Ashes and Diamonds
Jerzy Andrzejewski Northwestern University Press, 1997 Library of Congress PG7158.A7P613 1996 | Dewey Decimal 891.8537
Originally published in Poland in 1948, and acclaimed as one of the finest postwar Polish novels, Ashes and Diamonds takes place in the spring of 1945, as the nation is in the throes of its transformation to People' Poland. Communists, socialists, and nationalists; thieves and black marketeers; servants and fading aristocrats; veteran terrorists and bands of murderous children bewitched by the lure of crime and adventure—all of these converge on a provincial town's chief hotel, a microcosm of an uprooted world.
At the height of the Nazi extermination campaign in the Warsaw Ghetto, a young Jewish woman, Irena, seeks the protection of her former lover, a young architect, Jan Malecki. By taking her in, he puts his own life and the safety of his family at risk. Over a four-day period, Tuesday through Friday of Holy Week 1943, as Irena becomes increasingly traumatized by her situation, Malecki questions his decision to shelter Irena in the apartment where Malecki, his pregnant wife, and his younger brother reside. Added to his dilemma is the broader context of Poles’ attitudes toward the “Jewish question” and the plight of the Jews locked in the ghetto during the final moments of its existence.
Few fictional works dealing with the war have been written so close in time to the events that inspired them. No other Polish novel treats the range of Polish attitudes toward the Jews with such unflinching honesty.
Jerzy Andrzejewski’s Holy Week (Wielki Tydzien, 1945), one of the significant literary works to be published immediately following the Second World War, now appears in English for the first time.
This translation of Andrzejewski’s Holy Week began as a group project in an advanced Polish language course at the University of Pittsburgh. Class members Daniel M. Pennell, Anna M. Poukish, and Matthew J. Russin contributed to the translation; the instructor, Oscar E. Swan, was responsible for the overall accuracy and stylistic unity of the translation as well as for the biographical and critical notes and essays.