Maria Gabriela Stefania Korwin-Piotrowska (1857–1921), known as Gabriela Zapolska, was a Polish novelist, playwright, naturalist writer, feuilletonist, theatre critic and stage actress.
Zapolska wrote some 41 plays, 23 novels, 177 short stories, 252 journalistic works, one film script and over 1,500 letters. She gained popularity with her socio-satirical naturalist comedies, which Moralność pani Dulskiej (The Morality of Mrs. Dulska), a 'petty-bourgeois tragic-farce', is considered by her most-known work and regarded as a landmark of early modernist Polish drama. Her other dramas were translated into other languages, played at the Polish and European stages, and adapted into radio and film. Zapolska also acted in over 200 plays on stage in Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Lwów, Saint Petersburg and Paris.
Zapolska was born on March 30
in Podhajce, Galicia
) to a gentry family during the Third Partition of Poland
. Her father was a marshal of Volhynian szlachta
. She studied at the Sacré Coeur
Institute and in the Institute of Education and Science in Lwów
In 1876 she was forced by her family to marry a lieutenant in the tsar's guards, Konstanty Śnieżko-Błocki, but soon left him and divorced in 1888. During the years of 1879–1880 she lived in Warsaw, where she acted in an amateur theatre ran by the Philanthropy Society. In 1881 Zapolska became pregnant by an out-of-wedlock relationship and left her family. The same year she made her own short story debut by Jeden dzień z życia róży (One Day in the Life of a Rose). The following year, in 1882, she became a professional actress in the Kraków theatre, and assumed the pseudonym of Gabriela Zapolska. She also acted in Poznań, and in travelling troupes throughout the Congress Kingdom of Poland. In October 1888 she reportedly made a suicide attempt.
In 1889 Zapolska moved to Paris in hope to make an artistic career. There, she played minor roles in boulevard theatres, Théâtre Libre and Théâtre de l'Œuvre. She played in a stage adaptation of Intérieur (Interior) by Maurice Maeterlinck in Théâtre Libre. In Paris, Zapolska established contacts within the artistic milieu as well as with Polish socialist emigrants, which influenced her social views.
After coming back to the country, she settled in Kraków and acted in garden theatres, travelling troupes and then in Kraków theatre directed by Tadeusz Pawlikowski. Her defiant, suffragist nature led to conflicts with theatre principals and in 1900 she abandoned the stage. After that, Zapolska set up her own stage which was active time by time. In 1902 Zapolska ran a drama school in Kraków and the Gabriela Zapolska Independent Theatre was founded later. Her experiences in Paris let her to produce two Maeterlinck stage adaptations—Princess Maleine and L'Intruse (The Intruder), both produced in 1902.
In 1904 she moved to Lwów and married a painter, Stanisław Janowski. She became a patron of the travelling theatre named after her (Gabriela Zapolska Theatre) which during the years of 1907–1908 toured Galicia. She divorced her second husband in 1910. In the years of 1912–1913 Zapolska was a literary director of Teatr Premier. As a feuilletonist and theatre critic she collaborated with Gazeta Krakowska, Słowo Polskie, Nowa Reforma, Ilustracja Polska and Wiek Nowy. In 1915, after Lwów was captured by the Russian Army, she ran a small confectionery.
Zapolska died on December 21, 1921 in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) and buried at the Lychakivskiy Cemetery there.
Gabriela Zapolska made her own short story debut in 1881 by Jeden dzień z życia róży
. Many of her early works was published in parts in Lwów and then, in Warsaw press, mainly in Przegląd Tygodniowy
. She collected her early short stories in the volume of Z dziejów boleści
(1890). Her novels and short stories was translated into many languages, including English, Russian, German, Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Ukrainian.
Notable Zapolska prose works include:
- Jeden dzień z życia róży (One Day in the Life of a Rose, 1881)
- Małaszka (1883)
- Kaśka Kariatyda (Cathy the Caryatid, 1885–1886)
- Przedpiekle (1889)
- Menażeria ludzka (1893)
- Janka (1895)
- Fin-de-sièclistka (Fin-de-siècle-ist, 1897)
- Zaszumi las (1899)
- Sezonowa miłość (1904)
- Córka Tuśki (1907)
- Pani Dulska przed sądem (1908)
- O czym się nie mówi (1909)
- Śmierć Felicjana Dulskiego (Death of Felicjan Dulski, 1911)
- Kobieta bez skazy (1913)
- O czym się nawet myśleć nie chce (1914)
Zapolska is best-known for her dramas, socio-satirical comedies and tragicomedy works. Moralność pani Dulskiej
, a 'petty-bourgeois tragic-farce', is considered by her most-known work and regarded as a landmark of early modernist
Polish drama. The story of Moralność pani Dulskiej
was continued in two short stories—Pani Dulska przed sądem
and Śmierć Felicjana Dulskiego
. Her dramas were translated into other languages, played at the Polish and European stages, and adapted into radio and film.
Notable Zapolska dramas include:
- Żabusia (Froggie, 1897)
- Małka Szwarcenkopf (1897)
- Jojne Firułkes (1898)
- Moralność pani Dulskiej (The Morality of Mrs. Dulska, 1906)
- Ich czworo. Tragedia ludzi głupich (1907)
- Skiz (1908)
- Panna Maliczewska (Miss Maliczewska, 1910)
Style and themes
Gabriela Zapolska's works was dominated by naturalism
. She was mainly influenced by Émile Zola
, a French naturalist writer. Her naturalism has a journalistic
and didactic tone. She portrayed the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people, such as servants, prostitutes, Jews, proletarians, etc.
Characters in Zapolska works are mostly typical and she tends to skip psychological analysis as it was specific for the Young Poland writers. She also brought up controversial subjects, such as prostitution and venereal disease (O czym się mówi, O czym się nawet myśleć nie chce).
Zapolska created acrimonious and embiterred literary characters, such as those in her best-known works, Moralność pani Dulskiej,
Żabusia, Ich czworo. Tragedia ludzi głupich, Sezonowa miłość, and Panna Maliczewska.
Movies based on Zapolska novels or dramas include:
- Carewicz (1918) – directed by Marian Fuchs
- Tamten (1921) – by Władysław Lenczewski
- O czym się nie mówi (1924) – by Edward Puchalski
- Policmajster Tagiejew (1929) – by Juliusz Gardan
- Moralność pani Dulskiej (1930) – by Boleslaw Newolin; the first Polish movie with sound recorded on a gramophone record
- O czym się nie mówi (1939) – by Mieczysław Krawicz
- Morálka paní Dulské (adaption of Moralność pani Dulskiej, 1958) – by Jiří Krejčík; a Czechoslovakian movie
Zapolska was criticized by conservatives for the more unpleasant naturalist aspects of her works, such as perceived immorality, squalor, taboo subjects, etc.
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