Encounters with Polish Literature, Reportage II, Beth Holmgren on Springer and Boni

Patrice Dabrowski's picture

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

First off some good news is that the series has been extended, and we plan to continue producing it at least until February 2023.

Continuing our discussion of the Polish school of reportage or creative non-fiction from Episode 10 of "Encounters with Polish Literature" Beth Holmgren (Duke University) and I look at two tales of the atomic age, History of a Disappearance: The Story of a Forgotten Polish Town (Miedzianka) by Filip Springer, and Katarzyna Boni's Ganbare! Workshops on Dying.

Both authors were born in 1982. Filip Springer began as a photographer with an interest in Socialist architecture and the aesthetics of the "ugly" that led him to writing reportage. History of a Disappearance was a 2012 finalist for the NIKE prize, Poland's highest literary award.

Katarzyna Boni went through a more traditional journalistic training at the Institut Reportażu in Warsaw, working as a journalist in Southeast Asia and Japan, and co-authoring a book with Wojciech Tochman, Kontener (Container) about Syrian refugees in Jordan. Ganbare! won the 2017 Gryfia Award, a Polish prize for women writers.

In this episode we look at how the journalistic use of mały realizm ("little realism") or the use of minor figures or objects to illustrate larger issues has become a creative tool, free of the burden that it had in the 1970s of outwitting the censor. Springer's chronicle of this seemingly marginal mining town reveals a story that is at the center of the history of the Cold War nuclear arms race. Boni's story reveals layers of mythology, folklore, and psychological undercurrents in the response to the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. We also consider the impact that these two examples of reportage have had on cultural life in Poland, inspiring a literary festival in the town of Miedzianka that "disappears" in Springer's book, and bringing "workshops on dying" as well as an art project from the Fukushima disaster—Itaru Sasaki's "Wind Telephone"—to Poland as a way of addressing Poland's own history of trauma.

You can find a description of the episode with links to find the books and a few other useful resources at: https://instytutpolski.pl/newyork/2022/01/04/reportage-ii/

or go straight to the video at:


Best regards,


David A. Goldfarb

Encounters with Polish Literature

twitter (Polish Literature)