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This article confronts the text of A Literary Prize, a comedy by Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, with its contemporary reviews. Staged by the experimental theatre Reduta (directed by Zofia Modrzewska) in April 1937 at Teatr Nowy in Warsaw (under the directorship of Jerzy Leszczyński), it fell into complete oblivion which lasted until the recent discovery of the director’s copy buried at the Academy of Theatre Library in Warsaw. While contemporary reviewers found A Literary Prize to be one of the weaker works of an outstanding poet, Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska in her letters contrasted the ‘violent attacks’ of the critics with a fairly warm reception of the general audience. The play was performed to capacity audiences until 19 May, and revived for a single occasion a year later in Poznań. A Literary Prize juxtaposes two plots. One, with elements of comedy of manners, follows the fortunes of a young girl, Taida Serebrzycka, who tries to navigate between two men with literary ambitions, Klemens Niedzicki and Albin Niekawski, while the other explores the challenges faced by prospective writers, especially the role of prize-winning competitions in the discovery of talent and the building of reputation. This article is focused primarily on the character of Taida, who makes the impression of being somewhat scatterbrained and snobbish, but is in fact a strong-minded, independent young woman conscious of her sexuality. She wants an honest, equal relationship, and is ready to fi ght hard for her happiness, which does include sexual satisfaction. The analysis of the reception of Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska’s play, and especially the characterization of Taida, the female protagonist, is complemented with an examination of the mechanisms of the critical discourse.
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