Edinburgh Book Festival: Andrej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal: When Poland Made its Mark

Edinburgh Festival review
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Andrej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal
Running time

Andrej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal offer a unique perspective on Poland under communist rule in their graphic novel of their time in the country, Behind the Curtain.

It's unique since both Klimowski and Schejbal were British-born children of Polish parents, who chose to return to their parents’ homeland at a time when many Polish citizens were trying to leave.

Both, however, were artists – Klimowski a designer of book jackets among other items, Schejbal a stage designer, and both were able to mix with the intellectual and creative community of Warsaw, enriching their experiences even if their material circumstances were less luxurious then those they might have enjoyed elsewhere.

Although they did not raise this point, their early lives in the west almost certainly gave them a unique vantage point to view Polish society in the nineteen eighties, when economic hardship was widespread, but opposition to the ruling Communist Party was still fragmented.

A good deal of time has elapsed since those days, which makes Klimowski and Schejbal’s illuminating illustrations of those times even more valuable. It was the occasionally revealing moment in their conversation, however, that made this event memorable.

Whether talking about the lack of goods in the shops but the availability of cheap (albeit limited) nourishment in the workplace, the full employment policies of the state which guaranteed some form of work for all, at the price of over-staffing and inefficiency, or simply the comparative indignity of having to carry around supplies of toilet tissue (one was charged by the single sheet in most establishments), Klimowski and Schejbal helped capture what has become a lost era, unknown to many in the west.

Asked about their working methods (Klimowski and Schejbal have produced three other books in this way), they responded by explaining that they work separately on different sections of the work, and their obvious personal sympathies suggested a largely intuitive collaboration.

Behind the Curtain offers glimpses of ways of life that are gone, but also something of its creators own enduring partnership.

Andrej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal, Behind the Curtain, Self Made Hero £15.99 ISBN 9781906838966