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Julian Tuwim

Julian Tuwim
Julian Tuwim
Born (1894-09-13)September 13, 1894
Łódź, Congress Poland
Died December 27, 1953(1953-12-27) (aged 59)
Zakopane, Poland
Occupation Poet
Nationality Polish
Ethnicity Jewish
Literary movement Skamander
Notable awards Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature
Spouse Stefania Tuwimowa (since 1919)
Children Ewa Tuwim-Woźniak (adopted)
Relatives Irena Tuwim (sister, a poet herself)
Kazimierz Krukowski (cousin)

Julian Tuwim (September 13, 1894 – December 27, 1953) (the surname comes from the Hebrew "טובים", "tovim", "good"), known also under the pseudonym "Oldlen" when writing song lyrics,[1] was a Polish poet of Jewish descent, born in Łódź, Congress Poland (then part of the Russian Partition). He was educated in Łódź and in Warsaw where he studied law and philosophy at the Warsaw University. After Poland's return to independence in 1919 Tuwim co-founded the Skamander group of experimental poets with Antoni Słonimski and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. He was a major figure in Polish literature, admired also for his contribution to children's literature. He was the recipient of a prestigious Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature in 1935.[2]


  • Life and work 1
  • World War II and after 2
  • Notable poems 3
  • Notes and references 4
  • Songs to Tuwim's poems 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Life and work

Tuwim was born in Łódź, into a family of assimilated Jews. His parents Izydor and Adela, provided Julian with a comfortable middle class upbringing. He was not a particularly diligent student and had to repeat the sixth grade. In 1905 the family had to flee from Łódź to Wrocław (Breslau) in order to escape possible repercussions following Izydor's involvement in the Revolution of 1905.

Initially Tuwim's poetry, even more than that of the other "Skamandrites", represented a decisive break with turn-of-the-20th-century mannerism. It was characterized by an expression of vitality, optimism, and praise of urban life. His poems celebrated introduction to the everyday life in a city, with its triviality and vulgarism. In his poems Tuwim often used vernacular language and slang as well as poetic dialogue.

Portrait of Tuwim by Witkacy.

The collections "Czyhanie na Boga" (In Lurking for God (1918)), "Sokrates tańczący" (The Dancing Socrates (1920)), "Siódma jesień" (The Seventh Autumn (1922)), and "Wierszy tom czwarty" (Volume Four of Poems (1923)) are typical of his early work. In his later collections — "Słowa we krwi" (Words in Blood, 1926)), "Rzecz Czarnoleska" (A Tale from Czarnolas) (1929), "Biblia cygańska" (A Gypsy Bible (1933)) and "Treść gorejąca" (A Burning Matter (1933)) Tuwim became restless and bitter, and wrote with fervor and vehemence about the emptiness of urban existence. He also drew more heavily from romantic and classicist traditions, while perfecting his form and style, and becoming a virtuoso of word and language.

From the very beginning and throughout his artistic career, Tuwim was satirically inclined. He supplied sketches and monologues to numerous cabarets. In his poetry and columns, he derided obscurantism and bureaucracy as well as militaristic and nationalistic trends in politics. His best satiric poem is regarded to be the burlesque, "Bal w Operze" (The Ball at the Opera, 1936).

In 1918 Tuwim co-founded the cabaret, "Picador", and worked as a writer or artistic director with many other cabarets such as "Czarny kot" (Black Cat 1917–1919), "Qui pro Quo" (1919–1932), "Banda" The Gang and "Stara Banda" The Old Gang (1932–1935) and finally "Cyrulik Warszawski" (Barber of Warsaw 1935–1939). Since 1924 Tuwim was a staff writer at "Wiadomości Literackie" (Literary News) where he wrote a weekly column "Camera Obscura". He also wrote for the satirical magazine "Szpilki" (Pins).

Tuwim displayed his caustic sense of humor and unyielding individuality in works such as "Poem in which the author politely yet firmly implores the vast hosts of his brethren to kiss his arse." Here, Tuwim systematically enumerates and caricatures various personae inhabiting European social scene of the mid-1930s -- 'perfumed café intellectuals', 'drab socialists', 'fascist jocks', 'Zionist doctors', 'repressed Catholics' and so on, and ends each stanza by asking each to perform the action indicated in the title. The poem ends with a note to the would-be censor who would surely be tempted to expunge all mention of this piece for its breach of 'public standards.' This stanza ends just like the others as the censor fulfills his role.

His poem "Do prostego człowieka" (To the Common Man), first published on October 7, 1929 in "Robotnik" (Workman), started a storm of personal attacks on Tuwim, mostly from antisemitic right wing circles criticizing Tuwim's pacifistic views.[3]

Julian's aunt was married to Adam Czerniaków, and his uncle from his mother's side was Arthur Rubinstein.

World War II and after

In 1939, at the beginning of World War II and Nazi Germany's occupation of Poland, Tuwim emigrated first through Romania to France, and after France's capitulation, to Brazil, by way of Portugal, and finally to the USA, where he settled in 1942. In 1939-41 he collaborated with the émigré weekly "Wiadomosci Polskie", but broke off the collaboration due to differences in views on the attitude towards the Soviet Union. In 1942-46 he worked with the monthly "Nowa Polska" published in London, and with leftist Polish-American newspapers. He was affiliated with the Polish section of the International Workers Organization from 1942. He was also a member of the Association of Writers From Poland (a member of the board in 1943).

