Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński

Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński

Tadeusz Kamil Marcjan Żeleński (better known by his pseudonym, Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński; December 21, 1874- July 4, 1941) was a Polish gynaecologist, writer, journalist, poet, art critic, and above all a translator of French literary classics. One of the notable personalities in the Young Poland movement, Boy was considered the "enfant terrible" of the Polish literary scene in the first half of the 20th century.


Tadeusz Kamil Marcjan Żeleński (of the "Ciołek" coat-of-arms) was born December 21, 1874, in Warsaw, to Wanda, "née" Grabowska, and Władysław Żeleński, a prominent composer and musician. A cousin of Tadeusz's was the notable Polish poet, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer.

Since Warsaw was then under Russian rule, and education in Polish was forbidden, in 1892 Żeleński left for Kraków, in Austrian-ruled Galicia, where he enrolled at the Kraków University medical school.

Completing his studies in 1900, Żeleński began medical practice as a pediatrician. In 1906 he opened a practice as a gynaecologist, which gave him financial freedom. The same year, he co-organised the famous "Zielony Balonik" ("Green Balloon") cabaret, which gathered notable personalities of Polish culture, including his brother Edward and Jan August Kisielewski, Stanisław Kuczborski, Witold Noskowski, Stanisław Sierosławski, Rudolf Starzewski, Edward Leszczyński, Teofil Trzcińki, Karol Frycz, Ludwik Puget, Kazimierz Sichulski, Jan Skotnicki, Feliks Jasieński and Zenon Pruszyński.

In the sketches, poems, satirical songs, and short stories that he wrote for "Zielony Balonik", Boy-Żeleński criticized and mocked the conservative authorities and the two-faced morality of the city folk, but also the grandiloquent style of "Młoda Polska" and Kraków's bohemians. This earned him a reputation as the "enfant terrible" of Polish literature.

World War I and interbellum

At the outbreak of the Great War, Żeleński was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army, and served as a medic in railway troops.

After the war, he returned to Poland and, in 1922, moved to Warsaw. He did not return to his medical practice but instead focused entirely on writing. Working for various dailies and magazines, Boy-Żeleński soon became one of the authorities of the Polish liberal and democratic intelligentsia. He criticized the two-faced morality of the clergy, promoted the secularization of public life and culture, and was one of the strongest advocates for the equality of women. He was one of the first public figures in Poland to support abortion. Also, Boy-Żeleński often fought in his essays against the Polish romantic tradition, which he saw as irrational and as seriously distorting the way Polish society thought about its past.

In addition, Boy translated over 100 classics of French literature, which ever since have been considered among the best translations of foreign literature into Polish. In 1933, Boy-Żeleński was admitted to the prestigious Polish Academy of Literature.

World War II

After the outbreak of World War II, Boy-Żeleński moved to Soviet-occupied Lwów, where he stayed with his wife's brother-in-law. In Lviv, Boy joined the Soviet-led University as the head of the Department of French Literature. Criticized by many for his collaboration with the occupants, he maintained contacts with many prominent professors and artists, who found themselves in the city after the Polish Defensive War. He also took part in creation the propaganda newspaper "Czerwony Sztandart" (Red Banner) and became one of the prominent members of the Society of Polish Writers.

After Nazi Germany broke the Nazi-Soviet Alliance and attacked the USSR, Boy remained in Lviv. The city was captured on the night of July 4, 1941, and he was arrested and taken to the Wulka hills, where he was murdered, together with 45 other professors in what became known as the massacre of Lviv professors.

See also

* Physician writer
* Polish literature
* "Zielony Balonik"
* Culture of Kraków
* Photo at: http://www.wiw.pl/literatura/obrazki/autorzy_30.jpg

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