Still Alive: An Autobiographical Essay

Overview

In the first English translation of Still Alive, the renowned Polish essayist and theater critic Jan Kott recounts his perilous odyssey through the endless political crises of Eastern Europe in the mid-twentieth-century, illuminating not only the fate of a whole generation of intellectuals, but also his main concern: how to make sense of one's own existence

"As a portrayal of turbulent times, the book is priceless, in particular because of its extraordinarily vivid depictions of the atmosphere of everyday life ...

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Overview

In the first English translation of Still Alive, the renowned Polish essayist and theater critic Jan Kott recounts his perilous odyssey through the endless political crises of Eastern Europe in the mid-twentieth-century, illuminating not only the fate of a whole generation of intellectuals, but also his main concern: how to make sense of one's own existence

"As a portrayal of turbulent times, the book is priceless, in particular because of its extraordinarily vivid depictions of the atmosphere of everyday life under Communism."-Stanislaw Baranczak, Harvard University

"An incisive and vivid testimony of a gifted and zestful survival, Still Alive offers a suspenseful story of its author's harrowingly narrow escapes in Nazi-occupied Poland, and an illuminating account of his vicissitudes under the postwar Communist regime. That this widely acclaimed memoir is now available in English is good news indeed."-Victor Erlich, professor emeritus of Russian literature, Yale University

"Written by a man with literary taste and a sense of the dramatic who knows how to tell a story without ever losing a sense of humor, taste for life, and a kind of gaiety."-Nicole Zand, Le Monde

"The entire writing resonates with life and its mysteries, some resolved, some not. . . . The rigors and victories of Kott's life somehow offer sustenance to all who question existence."-Library Journal

"A splendid evocation by an eminent theater critic and philosopher of what it meant to be alive-sometimes barely-during the tremendous upheavals in Europe caused by the Second World War and the installation of the Communist regime in Poland. . . . Kott shows an unerring sense of the telling detail that imprints a scene in the memory. A riveting book."-Kirkus Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kott, Polish-born essayist, theater critic and Shakespearean scholar who emigrated to the U.S. in 1966, begins this autobiographical odyssey in Paris in 1939 where he played boccie with Leon Trotsky's future murderer. It ends with an account of the author's fifth heart attack in 1990 and a meditation on reconciling oneself to death. Accident, fate and the molding forces of history are leitmotifs in Kott's existential adventure. In France he befriended the Surrealists Andre Breton and Tristan Tzara, as well as their circle, yet also spent months as a seminarian in a Dominican monastery. Born in Warsaw in 1914, Kott returned to Poland in 1939, fought in the resistance against the Nazis and joined an underground Communist cell; he relates a series of hair-raising, narrow escapes from the Germans. His protracted enchantment with Stalinism, a blind faith that nearly wrecked his marriage, takes up the final phase of this sharply etched memoir. Readers' Subscription Book Club selection. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Kott, a Polish intellectual, essayist, critic, and the author of Shakespeare, Our Contemporary (1974), here presents his own unforgettable story in a series of essays. Originally published in Polish in 1990, this book now appears in an expanded edition. The entire writing resonates with life and its mysteries, some resolved, some not. Kott doesn't spare himself. It's all here: from his early prewar days in Paris to his partisan efforts as a Nazi fighter in the Polish underground, from the oath--read from a cigarette paper and then burned--that inducted him into the People's Army to his estrangement and resignation from communism. As a professor of literature at the University of Warsaw, he protested government censorship, eventually ending up in the United States teaching at various universities. The rigors and victories of Kott's life somehow offer sustenance to all who question existence.-- Robert L. Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300105612
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Chronology
Journey to the West 1
The Occupations 31
The Overcoat 99
Chronicle 157
Journey to the East 212
Three Funerals 230
The Heart Attack 250
The Fifth Heart Attack 264
Selected List of Names and Organizations 281
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