Tuwim's grave in Warsaw's Powązki Cemetery.
Tuwim St. in Chrzanów

During this time he wrote "Kwiaty Polskie" (Polish Flowers), an epic poem in which he remembers with nostalgia his early childhood in Łódź. In April 1944 he published a manifesto, entitled "My, Żydzi Polscy" (We, Polish Jews).

Tuwim returned to Poland after the war in 1946, but did not produce much in Stalinist Poland. He died in 1953 at the age of 59 in Zakopane. Although Tuwim was well known for serious poetry he also wrote satirical works and poetry for children, for example "Lokomotywa"" (Locomotive) (1938, tr. 1940). He also wrote well-regarded translations of Pushkin and other Russian poets. Russian Soviet poet Yelizaveta Tarakhovskaya translated most of Tuwim's children's poetry into Russian.

Notable poems

  • Czyhanie na Boga (Lurking for God, 1918)
  • Sokrates tańczący (Dancing Socrates, 1920)
  • Siódma jesień (The Seventh Autumn, 1921)
  • Wierszy tom czwarty (1923)
  • *Murzynek Bambo (1923,1924)
  • Czary i czarty polskie (Sorcery and Deuces of Poland, 1924)
  • Wypisy czarnoksięskie (The Reader of Sorcery, 1924)
  • A to pan zna? (And do you know it?, 1925)
  • Czarna msza (1925)
  • Tysiąc dziwów prawdziwych (1925)
  • Słowa we krwi (1926)
  • Tajemnice amuletów i talizmanów (1926)
  • Strofy o późnym lecie
  • Rzecz czarnoleska (1929)
  • Jeździec miedziany (1932)
  • Biblia cygańska i inne wiersze (1932)
  • Jarmark rymów (1934)
  • Polski słownik pijacki i antologia bachiczna (1935)
  • Treść gorejąca (1936)
  • Bal w Operze (1936, published 1946)
  • Kwiaty polskie (1940–1946, published 1949)
  • Pegaz dęba, czyli panoptikum poetyckie (1950)
  • Piórem i piórkiem (1951)

Notes and references

  1. ^ Co nam zostało z tych latBiographical notes at his song on YouTube.
  2. ^ Julian Tuwim (1894-1953). Europejski Fundusz Rozwoju Regionalnego. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  3. ^ (English) Marci Shore (2006). Caviar and ashes: a Warsaw generation's life and death in Marxism, 1918-1968. New Haven, Conn.:  

Songs to Tuwim's poems

  • Karol Szymanowski - Słopiewnie for voice and piano, op. 46bis (1921)
  • Witold Lutosławski - Piosenki dziecinne (Children's Songs) (1952); Spóźniony słowik (The overdue nightingale, 1947), O Panu Tralalińskim ( About Mr. Tralalinski, 1947), for voice and piano (also arr. for orchestra)
  • Several of his poems were set to music by Zygmunt Konieczny and sung by Ewa Demarczyk, including Tomaszów and Grande Valse Brillante (this text is part of the Kwiaty Polskie poem, which references the Chopin composition several times)
  • Krzysztof Meyer - Quartettino for voice, flute, cello and piano (1966); Symphony No. 2 (1967); Spiewy polskie (Polish Songs) for voice and orchestra (1974)
  • David Bruce (composer) - Piosenki for soprano, baritone and ensemble (2006) - setting of 11 songs. Piosenki at David Bruce's website
  • Akurat - Do Prostego Człowieka
  • Czesław Niemen - Wspomnienie
  • Marek Grechuta - Mandarynki i pomarańcze

Further reading

  • Keane, Barry (2004) "Skamander. The Poets and Their Poetry.", Agade: Warszawa, ISBN 83-87111-29-5.
  • Mortkowicz-Olczakowa, Hanna (1961). "Bunt wspomnień." Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy.

External links

  • Julian Tuwim at
  • English translations of Julian Tuwim’s poetry
    • To the simple man (Do prostego człowieka, 1929)
    • The Dancing Socrates (Sokrates tańczący, translated by A. Gilloe)
    • The Locomotive (Lokomotywa, translated by Walter Whipple)
    • The Saturday Night Song
    • Grass
  • Julian Tuwim in English Translation (translated by Pacze Moj)
    • The ABCs ("Abecadło")
    • Bird ("Ptak")
    • Bird Radio ("Ptasie radio")
    • Birds Gossip ("Ptasie plotki")
    • Glasses ("Okulary")
    • Kitten ("Kotek")
    • Letters ("Litery")
    • Little River ("Rzeczka")
    • A Page from Human History ("Karta z dziejów ludzkości")
    • Scherzo
    • Storm (or Love) ("Burza (albo Miłość)")
    • Winter ("Zima")
  • Julian Tuwim We Polish Jews...
  • Julian Tuwim's poems in
  • Tuwim's Tensome Faces
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