In the People’s Republic of Poland it was a window to the world. Alfred Szklarski: A Merchant of Dreams

He had American citizenship. He made his literary debut in the press under Nazi license. He served in a communist prison. Who was the father of novel hero Tomek Wilmowski? A story told by Jarosław Molenda, author of a book about Alfred Szklarski (1912-1992).

TVP WEEKLY: While reading the biography of Afred Szklarski I came to the conclusion that he had something in common with Baron Munchausen – German nobleman, soldier, traveler and adventurer, famous thanks to the novel “The Amazing Adventures of Baron Munchausen”…

JAROSŁAW MOLENDA: Well, that’s an interesting association, I haven’t thought of Szklarski in comparison to anyone. I tried to fill in the gaps in his life story but, first of all, to create the first biography of an author whose works were avidly read at a time when world travel was not at all easy, as it is today…

Wasn’t the hero of your book American by birth?

This is one of the many secret mysteries of famous novelists. Officially, his birthplace is Chicago, but the first document confirming this was issued many years later. However, I did find documents in the US archives indicating that he first sailed to the US when he was just under a year old, as he and the rest of his family are on a passenger list of a ship from Europe. It is difficult for me to establish the truth, but there are doubts for sure. The purpose of entering “Chicago” as the birthplace was obvious: American citizenship made life easier in many ways. We have the beginning of the 20th century, thousands of immigrants come to the US, there is chaos, then comes the First World War; under such circumstances, there was no difficulty in convincing an employee of the version presented by the family.

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As a teenager, did you witness gang warfare in the background?

At least that’s what comes out of his memories but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been fantasy. He grew up in a city associated with mafias and the most famous mobster of the time. “The best” time of the ban introduced then is the 1920s when Szklarski was becoming a teenager. Street shootings, violence, illegal bars – all of this could be seen by a child coming from the Polish diaspora who could also “show off” various gangster stars.

Click here and read the full interview in TVP Weekly.

– interviewed by Tomasz Zbigniew Zapert
-translated by Domik Szczęsny-Kostanecki


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