Alexander Minkowski was born in Warsaw, six years before World War II broke out. As a child, he survived the horrors of Nazi bombardments and was forced to flee from the burning capital. When the Soviets and the Nazis divided Poland between themselves, young Alexander and his parents found themselves under Soviet occupation. Since they refused to accept Soviet citizenship, they were, in 1940, sent into the depths of Siberia.
For Minkowski, Stalin’s empire became synonymous with indoctrination and famine. He recalls people eating tree bark, when at the same time in schools young children sang hymns in praise of the ‘father of all nations’. While on exile, Minkowski fell ill with tuberculosis. After WWII, in 1946, his family was allowed to go back to Poland. They settled in Wroclaw. Young Alexander, still remembering all too well the pain of starvation, began to eat compulsively and soon became monstrously obese. This gave him the dubious pleasure of finding out how cruel and prone to mockery children can be. Until today, he suffers from the mental trauma.
He graduated from secondary school in Wroclaw and then, in 1957, left for Warsaw to study in the faculty of Polish Studies. By the time he graduated, he had already been working for several years as a journalist and had made his debut as a writer—his collection of short stories ‘Blue Love’ was criticized for its pessimism and classified as improper literature. When censorship became too harsh for Minkowski and significantly stopped him from publishing his adult novels, he decided to write for young adults. His ‘Fatboy’, an autobiographic novel, contains the description of his own Siberian experiences, stressing mostly the aspect of prolonged starvation.
In 1969, Minkowski finally managed to go to the United States. He initially planned to stay at most for three weeks, but as it turned out, he remained there for several years. Minkowski became a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York, where he gave lectures on Polish and Russian literature. Apart from that, he also lectured at Hunter College. Through the influence of his supportive students and thanks to an ever-growing social network, he finally managed to confront the reality of the totalitarian world he had known, but now from the perspective of a free country. He began to make frequent visits to Poland, only to return to the USA, to his American friends. To this day he maintains that he has two homes, worlds apart from each other.
His journeys and subsequent reflections led him to write the novel ‘The Valley of Light’, which is currently on the list of required readings in Polish junior secondary schools. It tells the story of a boy who, after surviving the Holocaust, is sent to a mysterious convalescence home for children with leukaemia; the author depicts a totalitarian government that develops within the sanatorium.
Alexander Minkowski is the author of several young-adult and adult novels, as well as TV series’ scripts. These include amongst others: ‘Fatboy’, ‘The Madness of Maya Skylark’, ‘Friends’, ‘The Headmasters’, and ‘The Circulatory System’.