The page of Chwin, Stefan, English biography
BiographyChwin, Stefan (born 1949) – author of fiction and essays, historian of literature and professor at Gdańsk University.
He made his debut as a writer of fiction, under the pseudonym Max Lars, with two fantasy adventure novels, Scorpion People (1985) and The Letter Man (1989). He gained attention with a book that lay midway between personal documentary and essay, The Short History of a Joke (1991), in which he recreated the cultural climate of his own childhood. It also revealed his fascination with past and present Gdańsk, a city with a thousand years of history, where cultures, languages and religions have always intermingled. Chwin was particularly interested in the relatively fresh traces left behind by the former (German) citizens of the Free City of Danzig. He tells the story of one of them, a fictional character of course, in his most acclaimed novel, Hanemann (1995). A wealth of plots and ideas, the novel is about the title hero, a Gdańsk doctor, who sinks into a depression following the death of his fiancée, and becomes a “living corpse”, although he does not have the courage to commit suicide. The upheavals of history, including the wartime destruction of Gdańsk and the takeover of the city by the Polish administration happen all around him. Finally a young woman who has been repatriated from the eastern borderlands of former Poland shakes him out of his torpor. She is another of life’s shipwrecks, and her suicide attempt, which Hanemann averts, is the turning point in his own life story. This novel was enthusiastically received by the critics and won lots of prizes. It is still regarded as one of the major works of late 20th century Polish fiction.