This article explores the construction and various representations of Polish collective suffering and victimhood in Polish literature. It argues that the loss of independence (1795–1918) and the subsequent struggles to regain it can be read as Poland’s most important cultural trauma that heavily marked Polish identity. It discusses how the paradigm was created and established, as well as the unsuccessful struggle with the paradigm of suffering over the subsequent years. Overall, it argues that literature after 1945 lost its power over the national imagination as Polish identity is no longer bound by the past representations of suffering.

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