Julian Tuwim

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Julian Tuwim
Julian Tuwim.jpg
Julian Tuwim
Born (1894-09-13)September 13, 1894
Łódź, Congress Poland
Died December 27, 1953(1953-12-27) (aged 59)
Zakopane, Poland
Occupation Poet
Nationality Polish
Ethnicity Jewish
Literary movement Skamander
Notable awards Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature
Spouse Stefania Tuwimowa (since 1919)
Children Ewa Tuwim-Woźniak (adopted)[citation needed]
Relatives Irena Tuwim (sister, a poet herself)
Kazimierz Krukowski (cousin)

Julian Tuwim (September 13, 1894 – December 27, 1953), known also under the pseudonym "Oldlen" as a lyricist,[1] was a Polish poet of Jewish descent, born in Łódź, (then part of the Russian Partition). He was educated in Łódź and in Warsaw where he studied law and philosophy at Warsaw University. After Poland's return to independence in 1919, Tuwim co-founded the Skamander group of experimental poets with Antoni Słonimski and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. He was a major figure in Polish literature, admired also for his contribution to children's literature. He was a recipient of the prestigious Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature in 1935.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Tuwim was born into a family of assimilated Jews. The surname comes from the Hebrew tovim (טובים) meaning "good". His parents, Izydor and Adela, provided Julian with a comfortable middle class upbringing. He was not a particularly diligent student and had to repeat the sixth grade. In 1905 the family had to flee from Łódź to Wrocław (Breslau) in order to escape possible repercussions following Izydor's involvement in the Revolution of 1905.

Initially Tuwim's poetry, even more than that of the other "Skamandrites", represented a decisive break with turn-of-the-20th-century mannerism. It was characterized by an expression of vitality, optimism, in praise of urban life. His poems celebrated everyday life in the city, with its triviality and vulgarity. Tuwim often used vernacular language in his work, along with slang as well as poetic dialogue.

Portrait of Tuwim by Witkacy.

His collections "Czyhanie na Boga" (In Lurking for God (1918)), "Sokrates tańczący" (Dancing Socrates (1920)), "Siódma jesień" (Seventh Autumn (1922)), and "Wierszy tom czwarty" (Poems, Volume Four (1923)) are typical of his early work. In his later collections — "Słowa we krwi" (Words in the Blood, 1926)), "Rzecz Czarnoleska" (The Czarnolas affair) (1929), "Biblia cygańska" (The Gypsy Bible (1933)) and "Treść gorejąca" (A Burning Matter (1933)) Tuwim became restless and bitter, and wrote with fervour and vehemence about the emptiness of urban existence. He also drew more heavily from the romantic and classicist traditions, while perfecting his form and style, and becoming a virtuoso wordsmith.

From the very beginning and throughout his artistic career, Tuwim was satirically inclined. He supplied sketches and monologues to numerous cabarets. In his poetry and articles, he derided obscurantism and bureaucracy as well as militaristic and nationalistic trends in politics. His burlesque, "Bal w Operze" (The Ball at the Opera, 1936) is regarded as his best satirical poem.

In 1918 Tuwim co-founded the cabaret, "Picador", and worked as a writer or artistic director with many other cabarets such as "Czarny kot" (Black Cat 1917–1919), "Quid pro Quo" (1919–1932), "Banda" The Gang and "Stara Banda" The Old Gang (1932–1935) and finally "Cyrulik Warszawski" (Barber of Warsaw 1935–1939). Since 1924 Tuwim was a staff writer at "Wiadomości Literackie" (Literary News) where he wrote a weekly column, "Camera Obscura". He also wrote for the satirical magazine, "Szpilki" (Pins).

Tuwim displayed his caustic sense of humour and unyielding individuality in works such as "Poem in which the author politely but firmly implores the vast hosts of his brethren to kiss his arse." Here, Tuwim systematically enumerates and caricatures various personalities of the European social scene of the mid-1930s -- 'perfumed café intellectuals', 'drab socialists', 'fascist jocks', 'Zionist doctors', 'repressed Catholics' and so on, and ends every stanza by asking each to perform the action indicated in the title. The poem ends with a note to the would-be censor who would surely be tempted to expunge all mention of this piece for its breach of 'public standards.' His poem "Do prostego człowieka" (To the Common Man), first published on October 7, 1929 in "Robotnik" (Workman), provoked a storm of personal attacks on Tuwim, mostly from antisemitic right wing circles criticizing Tuwim's pacifist views.[3]

Julian's aunt was married to Adam Czerniaków, and his uncle from his mother's side was Arthur Rubinstein.

