The page of Gretkowska, Manuela, English biography
Manuela Gretkowska (born 1964) – novelist, essayist, screenwriter and columnist. After reading philosophy at the Jagiellonian University she went abroad to Paris for several years. Her early novels are about this city and what it is like to be not exactly an émigré an “eternal student”, and have a strongly autobiographical tone. My zdyes emigranty [Russian for “We’re immigrants here”] (1991), Parisian Tarot (1993), The Metaphysical Cabaret (1994), and especially A Guidebook to People (1996) are all devoid of any clearly outlined story. The element Gretkowska indulges in is the digressive essay, including lots of interludes in the form of reportage, memoir or parody. The hybrids of style and genre that she enjoys are part of the problem with her books, because a sort of “neurotic personality of our times” looms out of them, a portrait of late 20th century Western Man as horrifying as it is comical. He is a whirl of contradictory ideas, has no coherent system of values, and easily succumbs to quickly changing intellectual and moral fashions. In the mid-1990s, when Gretkowska’s effective and controversial prose provoked the biggest stir, the Polish public was disoriented. People kept asking the question, is she merely reproducing the spiritual landscape and intellectual climate of the era, or is she creating an image of the world that has nothing to do with (not only Polish) reality? Is she seeking out and describing the paradoxes of decadent, late-20th-century civilisation, or is she trying to be intellectually and morally provocative, trying to shock us with everything that’s scandalous and heretical, the stuff of transgression? The controversy was never resolved, but meanwhile Manuela Gretkowska has seriously reformed her way of writing.