The Book Of Em

News author: NEWW-Polska
spotk_data_umie: 2005-07-04 13:02:31

Born in Gdynia in 1961 and a graduate of Gdansk University in Poland.

Her first collection of stories, DEATH AND THE SPIRAL (1992), includes phantasmagorical images of The City (New York) and its exotic inhabitants. In her most mature work, the novel ABSOLUTE AMNESIA (1995), she creates a semi-autobiographical, semi-fantastic account of a girl growing up in the shadow of the history of a city. For Marianna, the Gdansk or Gdynia of the 1970s is the drama of her adolescence. According to Maria Janion, Marianna's story is the story of a contemporary Iphegenia, who wants to escape becoming a scapegoat on the altar of the so-called "higher values" of family, country, ideas and motherhood.

The common background for all her work is the ideology of women's liberation which is a central part of modern feminism, as well as feminist theology and social science. Filipiak's female protagonists experience degradation and exaltation. When abused, they commit acts of aggression; when accused, they defend themselves and fight back. The goal of their efforts is self-knowledge and the transcendence of the barriers erected by customs, history and common sense. In the final analysis, the feminist struggle is not about social issues. Filipiak creates a feminism of the imagination, a space for the interplay of free associations, romantic myths, and fantastic fairy-tale worlds.

by Izabela Filipiak

Maria Komornicka’s biography appeals to contemporary readers. Apart from great suffering, which is indispensably connected with art, it also includes a lot of inspiration. This last factor will be of some importance to many culture researchers, especially those interested in gender studies. Maria Komornicka (1878-1949), a meritorious, but for many years rejected poetess of modernism period, at certain moment of her life recognised herself as a man. She assumed a new name - Piotr Wlast. Locked in asylum, she finally ended her life in alms- house. While writing about Komornicka, one cannot escape issues of identity and transgression, of conflict between sexes and social convention, as well as of what is and what is not normal.

Izabela Filipiak, well known for her collections of stories (Śmierć i spirala, Niebieska menażeria) and novels (Absolutna amnezja), has written a drama titled Księga EM (The Book of EM). It is a spiritual biography of Maria Komornicka. EM is a stage alter ego of the poetess.

As we know from the Author, all episodes of the play are taken from Komornicka’s letters, her statements or works. The songs and the poems are the part of Komornicka’s eclectic ”Book of Idyllic Poetry”. The poetess’ biography: her relations with mother, father and brother, her experience of transformation (not by the means of surgery, but due to the act of will), her stay in the asylum – all these have been turned into a drama. The whole historical and literary background of the time can be felt here. Publicism is being mixed up with grotesque. This weird and complex play is full of ironic visions and fantasies; there are some witty scenes that include the Angels of uncertain sex and preferences. Spiritual and social transformation of the main character is being shown through the metaphorical pictures. We see the poetess inside her torn up by the scandal family, or in a train compartment - when she is travelling across violated Poland. Księga EM not only shows the run away of the poetess from the outside world into the inside of her soul, but also ponders on the condition of a woman in society; this condition is being created on the basis of determination, will and creative energy.

Its inventiveness, wealth, rare stylishness and clear language are enough to recommend it to theatre directors. According to the Author, it does not necessary have to be staged in an extravagant sort of way. “I can imagine this text”, she says, „ played in very simple decorations: just three chairs and some bed shits; however, the exaggerated, artificial decorum is somehow important for literary version of “The EM Book.”