Abstract

Janusz Korczak’s last, unfinished book, written in the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, is known under a rather misleading title, Pamiętnik, rendered as Diary or Memoir in English. Long considered a collection of rough diaristic notations and confessional scribblings, it is valued as a testimonial document but denied, often enough, any artistic ambition. Some commentators go so far as to suggest that by 1942 Korczak, sixty-three or sixty-four at the time, was finished as a creative writer. This article, in contrast, argues that reading Pamiętnik only for documentary evidence is inadequate. At once building on and departing from commentaries by Irena Maciejewska and Jacek Leociak, I undertake to show that the importance of this rich and often enigmatic work lies not only in its documentary record but also in Korczak’s sophisticated exploration of literary form and rhetorical strategy and that, furthermore, attention to his artistic preoccupations helps recuperate aspects of the book that have been rendered invisible by its canonical status as a historical document. The larger goal of this reappraisal is to broaden an understanding of Korczak as writer and thinker and to recover him for cutting-edge experimental literature.

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