The Marek Nowakowski Literary Award
The Marek Nowakowski award was founded by the National Library in 2017, three years after the death of the author. International Paper, one of the world’s leading producer of fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper, is the patron of the award.
The award for authors of prose, especially texts about Warsaw, is named after Marek Nowakowski, a prominent novelist, full of respect for the written word, a master of narrative small forms graced by an extraordinary ear for language, a publicist with great social sensitivity, a lover of cats and the streets of Warsaw, who knew intimately the lives of the city’s people.
In 2012 the author donated a significant part of his collection to the National Library. The award that bears his name, which is an expression of recognition for the demanding literary mastery of the small form, is presented for a story or series of stories that is characterised by unconventional views, bravery and precision of thought, as well for the beauty of words. Winners are selected each year by a jury appointed by the director of the National Library in consultation with the writer’s widow, Jolanta Nowakowska.
The motto of the award are Marek Nowakowski’s words We all have our roots. This strong statement of being from somewhere, from here, is embodied in the award statuette: the figure of Marek Nowakowski standing on a paving stone. The statuette was designed by Maciej Aleksandrowicz, an artist sensitive to the elements of urban space. Together with the statuette, winners receive prize money provided by the National Library from funds donated by International Paper on the 25 th anniversary of the company’s presence in Poland.
Born on April 2, 1935, in Warsaw, he is a master of short narrative forms and he drew much importance from the value of the word. He endeavoured to ‘search for words that adhere to the story’. Both in his work and his life he moved through the streets of Warsaw, peering into the city’s deepest corners, searching for its soul. Graced with an exceptional social and language sensitivity he portrayed the life of average city residents – people from the social margins and from metropolitan peripheries.
Nowakowski made his debut as an author in 1957 as a student of law at the University of Warsaw when his story Kwadratowy appeared in Nowa Kultura. A year later he completed his degree and published his first book, a collection of stories Ten stary złodziej.
In the 1960s and 1970s, his literary work, articles, and screenplays were published in the most important magazines, including „Twórczości”, „Więzi”, and „Tygodnik Powszechny”. In 1969, Nowakowski joined the Polish Writers Union, already having accumulated a renowned series of stories Benek Kwiaciarz, Silna gorączka, and Zapis, as well as the novels Trampolina and Robaki, which were superbly received by critics.
In 1976, Nowakowski signed Memorial 101, a protest by intellectuals against planned changes in the constitution of the People’s Poland, and in 1977 he co-created the independent literary quarterly „Zapis”, published without censorship, for which he was persecuted by the authorities. At the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, he published the series of novels: Książę Nocy and Chłopak z gołębiem na głowie, while the Literary Institute in Paris published his Raport o stanie wojennym and Notatki z codzienności. He regularly cooperated with Polish journalists in exile, and further books were published by independent publishers such as NOWA or Krąg. In 1984, Nowakowski was accused of activity detrimental to the interests of the People’s Republic of Poland. It was only in 1990 that the case was dropped by the Supreme Military Court due to a lack of evidence.
At the turn of the 20 th and 21 st centuries, Nowakowski published numerous collections of stories and sketches as memoires, such as Powidoki,Nekropolis, and Dziennik podróży w przeszłość, while at the end of his life he wrote his literary autobiography Pióro. Marek Nowakowski died on May 16, 2014, in Warsaw.