"There has not been a single man apart from [Aleksander] Wat on the whole Earth who has experienced the century as he did," wrote Czesław Miłosz about the eminent Polish poet Aleksander Wat.
The Wat's Century exhibit opened at the National Library Dec. 7. Katarzyna Raczkowska and Jan Zieliński are curators of the exhibit and Wat's son, Andrzej Wat, is acting as a consultant. The exhibit is part of the Congress of Polish Culture, but the preliminary project began in June 1998, since May 1, 2000 was the 100th anniversary of Wat's birth.
"He was a person of many aspects, who exemplifies a broad spectrum of intellectual, artistic, social and political phenomena of this century," said Zieliński. The title of the exhibit refers to Wat's diary, My Century, created from recorded conversations with Miłosz. According to Zieliński, Wat knew many of the most painful experiences of the 20th century, especially the two great totalitarian regimes, Nazi and Soviet, and a spiritual life that included Judaism, atheism and Catholicism.
This is the first large-scale exhibit dedicated to the writer. It includes photographs, press articles, letters, personal objects and books. Visitors can also listen to two unique tapes, a recording of the fifth chapter of My Century and of poems recited by Wat in the last weeks of his life. The exhibit shows the various stages of Aleksander Wat's life: his futurist adventure, participation in the national exhibition in Poznań in 1929, work for the Gebethner and Wolff Publishing House, editing Miesięcznik Literacki (Literary Monthly), his arrest connected with this position, and the war years. The exhibit also presents Wat's literary achievements and his long fight with his illness, which ended with his suicide in 1967. The material for the exhibit comes from the National Library's collection, the Museum of Literature, the American archives of the Hoover Institute, the Yale Library, Andrzej Wat, Georgy Grossman, and others.
Warsaw Voice is a media patron of the exhibit.
Anna Maria Wasieczko
Wat's Century (Wiek Wata), National Library, 213 Niepodległości Ave., through Jan. 31, 2001, Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.