An old man—poet, playwright, essayist, and scholar—sifts through the broken fragments of his memory as he recounts what it was like to grow up in Warsaw during the German occupation of World War II. The result is Kinderszenen, a searing and controversial memoir by a major post-war Polish writer that has evoked both debate and praise, now translated into English for the first time.
The book’s title comes from the suite of piano pieces by Robert Schumann which evoke the innocence and joy of childhood—thus providing a wrenching counterpoint to the violence, destruction, and madness that characterize Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz’s coming of age.
While the scenes of his youth are depicted in vivid detail, from his boyish encounters with cats, horses, and turtles up to the shocking brutality of murder and mayhem witnessed at first hand, what really sets Kinderszenen apart is its extended meditation on the nature of war, oppression, and fanatical nationalism, and the possibility—however doomed it may seem—of human resistance to those forces. Here is an enduring testimony that remains starkly relevant to our own time.