Remembering Late Socialism

Growing Up as a Girl in Late Socialist Poland: The Personal, the Political and Class in Feminist Quasi-Autobiographical Novels by Izabela Filipiak and Joanna Bator




quasi-autobiographical novel, mother-daughter relationship, coming of age in late socialism, Bildungsroman


The article examines how representations of late socialism, seen through the eyes of adolescent girls, function in ‘quasi-autobiographical novels’ by Izabela Filipiak (Absolutna amnezja [Absolutne Amnesia], 1995) and Joanna Bator (Piaskowa Góra [The Sandy Hill], 2008). The authors, born in the 1960s and self-identified feminists, became voices of the women’s movement in post-1989 Poland. From their novels, the picture of late socialism emerges as either nightmarish (Filipiak) or grotesque (Bator). Examining family relations, but also intimate relations (understood as political), the author argues that the novels’ focus on gender/sexual differences is consistent with the dominant message of the women’s movement in Poland, which after 1989 lost sight of class differences, contributing to their naturalization and taming. Through the aforementioned examples, the author demonstrates that late socialism is an essential component of the founding story of contemporary feminism in Poland, and that the topos of the conflict between mothers and daughters is a useful tool of its anti-communist identity politics. Discussing the issue of the literary genre, the article proves that the choice of a quasi-autobiographical novel, based on the Bildungsroman scheme, harmonizes with the biographical, artistic and political settlements of the ‘breakthrough generation’ with late socialism and transformation.

Author Biography

Agnieszka Mrozik, Polish Academy of Sciences

Agnieszka Mrozik is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. She is affiliated with two research teams, The Centre for Cultural and Literary Studies of Communism, and the Archives of Women. Her main research interests are communism and gender studies, cultural history of women and women’s movement in Central and Eastern Europe, women’s life writing and literature, critical analysis of media discourse and popular culture. Among her recent publications are: Katarzyna Chmielewska, Agnieszka Mrozik and Grzegorz Wołowiec (eds.), Reassessing Communism: Concepts, Culture, and Society in Poland, 1944–1989 (CEU Press, 2021); Anna Artwińska and Agnieszka Mrozik (eds.), Gender, Generations, and Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and Beyond (Routledge, 2020); Agnieszka Mrozik and Stanislav Holubec (eds.), Historical Memory of Central and East European Communism (Routledge, 2018).





Remembering Late Socialism