Wojciech Kuczok was born in the Polish city of Chorzów in 1972. He studied at the University of Silesia in nearby Katowice and worked for the weekly newspaper »Tygodnik Powszechny« and the monthly publications »Res Publica Nowa« and »Kino«. He also wrote poetry and prose. His collection of stories »Opowieści slychane« (1999; t: Heard-of Stories) was nominated for the most prestigious Polish literature prize, »Nike«. He was awarded this accolade four years later for his first novel »Gnój« (2003; Eng. »Muck«, 2007), which sold over 100.000 copies in Poland and provoked outrage in some readers. The drastic depiction of family K. from Upper Silesia highlights a bleak vicious circle of bigotry, joylessness and brutality. In the first section, the author recounts a prequel from an undefined narrative voice, after which a first person narrator becomes apparent in the following section. He describes his childhood solely in terms of humiliation, particularly because of his father, »old K.«, who often beats him. In the final section the protagonist feels utterly destroyed and tells of his fantasy of revenge, in which the house is flooded with slurry and collapses with the hated family members inside.
Through concise descriptions, impressive images and coherent dialogue, Kuczok creates episodes which combine seriousness and humour, mockery and melancholy, tragedy and comedy, distance and empathy, explicitness and ambiguity. The author is considered an outstanding stylist and captivates the reader with subtle and musical text construction. His novel is often compared to the works of Witold Gombrowicz. Realistic portrayals traverse into the grotesque and surreal and establish scope for biting, existential critique.
Kuczok wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of the novel. Half a million people in Poland went to see »Pręgi« (t: Striae), which was awarded first prize at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Kuczok’s story collection entitled »Widmokrąg« (2004; t: In the Sphere of Ghosts) was translated into German by 2006. The sinister side of love is presented in five short stories and four even shorter stories described as »interludes«. The author exercised a lucid critique of bigotry and nationalism in his native country in the essay »Observations on Catholic Nationalism«, which was published in the newspaper »Sprache im technischen Zeitalter« in 2007. Most recently he published »To piekielne kino« (2006; t: Hellish Cinema), a collection of fifteen essays about scandalous films by directors such as Pasolini, Haneke, von Trier and Greenaway. Kuczok defends the transgression of boundaries and breaking of taboos in the areas of death, sexuality and violence with an articulate cultural critique of the shallowness of »Pop-cinema«. The author lives in Krakow and Chorzów. Presently he is a guest of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin.
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