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Still Alive: An Autobiographical Essay
     

Still Alive: An Autobiographical Essay

by Jan Kott, Jadwiga Kosicka (Translator)
 

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Still Alive recounts the perilous odyssey of a renowned man of letters through the endless political crises of Eastern Europe in the mid-twentieth-century. Jan Kott—Polish essayist and theater critic, author of the landmark work Shakespeare Our Contemporary, winner of literary awards on two continents—tells of his association with the

Overview

Still Alive recounts the perilous odyssey of a renowned man of letters through the endless political crises of Eastern Europe in the mid-twentieth-century. Jan Kott—Polish essayist and theater critic, author of the landmark work Shakespeare Our Contemporary, winner of literary awards on two continents—tells of his association with the Surrealist circles in Paris before the Second World War, his adventures as a partisan in the Polish underground fighting the Nazis, his postwar involvement in the Polish Communist Party, his disillusionment with communism and, finally, his emigration to America. His story reveals not only the dramatic turns of an individual life but also the fate of a whole generation of Eastern European intellectuals.

At once witty, suspenseful, and profound, Kott's memoir begins with a bocci game played in 1939 with Trotsky's future murderer and ends with a deeply moving description of his fifth heart attack in 1991 that illuminates the book's main concern: how to make sense of one's own existence. Kott does not pose this as a philosophic problem, but as one given by the extreme situations he was forced to master and survive. This is the remarkable testimony of a man whose life brought him many opportunities to face the consequences of radical choice and in whom the consciousness of those essential encounters continues to resonate.

Published in Polish in 1990 and acclaimed by critics throughout Europe, the book is now available in English for the first time. Kott has added much new material to this edition, including the final chapter.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300105612
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
04/27/1994
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

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