Archive for the ‘Tadeusz Borowski’ Category

david gee

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

I love David Gee‘s cover for This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.

From my essay:

“In one cover, Peter Chmela uses the device of a documentary-like image, a ‘realistic’ grainy and overexposed black and white photograph, its authority further reinforced by the use of a font modelled on jumpy mid-20th century typewriter text. The typical response to such indicators is automatic: it is seen as objective, matter of fact, historical; in other words, a cover befitting the gravity of the subject, a methodology commonly used when the imprimatur of verity is needed or sought (take for example, the use of black and white photography in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List, a half century after the advent of Technicolor’s three-strip process).

David Gee on the other hand, quite consciously used no such indicators, explaining that the idea for his cover

came after noticing that there is a common visual language for books of this nature: black and white imagery, black letter text, grungy effects; all employed to do most of the work for the reader. I used a colour photograph to contemporize the cover and emphasize that these events did not occur in black and white. They happened on beautiful days as often as they did on overcast, grey, gloomy days, and this only serves to deepen the horror.


Gee also took pains to clarify his use of the particularly legible font:

The type itself is set in DIN which was adopted by the German government in the late 1930s.[i] It was borne of a need and desire for ‘standardization and simplification’ (conveniently, Germans could read the new pan-European road and rail signs from their tanks) but the fact that these two words had greater and parallel ideological implications makes it all the more chilling.

Upon request Gee agreed to share his initial idea whose sombre black and white cover and funereal font support his argument above. Beautiful, stately and perhaps appropriate in any other context, the austere design is elegiac, verging on the heroic, and vaguely fascistic. Gee obviously realized it was quite wrong for this ‘anti-redemptory’ collection of stories and instead chose the direction above.”

[i] The German standards organization Deutsches Institut für Normung adopted the font, known as DIN 1451 in 1936.

Anna Zyśko

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Anna ZyskoAfter the grueling efforts on the part of our five distinguished jurors to determine a winner with initially no consensus among them (luckily, I was not one of them!), we are relieved and very pleased to finally congratulate the winner of our Book Cover Contest No.4, Anna Zyśko of Tarnobrzeg, Poland, for her wonderful cover. Truly, this was an almost impossibly difficult contest and we are grateful to every one of the 241 entrants from 44 countires who courageously took part in the endeavor and who submitted many interesting and well-designed covers. Below are are six covers that we like (click on each for larger image). You can view all of the entries here. Again, thank you all, and stay tuned for No.5!

gary_gowanspeter_chmeladamian_ langoszRazvan_Mitoiuagata_jakubowskaneven_udovicic

Top Row, Left to Right: Gary Gowans, Fife, Scotland; Peter Chmela, Blatná na Ostrove, Slovakia.

Middle Row, Left to Right: Damian Langosz, Krośnica, Poland; Razvan Mitoiu, Ploiesti, Romania.

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Agata Jakubowska, Lodz, Poland; Neven Udovičić, Zminj, Croatia.

Anna studied under Professor Piotr Lech and received her Diploma in Graphic Design in 2009 from the Art Institute of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. When contacted, she had the following to say about her cover:

As I am from Poland I have been to Auschwitz and currently living in Lublin I have also seen Majdanek. Books by Tadeusz Różewicz and Zofia Nałkowska were required reading when I was a teenager. Seeing and reading about it was a memorable, shocking experience which I used when designing the cover.

Camp barbed wires are compounded in the title and author’s name, but the background shows blue sky – in order to underline that the book not only describes in detail the everyday life of prisoners who were killed but also shows that a few of them survived.

borowski competition update

Friday, July 30th, 2010

here in our aushwitzThe deadline for our Book Cover Design Contest No. 4 on Tadeusz Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen is exactly one month away! We have assembled an impressive list of jurors, some of whom will be familiars to frequenters of this site: Alicia Nitecki, John Guzlowski, Jae Rossman, Barbara Girs, and Marco Sonzogni.  For a little inspiration here is the working cover design for the forthcoming Yale University Press London translation of Borowski’s stories (translated by Madeline Levine, Professor of Slavic Literatures, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill). It’s worth noting that this translation contains twenty stories in addition to the twelve that comprise This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (incidentally, the title story is here translated as “Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Come to the Gas.”). I have my doubts that this will be the actual cover, since YUP London used that image on last year’s The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City by Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak.

9780300116908Yale University Press New Haven shows a different and I’d say less interesting cover on their website (left), although something tells me this won’t be the actual cover either.

We are grateful to the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles for their partnership in this important competition!

