Slawomir Mrozek – Adam Tarn, Letters 1963-1975

Sławomir Mrozek, Adam Tarn, photo by Wojciech Plewinski.

It’s hard to believe, but Adam Tarn is still a little-known figure. Perhaps because he was the hero of the background all his life, and the heroes of the background already have such a thing that they become unrecognizable after the performance. Therefore, the volume of Adam Tarn’s correspondence with Sławomir Mrożek, published in 2009 by Wydawnictwo Literackie, is a unique testimony to the real role Tarn played in the history of Polish theater. To the letters, the publisher added the memories of two closest friends from Tarno’s surroundings and an insightful critical study by Maria Prussak. One might think that an almost monumental publication was created in this way, which is a tribute to the discoverer of Mrożek’s talent, but the opposite is true. The book was written as another volume of Sławomir Mrożek’s letters to various people with whom he had correspondent friendship.
As in any well-structured drama, Adam Tarn’s biography contains many key moments and turning points, but two of them were the most important and determined his professional position. The first turning point takes place in 1956, when Tarn created the monthly “Dialog” – a magazine devoted to film and radio theater dramaturgy. He was then 54 years old, and the “Dialog” magazine was to fulfill his dream of a real dialogue between artists living on both sides The place behind the desk of the editor-in-chief of the magazine, which shaped the repertoire of Polish theaters, was a spectacular highlight: Dialog then printed texts by the most important contemporary playwrights, which was his personal contribution to Adam Tarn.
The second breakthrough event in Tarn’s biography was Sławomir Mrożek’s debut in “Dialog”, when he himself recedes into the background and begins to explore the talent of the young playwright. The story about the cable sent by Tarn after reading the manuscript of “Police” was repeated many times by Mrożek on various occasions: “We print immediately! Come to Warsaw!” – that was the message. Adam Tarn will play the supporting role of Mrożek’s promoter until the end of his life. In his letters, Mrożek does not hide his gratitude for his “discoverer”. In one of them, sent after more than six months of absence from Poland, Mrożek writes to Tarno:

“I can read books in English or French with full satisfaction, but I have to listen to theater in Polish, because it is not a living word, theater for nothing. When I talk about theater as a phenomenon, I mean everything, actors met in private, backstage visits, directors, scenery, gossip, premieres and hundredth performances. Everything, including my coming to the “Dialogue”, to the Lord behind the desk over the typescript and newspapers, coffee that appears soon, people who were already there or were about to come “(Letter to Tarn of February 28, 1964).
The entire book is an invaluable biographical source, but also a testimony to the splendor of Polish theater in the 1960s. In my opinion, it is also a must-read for anyone who would like to understand the functioning mechanism of repertoire theater. I recommend it to everyone.