World War II and after[edit]

In 1939, at the beginning of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Poland, Tuwim emigrated through Romania first to France, and after France's capitulation, to Brazil, by way of Portugal, and finally to the USA, where he settled in 1942. In 1939-41 he collaborated with the émigré weekly "Wiadomosci Polskie", but broke off the collaboration due to differences in views on the attitude towards the Soviet Union. In 1942-46 he worked with the monthly "Nowa Polska" published in London, and with leftist Polish-American newspapers. He was affiliated with the Polish section of the International Workers Organization from 1942. He was also a member of the Association of Writers From Poland (a member of the board in 1943).

Tuwim's grave in Warsaw's Powązki Cemetery.
Tuwim St. in Chrzanów

During this time he wrote "Kwiaty Polskie" (Polish Flowers), an epic poem in which he remembers with nostalgia his early childhood in Łódź. In April 1944 he published a manifesto, entitled "My, Żydzi Polscy" (We, Polish Jews).

Tuwim returned to Poland after the war in 1946, but did not produce much in Stalinist Poland. He died in 1953 at the age of 59 in Zakopane. Although Tuwim was well known for serious poetry he also wrote satirical works and poetry for children, for example "Lokomotywa"" (The Locomotive) (1938, tr. 1940). He also wrote well-regarded translations of Pushkin and other Russian poets. Russian Soviet poet Yelizaveta Tarakhovskaya translated most of Tuwim's children's poetry into Russian.

Notable poems[edit]

  • Czyhanie na Boga (Lurking for God, 1918)
  • Sokrates tańczący (Dancing Socrates, 1920)
  • Siódma jesień (The Seventh Autumn, 1921)
  • Wierszy tom czwarty (Poems, volume four, 1923)
  • *Murzynek Bambo (The little black boy, Bambo, 1923,1924)
  • Czary i czarty polskie (Sorcery and Deuces of Poland, 1924)
  • Wypisy czarnoksięskie (The Sorcery Reader, 1924)
  • A to pan zna? (And do you know this, sir?, 1925)
  • Czarna msza (Black Mass, 1925)
  • Tysiąc dziwów prawdziwych (A thousand true wonders, 1925)
  • Słowa we krwi (Words in the blood,1926)
  • Tajemnice amuletów i talizmanów (Secrets of amulets and talismans, 1926)
  • Strofy o późnym lecie (stanzas on a late summer)
  • Rzecz czarnoleska (The czarnolas affair, 1929)
  • Jeździec miedziany (The brazen rider, 1932)
  • Biblia cygańska i inne wiersze (The Gypsy Bible and other poems,1932)
  • Jarmark rymów (The rhyme market, 1934)
  • Polski słownik pijacki i antologia bachiczna (The Polish drunk's lexicon and anthology of Bacchus.1935)
  • Treść gorejąca (A Burning Matter, 1936)
  • Bal w Operze (A ball at the opera, 1936, published 1946)
  • Kwiaty polskie (Flowers from Poland, 1940–1946, published 1949)
  • Pegaz dęba, czyli panoptikum poetyckie (Oaken Pegasus, or the poetical panoply, 1950)
  • Piórem i piórkiem (With pen and quill, 1951)

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Biographical notes at his song Co nam zostało z tych lat on YouTube.
  2. ^ Julian Tuwim (1894-1953). Qlturka.pl. Europejski Fundusz Rozwoju Regionalnego. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  3. ^ (English) Marci Shore (2006). Caviar and ashes: a Warsaw generation's life and death in Marxism, 1918-1968. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-0-300-11092-0. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 

Tuwim's poems set to music[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Keane, Barry (2004) "Skamander. The Poets and Their Poetry.", Agade: Warszawa, ISBN 83-87111-29-5.
  • Mortkowicz-Olczakowa, Hanna (1961). "Bunt wspomnień." Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy.

External links[edit]