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Bruno Jasieński pronounced [ˈbrunɔ jaˈɕeɲskʲi], born Wiktor Bruno Zysman[1] (17 July 1901 – 17 September 1938), was a Polish poet and leader of the Polish Futurist movement in the interwar period.[2] He was executed in the Soviet Union during the Great Purge.[1] Jasieński is acclaimed by members of the various modernist art groups as their patron. An annual literary festival Brunonalia is held in Klimontów, Poland, his birthplace,[1] where one of the streets is also named after him.

Bruno Jasieński
Bruno Jasieński
Bruno Jasieński
BornWiktor Zysman
(1901-07-17)17 July 1901
Klimontów, Congress Poland
Died17 September 1938(1938-09-17) (aged 37)
Butyrka prison, Moscow, Soviet Union
Notable worksBut w butonierce ('A Boot in the Boutonniere')
Pieśń o głodzie ('Song of Hunger')


Early lifeEdit

Wiktor Bruno Zysman was born at Klimontów, Congress Poland, to the family of Jakub Zysman, who was of Jewish origin. Wiktor's mother, Eufemia Maria (née Modzelewska), came from Catholic Polish szlachta (nobility). Jakub Zysman was a local doctor and social worker, active in Klimontów intelligentsia. He converted to Protestantism to be able to marry Eufemia Maria. They had three children: Wiktor Bruno, Jerzy, and Irena.[2]

Jasieński attended a gymnasium secondary school in Warsaw.[2] In 1914, as World War I raged on, his family relocated to Russia proper, where Bruno graduated from a secondary school in Moscow. There, his fascination with Igor Severyanin's Ego-Futurism started, followed by readings of Velimir Chlebnikov, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexiey Kruchonykh's so-called Visual poems. In 1918 Jasieński arrived in Kraków, where he attended courses in Polish literature, law and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University. As Poland was regaining its independence, he suspended his studies to join a volunteer military unit that took part in the disarming of Austrian and German soldiers. When the Polish–Soviet War ended in 1921, he returned to the university. He became one of the founders of a club of Futurists named Katarynka (Barrel Organ).[2]

Literary careerEdit

In 1921 Jasieński published one of his first Futurist works, Nuż w bżuhu ('Knife in the Abdomen', with intentional misspellings in the title) and, together with Stanisław Młodożeniec, became known as one of the founders of the Polish Futurist movement. The same year he published a number of other works, including manifestos, leaflets, posters and various kinds of new art, formerly unknown in Poland. A volume of his poems entitled But w butonierce ('A Boot in the Boutonniere') was published in Warsaw.[2]

The same year he gained much fame as an enfant terrible of Polish literature and was well-received by critics in many Polish cities, including Warsaw and Lwów, where he met other notable writers (Marian Hemar, Tytus Czyżewski, Aleksander Wat and Anatol Stern among them). Jasieński collaborated with various newspapers, such as the leftist Trybuna Robotnicza, Nowa Kultura and Zwrotnica. In 1922, Pieśń o głodzie ('Song of Hunger') was published, followed by Ziemia na lewo ('Earth Leftwards') in 1924. In 1923 he married Klara Arem, daughter of a merchant from Lwów.

They moved to France, where they settled in Paris in Passage Poissonniere. The couple lived a humble life, making ends meet as journalists and correspondents of various Polish newspapers. Jasieński, together with Zygmunt Modzelewski, formed an amateur theatre for the Polish worker diaspora living in Saint-Denis. He wrote numerous poems, essays and books, many of which were of a radical orientation. In 1928, he serialised the work which secured his reputation, Palę Paryż ('I burn Paris'), a Futurist novel depicting the collapse and decay of the city and social tensions within capitalist societies. It was published in the leftist L'Humanité newspaper in French as Je brûle Paris, which was soon translated into Russian. In 1929, the original Polish text was published in Warsaw. The novel was also a humorous reply to Paul Morand's pamphlet I Burn Moscow, published shortly before. It gained Jasieński much fame in France, but also became the main reason why he was deported from the country. Not admitted to Belgium and Luxembourg, he moved to Germany and stayed in Frankfurt for a while. After the withdrawal of the extradition order he returned to France, only to be expelled once more for "communist agitation".

In the Soviet UnionEdit

In 1929 Jasieński moved to the Soviet Union and settled in Leningrad, where he accepted Soviet citizenship and was quickly promoted by the authorities.[2] The first Russian edition of I Burn Paris (translated from l'Humanité) was issued in 130,000 copies and sold out in one day.[1] The same year his son was born and Bruno became the editor-in-chief of Kultura mas (Culture of the Masses), a Polish-language monthly and a journalist of the Soviet Tribune. The following year he divorced Klara, allegedly because of numerous scandals she was involved in. Soon afterwards he married Anna Berzin, with whom he had a daughter.

In 1932 he transferred from the Polish division of the French Communist Party to the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and soon became a prominent member of that organization. He migrated to Moscow. During that period he served at various posts in the branch unions of communist writers. He was also granted honorary citizenship of Tajikistan. By the mid-1930s he became a strong supporter of Genrikh Yagoda's political purges within the writers' community. Jasieński is often mentioned as the initiator of the persecution of Isaak Babel. From 1933 to 1937 he worked on the editorial staff of the magazine Internatsionalnaya Literatura. However, in 1937 the tide turned and Yagoda himself was arrested and Jasieński lost a powerful protector. Soon afterwards Jasieński's former wife, Klara, who had had an affair with Yagoda, was also arrested, sentenced to death and executed. Jasieński was expelled from the party, and soon afterwards he was also caught up in the purges. Sentenced to 15 years in a labour camp, he was executed on 17 September 1938 in Butyrka prison in Moscow.

He was rehabilitated in 1956.


Jasieński's second wife Anna was arrested in 1939 and sent to the Soviet Gulag where she remained for 17 years. His underage son was sent to an orphanage to be brought up as Russian with no knowledge of his own past. He escaped from the orphanage during World War II. After the war, he engaged in some unspecified activities considered criminal under the Stalinist system, but eventually, he also discovered his true origins and adopted his real name. He became a member of various dissident organizations opposing Communism. He was killed in the 1970s likely by Russia's criminal underworld.[1]

See alsoEdit

  Media related to Bruno Jasieński at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ a b c d e Zespół Polska (July 2, 2012). "I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasieński. One of Poland's most uncomfortable masterstrokes of literature". Polish Cultural Institute. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dr Feliks Tomaszewski, Bruno Jasieński. Biography. Virtual Library of Polish Literature, University of Gdansk. (in Polish).