Sławomir Mrożek, 1930–2013

By Susan Harris

Poland's great Sławomir Mrożek died August 15 in Nice. Though best known as a dramatist, Mrożek was also a prolific writer of short stories; we were delighted to include his "Ketchup," in Garry Malloy's witty translation, in our January 2012 issue on apocalypse. Mrożek's satirical plays, harshly critical of communism, were frequently banned in Poland, but staged around the world. News of Mrożek's death was announced by his French publisher, Noir sur Blanc, and broadcast by the news agency Agence France-Presse; tributes appeared immediately throughout Europe, but, irritatingly, the New York Times did not publish an obituary until August 29. (Which in some ways is worse than not having published one at all.) Garry writes, "I was saddened by the general lack of foreign media coverage following Sławomir Mrożek's death. While the maxim 'better late than never' generally holds true, it does not, or should not, apply to obituaries. By publishing Mrożek's obituary two weeks after his death, the New York Times displayed a shameful disregard for one of Poland's finest and most prolific writers. Sławomir Mrożek leaves a rich legacy to Polish literature, in the form of plays, short stories, novellas, and personal letters. It is now down to translators of his work to extend this legacy to the canon of world literature. I believe this response to his death would be a far greater tribute to Sławomir Mrożek than any obituary, tardy or otherwise." Garry's leading the way by translating a volume of Mrożek's stories, which we're eager to read. In the meantime, please revisit "Ketchup," with its young man determined to take the end of the world into his own hands, and mourn the loss of a singular voice. 


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