nobility (Pol. szlachta). His father, Jakub Zysman, was a local doctor and a social worker, member of the local intelligentsia. He converted to Protestantism to be able to marry a Catholic girl, Eufemia Maria Modzelewska, a Polish noble, member of the Modzelewski family of the Bończa coat of arms, with whom he had three children: Wiktor (pen name Bruno Jasieński), Jerzy and Irena. Today one of the streets of Klimontów is named after him.
Little is known of Jasieński's early life, especially as he did not describe it in his works. He attended high school in Warsaw, but didn't finish it. In 1914 his family moved to Russia, where Bruno graduated from the secondary school in Moscow. There, his fascination with Igor Severyanin's ego-futurism started, followed by lectures of Velimir Chlebnikov, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexiey Kruchonykh's Visual poems. In 1918, after Poland regained its independence, Bruno returned to Kraków, where he applied for a position in the philosophical faculty of the Jagiellonian University. However, he suspended his studies to join the volunteer unit of the Polish Army and took part in the disarming of Austrian and German soldiers. After the Polish-Soviet War (February 1919 – March 1921), he returned to University and studied at various faculties (including philosophy, law and Polish literature). He also became one of the founders of a club of futurists named Katarynka (Hurdy-gurdy).
In 1921 Jasieński published one of his first futurist works, Nuż w bżuchu (Nayf in the Abdomen, with intentionally wrong spelling of title) and, together with Stanisław Młodożeniec became known as one of the founders of the Polish Futurist movement. The same year he published a number of other works, including manifestos, leaflets, posters and all kinds of new art, formerly unknown in Poland. Also, a volume of poems entitled But w butonierce (Shoe in a Buttonhole), published in Warsaw.
The same year he gained much fame as an enfant terrible of Polish literature and was well received by the critics in many Polish cities, including Warsaw and Lwów, where he met other notable writers of the epoch. Among them were Marian Hemar, Tytus Czyżewski, Aleksander Wat and Anatol Stern. He also collaborated with various newspapers including the leftist Trybuna Robotnicza, Nowa Kultura and Zwrotnica. In 1922 another of his works was published, the Pieśń o głodzie (Song of Hunger), followed by 1924 Ziemia na lewo (Earth Leftwards). In 1923 he married Klara Arem, daughter of a notable merchant from Lwów.
They moved to France, where they settled in Paris in Passage Poissonniere. The couple lived a humble life, making ends meet as journalists and correspondents of various Polish newspapers. Although Bruno Jasieński did not seek contacts with the local Polonia, together with Zygmunt Modzelewski he formed an amateur theatre for the Polish worker Diaspora living in Saint Denis. He also wrote numerous poems, essays and books, many of which were quite radical. In 1928 he serialised the work which secured his reputation, Palę Paryż, a futurist novel depicting the collapse and decay of the city and social tensions within the capitalist societies in general, in the leftist L'Humanité newspaper in a French version, Je brûle Paris (I Burn Paris), which was quickly translated into Russian. The following year (1929) the original Polish text was published in Warsaw. The novel was also a humorous reply to Paul Morand's pamphlet I Burn Moscow published shortly before. The novel gained Jasieński much fame in France, but also became the main reason why he was deported from the country. Not admitted to Belgium and Luxembourg, he stayed in Frankfurt am Main for a while and – when the extradition order had been withdrawn – returned to France only to be expelled once more for communist agitation.
Migration to USSR
In 1929 Jasieński moved to the USSR and settled in Leningrad, where he accepted Soviet citizenship, and was quickly promoted by the authorities. The first Russian edition of I Burn Paris (translated from l'Humanité) was issued in 130,000 copies and sold out in one day. The same year his son was born and Bruno became the editor-in-chief of Kultura mas (Culture of the Masses), a Polish-language monthly and a journalist of the Soviet Tribune. The following year he divorced Klara, allegedly because of numerous scandals she was involved in. Soon afterwards he married Anna Berzin, with whom he had a daughter.
In 1932 he transferred from the Polish division of the French Communist Party to the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and soon became a prominent member of that organization. He migrated to Moscow. During that period he served at various posts in the branch unions of communist writers. He was also granted honorary citizenship of Tajikistan. By the mid-1930s he became a strong supporter of Genrikh Yagoda's political purges within the writers' community. Jasieński is often mentioned as the initiator of the persecution of Isaak Babel. However, in 1937 the tide turned and Yagoda himself was arrested and Jasieński lost a powerful protector. Soon afterwards Jasieński's former wife, Klara, who had had an affair with Yagoda, was also arrested, sentenced to death and executed. Jasieński was expelled from the party, and soon afterwards he was also caught up in the purges. Sentenced to 15 years in a labour camp, he was executed on 17 September 1938 in Butyrka prison in Moscow.
Jasieński's second wife Anna was arrested in 1939 and sent to the Soviet Gulag where she survived for the remarkable 17 years. His underage son was sent to an orphanage to be brought up as Russian with no knowledge of his own past. He escaped from the orphanage during World War II. After the war, he engaged in some unspecified activities considered criminal under the Stalinist system, but eventually, he also discovered his true origins and adopted his real name. He became a member of various dissident organizations opposing Communism. He was killed in the 1970s likely by Russia's criminal underworld.
Bruno Jasieński remains one of the most notable Polish futurists and as such is still acclaimed by members of various modernist art groups as a patron. A yearly futurist Brunonalia festival held in Klimontów, Poland, is named after him.
Media related to Bruno Jasieński at Wikimedia Commons
- Dr Feliks Tomaszewski, Bruno Jasieński. Biography. Virtual Library of Polish Literature, University of Gdansk. (Polish)
- Zespół Polska (2012). "I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasieński (ibidem)". Polish Cultural Institute. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
Source: Bruno Jasieński: I Burn Paris. Twisted Spoon Press (April 2012). Translated by Soren A. Gauger & Marcin Piekoszewski. ISBN 9788086264370.
- Zespół Polska (July 2, 2012). "I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasieński. One of Poland's most uncomfortable masterstrokes of literature". Literature. Polish Cultural Institute. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
- Anna Meller, Pawel Wawrzyniak, Bruno Jasieński. List of works, including poetry and manifestos. University of Gdansk. (Polish)
- Jasieński's works at brunojasienski.prv.pl (Polish)
- Jasieński's poems at jasienski.wiersze.v24.pl (Polish)
- Brunonalia festival at brunonalia.pl
- Bruno Jasienski's I Burn Paris & the Plague of Proletarian Internationalism at loosavor.org
- Jasienski at Twisted Spoon Press
- I Burn Paris (Twisted Spoon Press)
- Encyclopaedia Judaica, Art, Jasienski, Bruno