Szczepan Twardoch [ Poland
Szczepan Twardoch was born in 1979 in Pilchowice, Poland, in the Silesian Voivodeship (Województwo śląskie) and belongs to a minority of Polish Silesians. Twardoch studied sociology and philosophy in Katowice. He came to literary writing while working on his master’s thesis on the French Revolution. The central question he asked himself was how European history might have unfolded if the revolution had broken out in Vienna instead of Paris.
In his subsequent novels, Twardoch concentrates primarily on Polish history. He made his breakthrough with the novel »Morfina« (2012; tr: Morphine); the book became an international bestseller and was awarded the Paszport Polityki, the Nike Audience Award, and the Kościelski Award. The novel takes place in Warsaw at the end of the thirties, after the German invasion, and follows the story of an army reserve officer. He lives an extravagant big-city lifestyle as a bon vivant and morphine addict and ultimately, almost accidentally, becomes a resistance fighter. »In this great anti-front novel too, Twardoch poses the driving question behind his writing: Is there a point to the story? Or does everything stay as it always has been because only institutions, and not people, evolve? Are ideologies not just monsters that drive people into unfamiliar oversimplification?« (»FAZ«). Twardoch’s 2014 Silesian novel »Drach«, for which he and translator Olaf Kühl received the Bridge Berlin Literature and Translator Award for its German translation (2016), is also about the course of history – from the Middle Ages to the uprisings of the 1920s, and from World War II and forced colonization after 1945 until today. In the novel, the earth appears as the exclusive witness of historical events. Twardoch draws similarities between the individuals whose lives are characterized by a higher perspective – that of earth itself – with figures from Greek tragedy, whose decisions only have a limited influence on their fate. Twardoch’s novel »Król« (2017; Eng. »The King of Warsaw«, 2020) takes place in Warsaw during the interwar years and focuses primarily on the Jewish underworld king Jakub Shapiro. His next novel, »Królestwo« (2018; tr: Kingdom), keeps the story going. In Warsaw, after the German attack in 1939, Shapiro takes up arms in a hopeless struggle. His small empire and family are falling apart, and the cost of survival in the Warsaw ghetto is high. His most recent novel, »Pokora« (2020; tr: Humbel) deals with the identity crisis faced by a miner’s son during the period between the World War I and the revolutionary turmoil in Berlin and unrest in Upper Silesia.
In addition to many other awards, Szczepan Twardoch received the German-Polish Samuel Bogumił Linde Prize in 2019. He lives in Pilchowice and Warsaw.