At the height of the Nazi extermination campaign in the Warsaw Ghetto, a young Jewish woman, Irena, seeks the protection of her former lover, a young architect, Jan Malecki. By taking her in, he puts his own life and the safety of his family at risk. Over a four-day period, Tuesday through Friday of Holy Week 1943, as Irena becomes increasingly traumatized by her situation, Malecki questions his decision to shelter Irena in the apartment where Malecki, his pregnant wife, and his younger brother reside. Added to his dilemma is the broader context of Poles’ attitudes toward the “Jewish question” and the plight of the Jews locked in the ghetto during the final moments of its existence.
Few fictional works dealing with the war have been written so close in time to the events that inspired them. No other Polish novel treats the range of Polish attitudes toward the Jews with such unflinching honesty.
Jerzy Andrzejewski's Holy Week (Wielki Tydzien, 1945), one of the significant literary works to be published immediately following the Second World War, now appears in English for the first time.
This translation of Andrzejewski’s Holy Week began as a group project in an advanced Polish language course at the University of Pittsburgh. Class members Daniel M. Pennell, Anna M. Poukish, and Matthew J. Russin contributed to the translation; the instructor, Oscar E. Swan, was responsible for the overall accuracy and stylistic unity of the translation as well as for the biographical and critical notes and essays.
About the Author
Best known for his novel Ashes and Diamonds, Jerzy Andrzejewski (1909-1983) gained a reputation as a writer of moral conflict. In 1949 he was elected president of the Polish Writers' Union, but he resigned in 1957 as a protest against government censorship. Later he was a founding member of the intellectual opposition group KOR.
“Creates in one slim volume a vivid world peopled by believable and sympathetic characters whose lives depict with gripping accuracy an entire historical era.... Urgently recommended to all readers with an interest in world history.”—Library Journal, starred review
“A tight, dramatic novel.... If its immediacy proved off-putting to contemporary readers, today that urgency is its greatest strength.”—Nextbook
“Andrzejewski here turns an unsparing eye on the ways in which professed Christians dealt with—or failed to address—the annihilation of their Jewish compatriots.... The world Andrzejewski conjures here may be relentlessly grim, but his tale is, as always, compelling.”—BookForum, Dec/Jan 2007
“The relentless conflicts between and within these characters transform what appears to be a simple issue of national neglect into a hauntingly real drama of agonizing personal decisions and personal failures.”—Virginia Quarterly Review
“With the first English edition of Holy Week— a tightly wound story that can be devoured in one long sitting — we can at last discover a little-known work from one of Poland's leading 20th century novelists.... Holy Week— ably translated by a team of (University of Pittsburgh) students under the guidance of Oscar Swan — has an immediacy and verisimilitude impossible for someone not on the scene.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“With the first English edition of Holy Week— a tightly wound story that can be devoured in one long sitting — we can at last discover a little-known work from one of Poland's leading 20th century novelists.... Holy Week— ably translated by a team of (University of Pittsburgh) students under the guidance of Oscar Swan — has an immediacy and verisimilitude impossible for someone not on the scene.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review
“The understated quality of this nominally realistic yet strangely allegorical short novel contributes to Holy Week’s mesmerizing power.” — Magill Book Reviews