Polish literature

fot. Krzysztof Opaliński

Manuela Gretkowska

born 1964) – novelist, essayist, screenwriter and columnist.

After reading philosophy at the Jagiellonian University she went abroad to Paris for several years. Her early novels are about this city and what it is like to be not exactly an émigré an “eternal student”, and have a strongly autobiographical tone. My zdyes emigranty [Russian for “We’re immigrants here”] (1991), Parisian Tarot (1993), The Metaphysical Cabaret (1994), and especially A Guidebook to People (1996) are all devoid of any clearly outlined story. The element Gretkowska indulges in is the digressive essay, including lots of interludes in the form of reportage, memoir or parody. The hybrids of style and genre that she enjoys are part of the problem with her books, because a sort of “neurotic personality of our times” looms out of them, a portrait of late 20th century Western Man as horrifying as it is comical. He is a whirl of contradictory ideas, has no coherent system of values, and easily succumbs to quickly changing intellectual and moral fashions. In the mid-1990s, when Gretkowska’s effective and controversial prose provoked the biggest stir, the Polish public was disoriented. People kept asking the question, is she merely reproducing the spiritual landscape and intellectual climate of the era, or is she creating an image of the world that has nothing to do with (not only Polish) reality? Is she seeking out and describing the paradoxes of decadent, late-20th-century civilisation, or is she trying to be intellectually and morally provocative, trying to shock us with everything that’s scandalous and heretical, the stuff of transgression? The controversy was never resolved, but meanwhile Manuela Gretkowska has seriously reformed her way of writing. In 1998 a set of stories came out, entitled The Passionary. It has a traditional structure and presents some intriguing issues. It consists of five pieces and, to put it very mildly, it is about needing and looking for love. Gretkowska’s next book, a fictionalised personal diary entitled Polka, was received with just as much interest. “Polka” is the name of the narrator’s baby daughter, whose birth she is expecting as she writes. The theme of change in her work has not gone unnoticed: the one-time “scandalmonger” is now firmly on the side of a normal life, a banal one even. Her book is essentially a hymn of praise to the glory of bountiful motherhood, the home hearth, and the simple joys of everyday life etc.


  • My zdies emigranty, Kraków, Oficyna Literacka 1990.
  • Tarot paryski, Kraków: Oficyna Literacka, 1993.
  • Kabaret metafizyczny, Warszawa: W.A.B., 1994.
  • Podręcznik do ludzi, Warszawa: Beba Mazeppo & Co., 1996.
  • Światowidz, Warszawa: W.A.B., 1998.
  • Namiętnik, Warszawa: W.A.B., 1998.
  • Silikon, Warszawa: W.A.B., 2000.
  • Polka, Warszawa: W.A.B., 2001.
  • Sceny z życia pozamałżeńskiego [razem z Piotrem Pietuchą], Warszawa: W.A.B., 2003.
  • Europejka, Warszawa: W.A.B. 2004.
  • Kobieta i mężczyźni, Warszawa: Świat Książki 2007.
  • Obywatelka, Warszawa: Świat Książki 2008.
  • Miłość po polsku, Warszawa: Świat Książki, 2010.
  • Trans, Warszawa: Świat Książki, 2011.
  • Agent, Warszawa: Świat Książki, 2012.



  • Metafyysinen kabaree – Beba Mazeppon rakkaus [Kabaret metafizyczny]. Taifuuni, 2001.


  • Nous sommes tous des émigrés [My zdies emigranty], Paris: Flammarion, 1980.
  • Le Tarot de Paris [Tarot paryski], trans. Marie Bouvard, Eric Pellet, Paris: Flammarion, 1997.
  • Cabaret métaphysique [Kabaret metafizyczny], Paris: Flammarion, 2003.


  • Polka, München: Dt. Taschenbuch-Verl., 2004.


  • Kézikönyv az emberekhez [Podręcznik do ludzi], Palatinus, Budapest 2000.
  • Szenvedélynapló [Namiętnik], Masszi, Budapest 2002.
  • Metafizikai kabaré [Kabaret metafizyczny], Budapest: Európa K., 2004.


  • Moteris ir vyrai [Kobieta i mężczyźni], trans. Kazys Uscila, Mintis, 2009.


  • Polka, Moskva: AST, 2003.
  • Metafizičeskoe kabare, Sankt-Peterburg Moskva: Limbus Press, 2003.
  • Parižskoe taro/My zdes èmigranty, Moskva: AST: Ermak, 2004.


  • Mi smo emigranti [My zdies emigranty], NOLIT, Beograd, 2002.


  • Cabaret Metafísico [Kabaret metafizyczny], Barcelona: Littera, 2000.


  • Polka, Kijów: Nora-Druk, 2005.
  • Pristrasnij kohanec [Namiętnik], Harkìv: Folìo, 2005.
  • Metafìzične kabare, Harkìv: Folìo, 2005.
  • Europejka [Європейка], Kijów: Nora Druk, 2006.
  • Сцены из внебрачной жизни [Sceny z życia pozamałżeńskiego], trans. A.S. Pawliszina i W.A. Starodub, Folio 2006.