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Henryk Vogler

Foto from the archives of Austeria publishing

Henryk Vogler

The Death of a Government Clerk

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Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
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English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima

Not a living thing anywhere. What did emerge from a maze of streets, however, was an old, historic Castle, raised on a hill. I have been long intrigued by this intricate structure that looked as if it had been transferred from a colourful children’s fairy tale into dim reality. Alas innumerable hosts of pupils and tourists, encircling the Castle with long serpentine tangles, winding through its courtyards, galleries and antique entrances – have so far prevented me from entering. Now the Castle was all mine – just like everything else… When I stood in the doorway of a chamber open on both sides, I suddenly felt my cheeks brushed by a chilly breeze. Motionless chambers, ornate with dazzling antiquities, looked like a vast abyss leading into the past or – in other words – into infinity. The lifelessness which is the essence of those interiors was this time accompanied by a unique kind of lifelessness caused by a secret, which today blew away all signs of life in the town, and hence also in the historic Castle, usually swarming with people. The omnipresence of the emptiness has only now become irritating – in this place, where emptiness – for ages, since the disappearance of kings and knights – should be something natural.

…In the vaults of the tombs one could clearly feel a deathly gust. In the gloomy cathedral stone statues in exaggerated poses seemed threatening. The treasury, the bell tower and keeps were successive stations of the world that has doubly died today. And finally I bolted. Although no one was chasing me. After all… there was no one.

English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima
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Henryk Vogler

(1911-2005) writer, literary critic and editor, literary manager of the Stary Theatre and of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Krakow, the first editor-in-chief of the Wydawnictwo Literackie publishing house.
He was born in Krakow, where he graduated from the faculty of law at the Jagiellonian University in 1933. In 1939, he began studying Polish philology in Lviv, where he got arrested and spent the rest of the war in Nazi labour camps and concentration camps in Rozwadów, Płaszów and Gross-Rosen. In 1945, he came back to Krakow, where he took active part in the reviving of cultural life. From 1949 till 1951, he was the editor of the Gazeta Krakowska daily, then for two years he was the chief of the Życie Literackie weekly magazine, and in 1953, he became the editor-in-chief of the just being founded Wydawnictwo Literackie publishing house and he held this post till 1958.
He wrote short fiction, novels, theatrical plays and radio dramas. In his books and articles, he touched the issues of Polish-Jewish relations and Holocaust (Wyznanie mojżeszowe. Wspomnienia z utraconego czasu or Wstęp do fizjologii strachu [English edition: Lessons in fear]), but he was also interested in literary loves and romances (Romanse literatury) and wrote detective stories (Nieobecni są winni) and horror stories as well.
Died in 2005, he rests at the Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow, and a board commemorating him has been placed at the new Jewish cemetery in Miodowa Street in Krakow. (mj)
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