Dorota Masłowska, born in 1983 in the Polish city of Wejherewo (Pommern), enjoyed a sheltered childhood in the province. Her first novel, written when she was eighteen, “Snow White and Russian Red” (Wojna Polsko-Ruska pod flaga biało-czerwona), was published in the weeks preceding her final exams at high school. Her intended message was “to escape this reality and have writing act like a drug.” When her 2002 literary debut was published, it caused a sensation in Poland and was soon translated into ten languages. Despite being bitterly rejected in conservative circles, the young writer was awarded both the coveted Passport Prize of the magazine Polityka and the Nike Audience Award. In Germany, she received the Youth Literature Award. From 2002 to 2005, while majoring in psychology and Polish studies, Masłowska regularly contributed articles to newspapers and magazines, among others to the literary magazines Lampa, one of Poland’s most important forums for young Polish writers, and Gazeta Wyborcza. In 2005 she published her second novel, “The Queen’s Peacock” (Paw Krolowej), a linguistic, media-critical tour de france awarded Poland’s greatest literary prize, the Nike Literary Award. Afterward, Masłowska wrote her first play, meanwhile part of the repertoire of Warsaw’s Rozmaitosci Theater since November 2006. Since 2008 the play has been staged as “Zwei arme, polnisch sprechende Rumänen” (A Couple of Poor, Polish-speaking Romanians) in Germany, where it was premiered at Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater. Masłowska is currently at work on her third novel and lives with her small daughter in Warsaw.
Her being so young an author with a still rather slim oeuvre, which demonstrates enormous range and verbal force already, is precisely what makes Dorota Masłowska so fascinating for her audiences at home and abroad. Having being staged, by the media, as a provocative, pop star of Polish literature plays a role here as well, even when this happens against the author’s wishes: “They (the Polish media) bill me as Pop Culture. At one point, I felt as if my head was filled with nothing but hay.” Of course, instead of hay on the brain, the first thing one notices when reading one of Masłowska’s novels is her sharp wit.
“Snow White and Russian Red” takes place in a small town in eastern Poland. It shares a few hours in the life of Andrzej (a character named “the tough guy”), hours in which the young man is left by his girlfriend, meets up with other women, takes drugs, and falls into a delirium that nearly costs him his life. For the plot being so easily grasped on the surface, the protagonist’s perceptions become all the more intense and diverse; apart from conveying his soul’s frustration in love—as though a modern, underdog answer to the suffering of young Werther; they also lend a brash, poetic tone to the general indignation aroused by the social conditions in post-communist Poland. This unique perceptual ability is a distinguishing feature of the narrator and author alike. Also, this is how Masłowska calls the capitalism seemingly introduced overnight into Poland the main source of the private and political sense of crisis at large. In opposition to this, she uses language as a weapon capable of naming everything and pulling out all the stops, from dirty realism, biting irony, the ambient sounds of diverse milieus, and on to pure poetry.
All the media fuss that this young writer’s exceptional debut attracted was productively put to use in her second novel, “The Queen’s Peacock”. Here, in an audacious, virtuoso, rap form, MC Dorota (Masłowska) dismantles the mechanisms of the entertainment industry, which function in today’s Poland no differently than they do throughout the entire western world. In the forefront are the crazed marketing strategies meant to help the has-been of a pop star manage a comeback. Set on location in Warsaw, the novel portrays all of Polish society: as a gigantic target group, as an aggressive sought-after crowd of potential consumers. Not yet thirty, Masłowska is not least of all a clear-sighted critic of modern conditions: “Maybe it really is the case that my writing is a form of resistance pitted against a flattening of the world, and against thought manipulation… I really do write with a sacred anger. I smash language to pieces in order to reassemble it into something new and see what it becomes.” So we eagerly await Masłowska’s next slight of the hand.