Review of Różewicz’s Mother Departs in The Times Literary Supplement
‘[A] complex, multi-voiced meditation on family writing and modern history in its peculiarly harsh Polish incarnation…The originality of Mother Departs lies in its astute, self-critical arrangement of texts radiating out of the mother’s life. It is, as Polish critics noted, the most personal of Różewicz’s books…haunting volume.’ Clare Cavanagh, The Times Literary Supplement
More praise for Tadeusz Różewicz’s Mother Departs
Finalist for the People’s Book Prize, Summer 2013, in the category of non-fiction.
Winner of the 2000 Nike Prize, Poland’s most prestigious literary award
‘Mother Departs deals with loss and memory and what it means to be a poet, but above all it records the love between members of a family, and its greatest gift may lie in the repeated opportunities that it creates for its readers to recognise themselves in the thoughts and actions of people who are not and never could be entirely strange.’ Steven Lovatt, New Welsh Review
‘“Unless it’s broken – smashed,” Różewicz writes, “poetry won’t ever rise up from its grave.” But if he has stripped his verses down to basics, without metre, without rhyme, there is music in his prose. Lyrical, evocative and richly detailed, Mother Departs is a challenging investigation to the monstrous injustices and numbing losses of public events and private life.’ C.J. Schüler, The Tablet
‘Every mother’s son – and daughter – will appreciate this powerful chorus of family memories…Published in 1999, when it won Poland’s leading literary award, Mother Departs also champions Rózewicz’s aesthetic of assembled voices…These fragments are simply, poetically, put together. The cumulative effect is astonishing… powerful and poignant. Barbara Bogoczek’s translation is excellent, as is Tony Howard’s informative introduction. This is a book for anyone who has ever had a mother.’ James Hopkin,The Independent
‘One of the great European poets of the twentieth century’ Seamus Heaney
‘Tadeusz Różewicz is a great anti-poet whose poems have the clipped, intense feel of phrases exchanged in wartime. He sends messages from underground that are like jammed radio signals. Though he would not agree, he has succeeded in writing poetry after Auschwitz.’ Tom Paulin
‘The last living truly great Polish poet’ James Hopkin, The Guardian
‘a wonderfully polyphonic memoir as the voices harmonize to tell a greater story. And although the emphasis is on the family, the narrative is deeply influenced by the fascinating period in Polish history starting before World War I and ending just after the fall of communism.’ Isla McKetta, A Geography of Reading
‘I would describe the piece and feel of this book, yes memoir, yes prose poetry. But not fully either, one could almost say the reportage that Polish writers post world war two have often been known for the likes of Kapuscinski or Stasiuk are well-known, has been turned internally on to the family trying to find what the mother was and what she meant to her family…littered with a humour that is dark and the sort that laughs at the bad times…he is a true great and talent.’ Stu Allen, Winstonsdad’s Blog
It’s an effective collection, switching from personal reminiscence to the immediacy of diary-entries…The collection has a fragmentary feel — much ends (and some begins) with ellipses, to underline that fact — and readers might wish for more filling in the blanks in this century-spanning work, but there’s a satisfying wholeness to the text as is. A touching, often fascinating — and very personal — work.’ M.A. Orthofer, Complete Review
‘a quite remarkable memoir of a family, of Poland in the twentieth century and of life, and death.’ A Discount Ticket to Everywhere
‘we witness the anguish of a man looking at his mother fading away. Both Herbert and Rózewicz, in two completely different styles, narrate with an impeccable choice of words the last days in the life of their mothers. Heartbreaking yes, but the literary value of these books lay within the ability of these authors to talk about death with great beauty.’ Literati
‘a portrait of, and a homage to, a woman – but also to a country and a time. You see, as much as it talks about Stefania, Mother Departs talks to the reader about a shared past. It’s easy to see why it won the Nike Prize – it’s not so much the private memories of a mother, as a collective, nostalgic look at what has been lost.’ Tony’s Reading List
Read Basia Bogoczek’s reflections on translating Mother Departs.
Buy the special limited hardback edition.