Thursday, January 10, 2013

APPRECIATION: Banu on Andrzej Zurowski

Georges Banu
Honorary President
In Memoriam: Andrzej Zurowski
By Georges Banu
Honorary President of the IATC
Translated by Michel Vaïs with Lissa Tyler Renaud

We are of the same generation, born in the same year: 2013 was supposed to be our year to have a private party together. I was expecting the publication of a book about him, being prepared for him by Anna Cetera in Warsaw, hoping that the illness would wait, that it would allow him some respite, that it would perhaps forget him. It did not. It did not accord Andrzej the additional time that would have done him so much good! I know that when the end is expected, every day—let alone every month, every year—is important. Today we, his friends, go on but, just as in war, some fall, others weaken, and all hope for another day. Like Andrzej! But he did not get one. Let us hope that this book devoted to him will be published soon, knowing how much he would have liked to hold it in his hands.

Andrzej was intensely active in the life of the International Association of Theatre Critics, and our organization benefited from his sense of duty, as well as from his joie de vivre. These were both indistinguishable and excessive. He was never a man of half-measures. All that he undertook—meetings, two congresses, especially the one in Gdansk—bore the hallmark of his personality. He was in no way indifferent, in no way a neutral person protecting himself. He was always present, diving deep into work or pleasure.

Reading his book on Shakespeare in the Romanian version, I recognized his freedom, his sense of humor, and equally his capacity for bringing culture closer to the human, to life, to perception. This is a book which the younger generations will always be happy to consult! I did not have access to his critical activity for linguistic reasons, but, when we shared our opinions, his were always clear, trenchant, neat—without being rigid. He knew what he liked and what he did not like. And he was never ready for a compromise! This explains the courage he often showed by leaving a room and, tall as he was, his departure never went unnoticed: the meaning of his exit was an uncompromising value judgment.

Andrzej Zurowski (1944-2013)
Photo: Adam Warżawa/Archivum

He managed to follow his path throughout the long night of the Polish state of siege, saving his integrity without, however, going along with the activists in his city of Gdansk. I saw him as a Brechtian character on a quest for survival, similar to Shen-Te in The Good Woman of Setzuan: How is it possible to live when everything prevents you from living? Many were those confronted, in the East, with this painful quartering. Andrzej confronted it and found his answer: at the heart of history, at the center of those fights.

Zurowski loved Shakespeare and the theatre, life and the stage, indistinct from one another, everywhere in the world. He did not separate them, he immersed himself in them with full and present confidence, every passing day. We were often together during meetings, and, with an indiscreet eye, I spied on his open notebook when I was bored. I was always puzzled to see Andrzej relentlessly crossing out all that was already accomplished, every day that had passed: he made a tabula rasa of the past by blackening it to the point that it became unreadable, indecipherable. He kept blank only the pages for the time to come, as if he never wished to return to his actual experience, only to move forward, free, towards some horizon of actions, passions, future dramas. As for me, ”captive lover” of the past, I envied him—but at the same time, this rage for oblivion worried me.

We were born in the same year and we became honorary leaders of IATC at the same time—a sign when the time comes to move to the margins—and today, I write these lines about him with the sadness inherent in any ending of a life. But he knew how to live!

Monday, January 7, 2013

MEMORIAM: Andrzej Zurowski Remembered

Polish theatre critic, Andrzej Zurowski, died January 5 at the age of 68 from complications related to a long battle with leukemia. Theatre critics from around the globe mourned his passing in e-mails circulated among leaders and members of the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC).

It was impossible to meet Zurowski and not be impressed with his global knowledge--in every sense--of theatre. He was at home discussing the relative merits of Shakespeare production no matter the setting, no matter the language of the performance. His many enthusiasms were well known within the Polish theatre community as well as among those who cared about the art form throughout the world.

IATC President Yun-Cheol Kim noted that Zurowski's death is a "greal loss to the Polish theatre community" but also to the international community. Zurowski served as an International Vice President of IATC who was instrumental in keeping Polish theatre and Polish theatre criticism engaged with ongoing global discourse. He was afforded the high honor of the title "Honorary Vice President" of IATC for his outstanding service to the profession and to the art form. Among many other honors, he was saluted in 2010 by the Minister of Culture in Armenia and awarded a medal for his service to Armenian theatre at a private ceremony in Yerevan. Sceretary General Michel Vaïs was among those to remark that Zurowski "served in so many ways for a long time. He always had new projects to propose."

Zurowski's Polish colleague Tomasz Milkowski, who organized the 2012 Warsaw Congress for IATC, celebrated the late critic as a man full of energy, wit, and wisdom. Iran's Katayoun Hosseinzadeh Salmasi said "words cannot express the heartache" felt internationally by this loss. Don Rubin of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association wrote that Zurowski was a "man of vision as well as of action. He made important things happen in the worlds of scholarship and criticism." Lawrence DeVine, an emeritus member of the American Theatre Critics Association and continuing International Committee member, wrote "he was my oldest friend in IATC. We met in Tel Aviv in 1981" and had many wonderful times "around the world in the years since."

Zurowski's prolific career included 23 published books, ten of which were focused on the work of Shakespeare. He also lectured in the Theatre Department of the Polish Studies Institute at Pomeranian University. His most recent research centered on Helena Modjeska, which took him to the United States where he had planned to visit in the near future.