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Aleksander Wat papers

 Collection
Call Number: GEN MSS 705

Scope and Contents

The papers document the life and writings of Aleksander Wat, from his early poetry in the 1910s to the posthumous publication of his work by his wife Paulina (Ola Watowa) and by Czesław Miłosz. Early material (prior to the end of the Second World War) is sparse and consists chiefly of correspondence, personal documents and photographs. Among the early material is documentation of the Wat family's exile in Kazakhstan. Later material includes numerous notebooks that contain drafts of poetry and prose writings, and the audio recordings that formed the basis for Mój wiek. Two folders of lists and notes document the contents and organization of the material as it was received by the Beinecke Library are filed at the beginning of the collection.

The papers are of interest not only to researchers studying Wat's creative process and the context of his life, but also twentieth-century Polish literature, the relationship of authors to Soviet society, and the postwar Eastern European émigré literary community in France. Wat's repeated arrests and exile are documented in his notebooks, in personal papers, and in material related to his memoirs. His relationship to the émigré circle centered around the monthly Kultura in France is documented in correspondence with Jerzy Giedroyć, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, Konstanty Jeleński, and Zygmunt Hertz. The posthumous success of his writings is documented in Paulina Wat's Correspondence in Series I, and in posthumously-dated material in the Writings series, which chiefly relates to the editing, translating, and publishing work of Paulina Wat and Czesław Miłosz.

Dates

  • 1915-1988

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials in Polish, English, French and other languages.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile Papers may be consulted only with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies and access copies of sound recordings for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Aleksander Wat Papers is 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

Purchased from Paulina Wat on the Edwin J. and Frederick W. Beinecke Rare Book Fund, 1988.

Arrangement

Organized into five series: I. Correspondence, 1940-1985. II. Writings, 1942-1982. III. Personal Papers and Memorabilia, 1915-1985. IV. Writings of Others, 1921-1988. V. Printed Material, 1920-1978.

Extent

22.83 Linear Feet (48 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.wat

Overview

The papers document the life and writings of Aleksander Wat, from his early poetry in the 1910s to the posthumous publication of his work by his wife Paulina and by Czesław Miłosz. Early material (prior to the end of the Second World War) is sparse and consists chiefly of correspondence, personal documents and photographs. Among the early material is documentation of the Wat's exile in Kazakhstan. Later material includes numerous notebooks that contain drafts of poetry and prose writings, and the audio recordings that formed the basis for his memoir Mój wiek.
The papers are of interest not only to researchers studying Wat's creative process and the context of his life, but also twentieth-century Polish literature, the relationship of authors to Soviet society, and the postwar Eastern European émigré literary community in France. Wat's repeated arrests and exile are documented in his notebooks, in personal papers, and in material related to his memoirs. His relationship to the émigré circle centered around the monthly Kultura in France is documented in correspondence with Jerzy Giedroyć, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, Konstanty Jeleński, and Zygmunt Hertz. The posthumous success of his writings is documented in Paulina Wat's Correspondence in Series I, and in posthumously-dated material in the Writings series, which chiefly relates to the editing, translating, and publishing work of Paulina Wat and Czesław Miłosz.

Aleksander Wat, 1900-1967

Aleksander Wat, poet, translator, critic, and co-founder of the Polish Futurism movement, was born Aleksander Chwat in 1900 in Warsaw, Poland. His early volumes of poetry include JA z jednej strony i JA z drugiej strony mego mopsożelaznego piecyka (ME from One Side and ME from the Other Side of My Pug Iron Stove, 1920) and Bezrobotny Lucyfer (Lucifer Unemployed, 1927). Wat's career was thwarted for decades during the Second World War and the Soviet era, as he was repeatedly imprisoned for political reasons and, with his wife Paulina (Ola Watowa) and son Andrzej, exiled to Kazakhstan. From the 1950s on, he suffered from a debilitating neurological illness (diagnosed as Wallenberg's syndrome) that also significantly impeded his writing. In 1959 he emigrated to France, where he lived until his suicide in 1967. In 1963-1964 he had a visiting appointment at the University of California, Berkeley, where he collaborated with Czesław Miłosz to record his memoirs. Wat continued to write prose and poetry in his later years. Much of this later writing was published posthumously, including Dziennik bez samogłosek (Diary Without Vowels) and Mój wiek (My Century), memoirs that recount his experience of twentieth-century Eastern European literary and political history.

Processing Information

The Aleksander Wat Papers were formerly classified as Uncat MS Vault 526.

Student assistant Ewelina Rudnicka assisted in the processing of this collection.

Boxes 15-17 and folders 401-417 are unused. Original audiotape reels are housed in boxes 47-49. Restricted fragile material.
Title
Guide to the Aleksander Wat Papers
Author
by Lisa Conathan
Date
2009
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977