A complete list of rules is here (in English) and here (polski tekst).

byliśmy w oświęcimiu

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

bylismy w oswiecimiuI am indebted to Alicia Nitecki for sending me this image of the 1958 edition of Byliśmy w Oświęcimiu (We Were in Auschwitz) published by Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej with a cover designed by Miroslaw Pokora (1933 – 2006) an artist perhaps best known for his illustrations of children’s books.

pożegnanie z marią, tadeusz borowski, 1948

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Pożegnanie z MariąPożegnanie z Marią, (the U.S. title is This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, the subject of our Book Cover Contest #4) , was first published in Warsaw in 1948 by Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza “Wiedza” with a cover designed by concentration camp survivor Maria Hiszpańskiej-Neumann (1917 – 1980). Hiszpańskiej-Neumann, trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and a member of the resistance during the German occupation, was arrested in April 1941, and imprisoned in Radom and Pińczów. In April 1942 she was transferred to Ravensbruck, the Reich’s largest women’s camp, ultimately finding herself in the armaments factory at Neubrandenburg, one of its 70 slave-labor sub-camps. While interned she made hundreds of drawings of camp life, few of which remain.  During a forced death march from the camp April 1945 just prior to liberation she escaped and after the war worked as a commercial and fine artist in a wide variety of media.

anatol girs and “we were in auschwitz” by siedlecki, olszewski, borowski

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Written by Janusz Nel Siedlecki, Krystyn Olszewski, and Tadeusz Borowski but widely attributed to Borowski (a note in Postal indiscretions: The Correspondence of Tadeusz Borowski, edited by Tadeusz Drewnowski and translated by Alicia Nitecki states that Borowski became “not only the author of the few stories for which he is known, but also the author of texts based on the other people’s accounts, co-author of most of the other stories, and also of the editing work (preface, dictionary, forewords to the stories, etc.)”), We Were in Auschwitz (also translated by Nitecki) was largely the brainchild of Anatol Girs, a graphic artist and publisher who Borowski met in 1945 while both were imprisoned in Dachau (Prior to being moved to Dachau, Girs, like Borowski, was also imprisoned in Auschwitz) and with whom Borowski worked at the Polish Red Cross in Munich immediately after the war. It was Girs who encouraged Borowski, known primarily as a poet, to write prose (his stark and wrenching poems, many of which were written at Auschwitz, unfortunately remain unpublished in an English translation although some can be found online).

we were in auschwitzWe Were in Auschwitz (Byliśmy w Oświęcimiu) was published in 1946 in Munich by Girs’ Oficyna Warszawska na Obczyznie. His evocative design for the cover reproduced the prison stripes of the camp uniforms and, incredibly, some unknown quantity of copies were actually bound with fabric from concentration camp uniforms themselves (a 2002 exhibit at Yale University on the work of Girs curated by Jae Jennifer Rossman displayed two such copies owned by Girs’ daughter Barbara). The copy on the left is in the collection on Professor Nitecki.  The red triangle denotes, in the classification system used at Auschwitz and elsewhere, a “political” prisoner, (meaning almost certainly a Polish national); the number 6643 was the actual camp number of Janusz Siedlecki. The title page prominently lists the camp number of each author next to his name, Borowski’s, 119198, being the highest. Incidentally, the English translation by Nitecki published by Welcome Rain in 2000 faithfully reproduces the original cover. But, perhaps even more gut-wrenching than the copies bound in fabric from camp uniforms is Girs’ personal copy, also in the Yale exhibit (from the collection of Barbara Girs), hand bound in leather cut from an SS officer’s coat and embellished front and back with a strand of barbed wire and embossed on the spine with the image of a cracked skull. DSC00099



















Very special thanks to Alicia Nitecki, Jae Jennifer Rossman and Barbara Girs.

book cover design contest #4: this way for the gas ladies and gentleman, tadeusz borowski

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

this way for the gasI am excited about our latest contest. I was recently introduced to the work of Polish writer, journalist, and poet  Tadeusz Borowski (1922-1951) through his brilliant and unsettling short story collection This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (originally published in Poland as Pożegnanie z Marią) based on Borowski’s experiences from 1943-1945 as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Dachau and later in a camp for displaced persons (upon which, incidentally, Andrzej Wajda‘s fantastic 1970 film Landscape After Battle is based. Wajda, of course, is the Polish filmmaker best known for his superb works Ashes and Diamonds (1958) and the recent Katyn (2007).). When first published, Borowski’s unfliching, almost clinical, accounts resulted in accusations of decadence and nihilism, but now his unadorned prose appears truly courageous in its clarity and honesty. We are pleased to have as our patron the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles.

We told them with much relish about our patient, concentration camp existence which has taught us that the whole world really is like the concentration camp; the weak work for the strong, and if they have no strength or will to work – then let them steal, or let them die.

 The world is ruled by neither justice nor morality; crime is not punished nor virtue rewarded, one is forgotten as quickly as the other. The world is ruled by power and power is obtained with money. To work is senseless because money cannot be obtained through work but through exploitation of others. And if we cannot exploit as much as we wish, at least let us work as little as we can. Moral duty? We believe in neither the morality of man, nor in the morality of systems. In German cities the stores are filled with books and religious objects, but the smoke from the crematoria still hovers above the forests…

Won’t you participate? Rules here (polski tekst).