Glossopteris, Turów Róg and Bungo — the Tatras in the works of Mieczysław Limanowski, Tadeusz Miciński and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
The authors mentioned in the title met in Zakopane at the beginning of the 20th century. Mieczysław Limanowski (1876–1948) — author of scholarly, popular and literary works, written in 1899–1912 and dealing with the tectonics and origins of the Tatras, as well as a geological exhibition in the Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum — came to Zakopane in March 1899. Tadeusz Miciński (1873–1918) — poet, author of Nietota. Księga tajemna Tatr [Lycopodium. The Secret Book of the Tatra Mountains], a work published in 1910 — became a regular visitor to Zakopane in October that year. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885–1939) — whose first novel, 622 upadki Bunga, czyli Demoniczna kobieta [622 Downfalls of Bungo or the Demonic Woman], written in 1910–1911, is set largely in Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains — had lived there with his parents since 1890.
At that time Zakopane was not only a fashionable holiday and health resort, but also the spiritual and cultural capital of the non-independent Poland, while the home of Stanisław Witkiewicz the father (1851–1915) became a meeting place for Polish artistic, scientific and political elites.
In 1899 Limanowski became a tutor of the then fourteen-year-old Stanisław Ignacy and lived at the Witkiewiczs’ until the young man’s final high school exams. At the same time this was the most intense period of his own geological and field studies in the Tatras as well as journalistic work associated with them. The period was marked by the publication of Limanowski’s popular science and literary works — Pratatry [The Ancient Tatras] (1899), Glossopteris (1900), O wspaniałej przeszłości Tatr [On the Magnificent Past of the Tatras] (1901, 1902) — while the Tatra Museum presented his first exhibition devoted to the origins and structure of the Tatras based on state-ofthe-art knowledge and about 220 geological specimens Limanowski had collected himself.
Limanowski’s Tatra works — the first and only works of this kind, combining strict geological knowledge with “artistic brightness” and dramatic imagination of their author — influenced the image of the Tatra Mountains in Tadeusz Miciński’s Nietota. Księga tajemna Tatr. Surrounded by the sea (like in Pratatry) the Tatras-Himalayas — with their peaks covered with glaciers and dark primeval forests (with their magical Lycopodium from Glossopteris), with underground caves filled with treasures, tombs and spirits of the “Polish Olympus” — make up the setting of Miciński’s multiple-thread novel. One of the threads is a roman à clef story of the life of an artisticliterary colony from the circle gathered round Stanisław Witkiewicz (Duskdawn the Wise Man) and his muse Maria Dembowska (Mary the Prophetess) — the company assembled in “Turów Róg.” In the patriotic ideology of this generation, which dwelt upon the loss of independence, debacles of the various uprisings and Siberian martyrdom of the Poles, the Tatras symbolised a source of spiritual renewal from which a rebirth of Poland was to come.
The younger generation of the “Turów Róg” regulars was represented by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, portrayed in Nietota under the guise of Prince Hubert. He introduced several young gentlemen from this group into his youthful novel, 622 upadki Bunga, czyli Demoniczna kobieta — an autobiographical book and, like Nietota, a roman à clef (Tadeusz Miciński is portrayed there under the guise of Childeryk the Magus). In his 1919 preface Witkiewicz classified his novel as a romance (with the actress Irena Solska under the guise of Akne), the only background of which was “a lightly sketched landscape, with my sole objective being to show the monstrosity of human experiences against the beauty of nature.” The source of the masterful landscape sketches in Bungo was the hundreds of nature studies painted under the guidance of his father, Stanisław Witkiewicz. Thanks to them Stanisław Ignacy learned to observe nature and acquired a sensitivity to its beauty, which he never lost. These sketches engage in a “dialogue” with the action and state of the lyrical subject’s soul; they are characterised by restless, oneiric expression strengthened by strong, fauvist colours, corresponding to the vicissitudes of Bungo’s stupefying passion for Akne. Bungo is a painter who — like Witkiewicz at that time — creates black and white, demonic figural compositions refl ecting the “monstrosity” of the protagonists’ experiences. They are included in the latest edition of Witkacy’s novel, published by PIW in May 2013.