Pocztówki z piekła. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz w Paryżu 1908
Postcards from Hell. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz in the Paris of 1908
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We know little about Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s stay in Paris in the spring of 1908; we do not know the letters to his father where he probably reported what he experienced there, and the correspondent letters by his father contain few traces of such reports. Traces of the stay have, however, made their way to his literary creations: he recounted his impressions of his encounter with the new painting in The 622 Downfalls of Bungo, whereas The Beelzebub Sonata contains evidence of his visits to Paris cabarets, particularly to L’Enfer and Le Néant. The playwright suggests that the Hell of Acts 2 and 3 is to resemble a cabaret in Paris—and a little Budapestian—or in Rio (Salon di Gioja), but mostly Parisian, which he repeats in the play on numerous occasions, including the opening-scene stage directions where he emphasises, importantly, the general atmosphere of demonic tackiness of such entertainment establishments. Reading contemporary reports and looking at old postcards and photographs of the cabarets’ interiors one can see just what Witkacy meant by tackiness. And one can imagine an atmosphere he strove for in the stage setting for The Beelzebub Sonata. Knowing Witkacy’s penchant for the macabre, one can guess that he visited the Grand-Guignol Theatre. And probably the Musée Grévin, too. While Witkacy stayed in Paris, a theatrical event of great importance—the greatest importance, indeed, from today’s point of view—took place. The Antoine Theatre gave two performances of Ubu Roi by Jarry with Firmin Gémier. They were only afternoon performances, but they were widely publicised. Did Witkacy take notice? Twenty years later, Ubu Roi cropped up, perhaps as a reminiscence from Paris, in his letter to Edmund Wierciński, where he recommended some plays for the repertory: “By the French, Roi Ubu, I don’t recall the author’s name.”
- W. Chambers Morrow, É. Cucuel, Bohemian Paris of To-day, Philadelphia–London 1899.
- J. Degler, Noty do dramatów, [w:] S.I. Witkiewicz, Dzieła zebrane, t. 7: Dramaty III, Warszawa 2004.
- J. Gondowicz, Ubu Sapiens, [w:] A. Jarry, Teatr Ojca Ubu, przekł. i oprac. J. Gondowicz, Warszawa 2006.
- W. Sztaba, Gra ze sztuką, Kraków 1982.
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