Jerzy Ficowski, Poet and Translator
By JOSHUA COHEN
New York, May
Jerzy Ficowski, a peerless advocate for the
arts and letters of a decimated Polish Jewry, died
in Warsaw on May
9, at the age of 82.
Following World War II, during which he served in
the Home Army and participated in the Warsaw Uprising,
Ficowski published nearly 20 volumes of poetry, including
the acclaimed "A Reading of Ashes." However,
it was his work as an archivist that marked him for
greatness: Having witnessed the genocide, and the ongoing
oppression of the Roma, Ficowski became one of the
few translators from their languages, producing renditions
of folktales lauded for their whisper-weight mastery.
Translations from Yiddish followed, as well as from
Russian. Ficowski humbled his gifts, too, in the shadow
of Bruno Schulz, perhaps the greatest Polish Jewish
writer of modernity, murdered by the Gestapo in 1942.
If not for Ficowski, who was not Jewish, Schulz's work
would have been lost. Ficowski later published a seminal "biographical
portrait" of Schulz called "Regions of the
Ficowski would produce only one book of his own fiction,
a set of stories that extend Schulz's preoccupation
with estrangement, and with dreaming as escape, into
new worlds of isolation - muted by violence, beset
by the politics of catastrophe. Only this month did
that book, "Waiting for the Dog To Sleep," find
its way into the English language; copies arrived at
Ficowski's house two weeks before his death. A riddling,
forbidding colloquy of fantasies fevered by war and
privation, it offers only the grayest of consolation:
the pleasures of a last cigarette, the aroma of a cup
of coffee, the quiescence of hiding. "The dead
things are glad," Ficowski writes. "I have
descended to be one of them, from this moment on."
Renowned Polish poet and author Jerzy Ficowski
dies at 82
Copyright 2006 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur
GmbH: Tuesday, May. 9, 2006 - 9:20 AM
Warsaw (dpa) - The leading biographer
of Poland's literary legend Bruno Schulz, Polish
poet and author Jerzy Ficowski died in Warsaw Tuesday
aged 82, Poland's Writers' Guild confirmed.
A Polish anti-Nazi resistance fighter during
the World War II Ficowski was also renowned for his
tomes of poetry touching on the tragic fate of Polish
Jews in the Holocaust.
He was the foremost expert author on the art and culture
of Polish Roma, or gypsies, and the leading biographer
of renowned Polish- Jewish graphic artist and author
Bruno Schulz, who was gunned down by a German officer
in his hometown of Drohobycz during the war.
Ficowski's biography of Schulz, entitled The Realms
of the Grand Heresy, received rave reviews in both
Poland and the United States.
Born in 1924, Ficowski also penned the foremost work
on Polish Roma, The
Gypsies in Poland: History and
Customs. Among his other books was The Vicinity of
the Street of Crocodiles, in homage to Schulz.
Ficowski also penned dozens of tomes of poetry, much
of it reflecting on human suffering during the Holocaust.
His work has been widely translated into English, French,
Hebrew and German.