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Olga Scherer-Virski papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 526

Scope and Contents

The Olga Scherer-Virski Papers consist of letters, manuscripts, and personal papers documenting the life and work of Olga Scherer-Virski. The collection spans the years 1954-1988.

The collection is housed in 7 boxes and organized into two series: Correspondence and Other Papers. Boxes 5-7 contain Oversize, Restricted Fragile Papers, and Restricted Fragile Oversize material respectively.

Series I, Correspondence , is organized into two subseries: General Correspondence and Third Party Correspondence.

The collection consists chiefly of incoming letters from well over 50 correspondents, including Polish literary figures of the second half of the 20th century. The collection provides information on the lives of Scherer and other Polish authors of the period, many of whom lived in exile in Europe and the Americas. The principal correspondents include Witold Gombrowicz, Zbigniew Herbert, Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, Konstanty Jelenski, and Czeslaw Milosz.

Letters from Gombrowicz (1954-68) revolve around Scherer's attempts to translate and publish some of Gombrowicz's writings in English and French. Gombrowicz writes in a light tone, suggesting possible arrangements for the translation of his works, as well as repeatedly pointing to his extremely difficult financial situation as a Polish emigré author living in Argentina. The folder includes several outgoing letters.

Correspondence with Zbigniew and Katarzyna Herbert (1964-86) is friendly in nature and deals with visits of major Polish emigré figures, the literary work of several members of the circle, and relevant cultural events. There is a letter to Scherer from the Swedish Academy asking for her nomination for the Nobel Prize for Literature for the year 1984. Scherer nominates Zbigniew Herbert, pointing to the significance of his poetic series Mr. Cogito.

Letters from Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski (1964-81) are brief but friendly. Posted mainly from Naples, Italy, they focus on personal issues, as well as on the literary work of numerous Polish writers, including Mrozek, Gombrowicz, and Scherer.

Konstanty Jelenski (1962-87) was probably Scherer's closest friend among the correspondents represented in the collection. Jelenski advises Scherer on such subjects as health and emotional well-being, Scherer's relationship with Jan Lebenstein, writing, and translation. The folders include letters from Rena Jelenska, as well as a letter from Scherer summarizing her biographical information.

The three folders of letters from Czeslaw and Janka Milosz (1958-85) sketch a fascinating portrayal of the professional and personal concerns of the Polish Nobel Prize winner. Czeslaw Milosz writes in a rather somber tone, and ponders his role as a father, a husband, and also as a writer, teacher, and promoter of Polish literature in the U.S.

Other noteworthy correspondents in the collection include the painters Jan Lebenstein and Jozef Czapski; the journalist Aleksander Janta; Joseph Sadzik, a priest, publisher, and philosopher; Zofia Hertz, a key figure of the Polish Literary Institute in Paris; and various literary critics, scholars, and writers: Andrzej Kijowski, Zofia Kozarynowa, Artur Miedzyrzecki and Julia Hartwig, Slawomir Mrozek, Zofia Romanowicz, Alexander Schenker, Jerzy Stempowski, Adam Wazyk, and Jozef Wittlin.

There are also several outgoing letters whose style justifies Scherer's reputation as a "grande dame" of Polish letters. Czeslaw Milosz identified Scherer as the link between Poland and the Polish Parisian circle revolving around the journal Kultura. As the poet pointed out, Scherer was not only a literary scholar, but also a writer, one whose novels might be described as "campus" fiction in the vein of the works of Mary McCarthy or David Lodge. Outgoing letters are indicated in folder notes in the box list.

Third Party Correspondence, housed in box 4, contains four pieces of correspondence, and includes letters to Jelenski from Gombrowicz and Kijowski.

Series II, Other Papers , also housed in box 4, is organized into three small subseries: Writings, Subject Files, and Other Papers.

Of note in the Writings are Scherer's manuscript notes and fragments concerning translations of several Polish poems into French, including "Jaka spadnie kara" by Mickiewicz and "Bog mi odmowil..." by Krasinski. The Subject Files consist chiefly of clippings on Gombrowicz, Jelenski, Milosz, and Wat.

Oversize material, housed in box 5, contains items from Series I. Restricted Fragile Papers and Restricted Fragile Oversize are housed in boxes 6 and 7 respectively.


  • 1954-1988


Language of Materials

Chiefly in Polish; some materials in French.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 6-7: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Olga Scherer-Virski Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Olga Scherer-Virski Papers were acquired by purchase in 1990 on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund.


3.5 Linear Feet ((7 boxes) )

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of correspondence, writings, and personal papers documenting the life and work of Olga Scherer-Virski. There is personal and professional correspondence with Polish literary and cultural figures, other Polish emigres, publishers, and scholars. Correspondents include Jozef Czapski, Witold Gombrowicz, Julia Hartwig, Zbigniew Herbert, Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, Zofia Hertz, Aleksander Janta, Konstanty Jelenski, Andrej Kijowski, Jan Lebenstein, Artur Miedzyrzecki, Czeslaw Milosz, Slawomir Mrozek, Zofia Romanowiczowa, Alexander Schenker, Jerzy Stempowski, Adam Wazyk, and Jozef Wittlin. Writings include several translations of poems from Polish to French, and subject files include clippings on Gombrowicz, Jelenski, Milosz, and Aleksander Wat.


Olga Scherer-Virski was a Polish writer, literary scholar, and translator. She was born in Cracow, Poland, educated in the United States, where she completed her Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1952, and then held research affiliations and teaching positions at various institutions in the U.S. and France, including Bard College (1946-48,) Yale University (1953-57), Indiana University (1959-60), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (1961-65), and the Université de Paris (1969-). She is the author of The Modern Polish Short Story (1955), a novella for children (Spot Luck, 1957), and two novels, Wesolych Swiat (1962) and W Czas Morowy (1967). She also translated Manfred Kridl's A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture (1956).

Biographical information taken from Who's Who in the World (8th ed.) and the online Gale Biography Resource Center.

Processing Information

This material was formerly classed as Uncat MS Vault 592.

Guide to the Olga Scherer-Virski Papers
Under Revision
by Beinecke Staff
March 2005
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

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