Beth Holmgren on Reportage, part 1

Encounters with Polish Literature: Reportage 1--Kapuściński, Szejnert, Grzebałkowska

Reportage, longform jounalism, or creative non-fiction is the most productive genre in contemporary Polish literature, and it is on the agenda in the latest episode of "Encounters with Polish Literature."

We start with a brief overview, picking up from our earlier discussion of Zofia Nałkowska, whose writing bridged the gap between realist fiction and reportage (reportaż). We take a brief look at Melchior Wańkowicz who used the storytelling techniques of fiction and cinema in his magnum opus on the Battle of Monte Cassino. Then we consider how Ryszard Kapuściński found a way around censorship to write about structures of power that were recognizable in Poland and the Soviet Union by writing about the downfall of Haile Selassie in Ethiopia.

Beth Holmgren (Duke U) and I discuss Małgorzata Szejnert's "Ellis Island: A People's History," recently translated into English by Sean Gasper Bye and shortlisted for the 2021 Warwick Women in Translation Prize, considering how Szejnert played a major role in training and forming the latest generation of Polish journalists, and we examine Magdalena Grzebałkowska's "Poland 1945: War and Peace" (tr. John and Małgorzata Markoff), which considers controversial topics such as looting, the fate of displaced German civilians, and the complicated memories of former residents of a Jewish orphanage, in the immediate aftermath of World War II in Poland from the perspective of someone born almost three decades after the end of the war.

There are a few digressions along the way about Witold Szabłowski ("How to Feed a Dictator" tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones), and Remigiusz Ryziński ("Foucault in Warsaw" tr. Sean Gasper Bye).

Introduction and bibliography of works mentioned and available in English with a link to the full video at:

Or go straight to the video at:


David A. Goldfarb