07 Oct Dołęga-Mostowicz. An A-class writer of B-class novels.
Dołęga-Mostowicz was born into a gentry family, the son of Stefan Mostowicz, wealthy lawyer, and Stanislawa Popowicz. Dołęga was his family’s coat of arms. Circa 1915 he graduated from a gymnasium (type of school) in Vilnius and went to study law in Kiev where he also joined the Polish Military Organisation. After the Great War finished it appeared that Okuniewo would fall outside of Poland’s newly established borders, however, the Dołęga-Mostowicz family managed to move and settle in independent Poland. The writer moved to Warsaw where in 1918 he voluntarily joined the army and took part in the Polish and Soviet war, before retiring in 1922. During his time in Warsaw he began his adventure in journalism starting as a type-setter, moving on to become an editor, and finally – a journalist. In 1925 he was received as a member of the Rzeczpospolita [The Republic] daily newspaper. The paper was a pro-governmental periodical of sympathies towards the gentry and the nobles, manifested national and democratic values, and was openly critical towards Pilsudski.
After the May Coup of 1926 Mostowicz’s political publications under the nom de plume of C.hr.Zan [Polish: chrzan; the horseradish] angered many radical advocates of the Sanacja regime. In his articles Mostowicz analysed political scandals, such as the imprisonment of General Juliusz Malczewski, the disappearance of General Wlodzimierz Zagorski, and an assault on Jerzy Zdziechowski. He continued to do so until he himself was the victim of an assault. In September 1927 Mostowicz was kidnapped by “unknown perpetrators” and taken to a forest where he was severely beaten and thrown into a clay-pit. He survived by chance, thanks to a passer-by. The incident was widely described in newspapers in opposition to the Sanacja government which accused the government of being the inspiration for this crime. Such allegations were strongly denied by the authorities.
In 1928, following a long recovery process, Mostowicz decided to move away from politics and began his career as a writer. His first novel, Ostatnia Brygada [The Last Brigade], was published in Katowice in the Polonia newspaper. It was a political novel the title of which sneeringly referred to the military origins of Sanacja, namely the legendary First Brigade. Mostowicz’s debut did not go unnoticed, however, it was his Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy [The Career of Nikodem Dyzma], Published in 1932, which brought him real success. The novel was a grotesque on contemporary political mechanisms and class inequality within inter war Poland. Following this publication Mostowicz would write two books per year (in total he wrote 17 novels) receiving fabulous salaries from publishers (app. 15,000 Polish Zloty per calendar month). He also wrote a number of movie scripts which were turned into films. In 1935 he purchased a luxurious apartment in a prestigious area of Warsaw (Rembelinski Palace at Piusa XI Street, number 10. Presently Aleje Ujazdowskie 6a).
Being an affluent writer, Mostowicz was also involved in charity. He provided financial support to the needy and founded scholarships.
In 1929 he was mobilized as a soldier of the Polish Army reserves. He served as a corporal and took an active part in battles against the German and Soviet aggressors. Military operations took him to Kresy where he was killed by Soviet soldiers in Kuty, close to the Romanian border. The exact date of his death is uncertain, most likely occurring on September 18 or 20.
It is also unclear how Mostowicz was killed. It is generally agreed that he died during a fire exchange between the Polish and Soviet armies. According to an eye-witness – Zygmunt Antoszewski – the writer wanted to take some bread which was found in a deserted military stock house and give it to the starving residents of Kuty. During his humanitarian mission he was to be taken by surprise and shot by Soviet tanks, dyeing under the rain of bullets shot at him from a machine gun. Another account tells a story of a brutal murder at the hands of the Red Army soldiers who either decided it took Mostowicz too long to lay down his weapons or, what is also highly possible, were angered when he refused to hand his boots over to one of the “liberators”.
The mortal remains of Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz were initially buried at a local cemetery with a headstone with Ukrainian writing on it. Mostowicz’s body lay in this modest grave until 1978 when his ashes were brought back to Warsaw and buried in Powazki catacombs (pillar 113-3).
Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz’s fans admired his talent for creating full-bodied characters and storytelling. His novels are constructed around thrilling plots, told with an animated narration, spoonful of irony and a pinch of harsh criticism towards political elites. Better yet, Mostowicz was able to skilfully transfer to paper his perceptive view on the different lifestyles of society’s classes. His main protagonists, however, are not exclusively utter careerists, refined swindlers, immoral politicians, roistering officers or foreign secret agents. He also creates characters who are extremely likeable and evoke pity, such as simple public officer who got sacked (Doktor Murek zredukowany [Doctor Murek Reduced], Drugie życie doktora Murka [The Second Life of Doctor Murek]), or a famous surgeon who suffers from memory loss (Znachor [The Quack] and Professor Wilczur [Professor Wilczur]). Mostowicz did not shy away from writing novels aimed typically at women, namely love stories with women as main characters. These novels (Trzecia plec [The Third Sex], Świat pani Malinowskiej [Ms Malinowska’s World], Złota maska [The golden Mask] and Wysokie progi [The Mansion]) were less acclaimed by the critics but loved by women readers. Interestingly, a novel entitled Czeki bez pokrycia [Uncovered Cheques], a bitter criticism of Sanacja rule, for many years has been considered by literature historians as another one of Mostowicz’s books. Wrongly so. It was Jerzy Zdziechowski who was the true author of the novel. He purposefully imitated Mostowicz’s style of writing and published it under the name of “W. M. Deborog”.
The fate of Dołęga-Mostowicz’s books in post-war Poland is a rather sad one. Most of his works (with the exception of The Career of Nikodem Dyzma, The Quack, and Professor Wilczur, which were deemed as critical of Sanacja) were censored which in reality meant they were removed from libraries and it was forbidden to print them in whole or in part. After the political thaw of 1956 the restrictions were partially lifted but it wasn’t until the rise of the Third Republic of Poland (in the late 1980s and early 1990s) when all of his novels were finally available in print. Their reception, however, was not as enthusiastic as in the 1930s).
Prior to the Second World War many of Mostowicz’s novels were adopted for the screen and became contemporary blockbusters:
Prokurator Alicja Horn [Prosecutor MS Alicja Horn] (1933) – with Jadwiga Smosarska as Alicja Horn.
The Quack (1937) with Kazimierz Junosz-Stepowski,
Professor Wilczur (1938) – sequel for The Quack,
The Last Brigade (1938),
Doctor Murek (1939),
Trzy Serca [Three Hearts] (1939),
The Golden Mask (1939).
The 1939 film entitled Testament Profesora Wilczura [Professor Wilczur’s Last Will] was based on a specially written script that was not released in the form of a novel.
The last film based on Mostowicz’s works – Przygody pana Piorunkiewicza [The Adventures of Mr Piorunkiewicz], was not completed due to the outbreak of war.
In the years following the end of the Second World War the following films were made:
Nikodem Dyzma (1956) – with Adolf Dymsza playing the main part,
Pamiętnik pani Hanki [Hanka’s Diary] (1963),
The Quack (1981) directed by Jerzy Hoffman.
His novels served also as basis for TV series:
The Career of Nikodem Dyzma (1980) – with Roman Wilhelmi as Nikodem Dyzma.
The 2002 film entitled Kariera Nikosia Dyzmy is only loosely based on the original novel.
Author: Piotr Galik