Claudel in Poland

Polish critics, who have written about Paul Claudel, have always underlined his great affection towards Poland. However, they regretted that his works remain unknown for most of the Polish people. It is clear that one of the reasons for which the producers and the audience have had many difficulties with Claudel’s works is his sentence structure, impossible to imitate in Polish. Moreover, the fact that Claudel had been in the past considered, as he is in the present time, as a Catholic poet, has had also an influence on the reception of his works in Poland. After the Second World War and the institution of communism by the Soviets, censorship forbade the performance of Claudel’s plays for many years. That is why his works were mostly presented by émigrés and organizations linked to the Catholic Church in Poland. (above all with the Lublin catholic University).

The Paul Claudel’s first drama represented in Poland was L’Annonce faite à Marie, under the title of Zwiastowanie, translation by Edward Leszczynski), put on stage by Teofil Trzcinski in December 1924, in Cracow. This drama has known the greatest number of translations (Zwiastowanie has been translated nine times in Polish)) and has much awaken the critics interest. Paradoxically, the text in its complete version has been set up only twice on professional stages. The second creation took place at Szczin in 2002 (presentation by Marek Pasieczny, translation by Maria Cichon).

Claudel’s drama which has been mostly presented is L’Échange (translated for the first time by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz under the title of Zamiana), between 1925 and 1997, this play has been set up eight times. One must observe that this drama has been given in Warsaw when Poland was at war (presentation by Marcin Slawinski). The performance of L’Échange (second version of the drama) at the Wybrzeze Theater in Sopot in 1977 (presentation by Jerzy Kreczmar, with Halina Winiarska in the main part).is considered as an important event in the history of the polish theater. In the opposite of other producers, Kreczmar has been able to create an exceptional play, respecting the text without abandoning the philosophical-religious aspect present in the drama. L’Échange has been published in the monthly Dialog in 1980. One must remark that the play has been realized for the polish television (presentation by Wojciech Nurkowski). Le Repos du septième jour (Spoczynek dnia siodnego ) has been presented in wordly preview, at the Warsaw Polish National Theater, on December 15 1928 (presentation by Waclaw Radulski, translation by Stefan Godlewski. The critics have considered that it was a matter of an important production and of a remarkable event of religious theater.

In spite of the fact that Partage de midi has aroused a great interest among polish critics, the play has been presented for the first time in 1968. The preview occurred at the Wybrzeze Theater at Gdansk, in connection with the celebration of the poet’s hundred-year-old birth. The translation of the drama third version made by Julian Rogozinski has been published in Dialog in /962, under the title of Punkt przeciecia. In the same issue the Jan Blonski’s text has been influenced by the welcome of his works, as well as the Irena Slawinska’s publications – the greatest Claudel’s specialist, who has made him discovered in Poland. Once more, Jerzy Kreczmar has been the author of the most important production of this drama in Poland at the Warsaw Wspölczesny Theater in 1973. In this remarkable creation Halina Mikolajska played Ysé’s role and Jean Englert, Mesa. Finally, Partage de midi (under the title of Podzial Poludnia, in the translation of the the first drama version by Maria Falska) has been created for the third time in 2003 in Opole in a Marek Pacieczny’s production. One has been obliged to wait for 63 years after the Jaroslav Iwaszkiewicz’s (1920) translation in order to discover L’Otage in Poland. The play produced by Grzegorz Mrowczynski has been produced in Poznan, in war time, that, added to the great creation from Halina Stankowna who played Sygne, has made of it a first importance event. The second part of the trilogy, Le Pain dur, has been translated by Jan Winczakiewicz (under the title of Twardy chleb) in Dialog in 1992. Le Père humilié has never been translated.

The first performance of the Livre de Christophe Colomb (Ksiega Krzysztofa Kolumba) that has taken place at Gdynia port in 1991 in the production of Ryszard Nyczka, Wojciech Starostecki, Artur Hoffman, and under the artistic patronage of Andrzej Wajda, Krystyna Zachwatowicz, Andrzej Majewski, Waldemar Smigasiewicz, for the wordly celebration of the discovery of America, has also been an important event for the Polish contemporary theater. Every attempt to produce it earlier had been impossible, because of the censorship. The last Paul Claudel’s drama present on the Polish stage is Jeanne au bûcher. The first theatrical presentation took place at the Poznan Opera in 1979 under the title of Joana d’Arc na stosie (translation by Maria Serga-Nowosad, production of Ryszard Peryt, scenographic idea of Adam Hanuszkiwicz ). The play was given during several seasons in particular during the tour in Germany and Italy (great creation by Ewa Blaszczyk in Jeanne’s role and Andrzej Lapicki/ Krzysztof Kolberger in Brother Dominique’s role.

Le Soulier de satin published for the first time in 1998 (Irena Slawinska’s translation according to the version for the stage by Jean-Louis Barrault dating back to 1943) has never been played in Poland. So is it for the Ravissement de Sccapin, translated by Anna Szeliga-Ossowska. These two dramas have been published in the first edition of the Paul Claudel’s selected dramas established by Halina Sawecka (Lublin 1998).

Concerning the welcome of the theatrical Paul Claudel’s works, one must report the writing by Irena Sawiska of a choice of texts about the theater art, under the title of Mozliwosci teater, translation and notes by Maria Skibnieska, 1971 (263 pages). Even if the French edition of Paul Claudel’s Journal has been pointed out by critics, the first Polish edition has been published only in 1977. The translation and the choice are fulfilled by Julian Rogozinski (Dziennic 1904-1955, 517 pages).

Concerning the non-dramatic works, there have been two editions of J’aime la Bible (Umilowanie pisma swietego (in 1959 and 1998, second translation made by Donata Eska). Even if some poems as La cantate à trois voix (translation of Waclaw Husarski in 1918) have been translated in Polish, the poetical works remain the most unrecognized part of all the Paul Claudel’s works.

Aleksandra Stanisawa-Engler, student of the Warsaw Theatrical Academy of Aleksander Zelwerowicz in Warsaw.