Piotr Pazdej wins the 2024 Marek Nowakowski Literary Award - News - The National Library


Piotr Pazdej wins the 2024 Marek Nowakowski Literary Award

Left to right: Piotr Pazdej, Professor Maciej Urbanowski, Jolanta Nowakowska, Dr Tomasz Makowski

The 2024 Marek Nowakowski Literary Award has been awarded to Piotr Pazdej for his work Ostatnia sarna na ziemi – for its superbly constructed, economical, precise and realistic descriptions of a ruined world in the near future which force the reader to reflect on the human condition today and the condition of the modern world.

Piotr Pazdej received the award at a ceremony held on May 27, 2024 in the newly opened Palace of the Commonwealth in Warsaw. He was presented with a certificate and a statuette made of bronze and granite, designed and made by Professor Maciej Aleksandrowicz. Professor Maciej Urbanowski, Chair of the Jury, and Dr Tomasz Makowski, Director General of the National Library, presented the award.

Welcoming the guests, Dr Makowski drew attention to the significance of the fact that the ceremony was taking place in the Palace of the Commonwealth, newly opened after its recent modernisation. Open to the public for the first time in its history, the Palace is filled with treasures, from the oldest surviving written works, such as the Old Annals of the Holy Cross, which include the famous sentence "Dubrovka venit ad Miskonem" ("Dobrawa came to Mieszko") to recent items, such as manuscripts written by Herbert, Miłosz and Baczyński. "And today we are adding new manuscripts to these treasures," said Dr Makowski. "The list of winners of the Marek Nowakowski Literary Award is a very prestigious, distinguished roll-call. It includes established writers and those who are just beginning their journey. I am delighted that the Award is held in such high esteem and I hope that the vacant halls of this palace will be filled with further works testifying to our sensitivity, to our intellectual and cultural imagination, to everything we wish to pass on to future generations. A very warm welcome to all of you here in the Palace of the Commonwealth, and especially to our President Jolanta Nowakowska, who is a friend of the National Library.

Dr Tomasz Makowski, Director General of the National Library

The laudatio was given by Wojciech Chmielewski, winner of the first Marek Nowakowski Literary Award and Vice-Chair of the Jury. In his speech he pointed out that "today's Award is granted in recognition of the work Ostatnia sarna na ziemi, the first book by Piotr Pazdej. But in fact he has been writing and publishing short stories in literary journals for several years already, works such as Maski, published in Twórczość. The publication of Ostatnia sarna na ziemi is to be welcomed, because short prose forms have a much lower standing in our country than thick crime novels, multi-volume fantasy sagas and pseudo-historical works with magical episodes in them," Chmielewski continued. "Piotr Pazdej's stories read very well – there is a palpable sense of space in the prose, as if it is waiting for the reader's imagination to fill it. The author doesn't try to mystify us, nor does he try to explain the world at all costs. Instead, he tells us stories where the complex relations between a father and son come to the fore. [...] In Piotr Pazdej's stories, the world – our world – is dying. It is becoming a post-apocalyptic rubble. Most of the texts in this volume are set in Poland. But this is not today's Poland, but rather some future Poland, after a cataclysm. Has there been a war? A climate catastrophe? A virus? The author intertwines motifs in order to present the fate of his characters in the ruins of what was once the country on the Vistula. Clearly, the author has diligently studied Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, Steven Soderbergh's film Contagion and perhaps even good old books such as On the Beach by Nevil Shute – or the harrowing 1959 film of the novel – and Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley. A post-apocalyptic world has become a fixed element of pop culture, especially since the COVID-19 epidemic – although it should be noted that, reassuringly, Piotr Pazdej's stories are not part of that culture."

Laudatio by Wojciech Chmielewski

Piotr Pazdej and Wojciech Chmielewski

Piotr Pazdej, winner of the Marek Nowakowski Literary Award, thanked the Jury for their recognition: "I would like to thank the esteemed Jury for this wonderful and above all touching distinction. And it is a surprising distinction. I have wanted to write since I was a child: I wrote my first story in Year Eight or Nine in middle school, for a competition organised by the journal Fantastyka. They rejected it, so I went back to reading. The desire to write returned a dozen or so years later, and I got into the Literature and Art College of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. It was there that I met Marek Nowakowski, who was one of the lecturers. That was back in 2003 and I don't remember much from back then, but I do remember Marek Nowakowski's charisma, his calmness and probably most of all his passionate love of writing. His love of describing the reality around us, often overlooked. Of bringing out of the shadows the nooks and crannies of our reality that most people miss, those seemingly ordinary fragments of life that contain hidden within them the truth about ourselves. By then I must have had something of that same love, that same way of looking at the world, because a bond of affection sprang up between us.

"To this day I have a framed handwritten letter from Marek Nowakowski, or rather a sort of tribute that he wrote after reading my first, never published, novel. The last sentence of his letter reads as follows: In my opinion he has started out as a full-blown writer – and it is to be hoped that he will continue as such.

"That is why this accolade is so touching. I sincerely hope that Marek Nowakowski would also enjoy these stories."

Piotr Pazdej, winner of the 2024 Marek Nowakowski Literary Award

The Marek Nowakowski Literary Award is awarded annually by the National Library to an author for a short story or series of short stories.

Piotr Pazdej was born in 1976 in Pabianice. He studied Journalism and Social Communication at the Academy of Humanities and Economics in Łódź, and later studied at the Literary and Art College of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. He also translates English literature and handbooks into Polish.

A late starter, as he calls himself, he immersed himself in literary escapism even as a child. He wrote his first story for a competition in the journal Fantastyka when he was in Year 8 in middle school. The editors' decision to reject his submission – which he now fully agrees with – led to decades of trauma and at times frantic attempts to find another way to find fulfilment in his life. Even after two years of "therapy" at the Krakow "school of writing" run by Professor Gabriela Matuszek-Stec, he was still not able to overcome his fear of writing. But it was here that he met Marek Nowakowski, whose lectures are engraved in his memory.

Forced by illness, he finally made a breakthrough in his search of fulfilment – or rather reached the decision to finally stop looking and go back to "describing the world in his own words". During a month-long hospital stay in December 2020, he began writing the short story Maski, the story which opens his debut collection (originally published in the monthly journal Twórczość in February 2023). His short stories have also appeared in the anthology 24/02/2022 and the literary magazines Suburbia and TY.TU.Ł.

Piotr Pazdej has published dozens of translations from English, most of them handbooks on running and other sports, a few Mafia stories and one story in the "witchcraft-fantasy and demons in love" genre.

Previous winners of the Marek Nowakowski Literary Award:

  • Wojciech Chmielewski
  • Paweł Sołtys
  • Rafał Wojasiński
  • Marta Kwaśnicka
  • Wojciech Kudyba
  • Kazimierz Orłoś
  • Aleksandra Majdzińska

    The motto of the Award is the words of Marek Nowakowski "Nie jesteśmy znikąd" – We are not from nowhere/Everyone has roots.

Members of the Jury:

  • Maciej Urbanowski – Chair
  • Wojciech Chmielewski – Vice-Chair
  • Włodzimierz Bolecki
  • Janusz Drzewucki
  • Irena Makarewicz
  • Krzysztof Masłoń
  • Mateusz Matyszkowicz


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