Foucault in Warsaw


by Remigiusz Ryziński

June 15, 2021
nonfiction | pb | 220 pgs
5.5" x 8.5"

The previously untold story of the plot to kick Michel Foucault out of Poland in the 1950s

In 1958, Michel Foucault arrived in Poland to work on his thesis—a work that eventually came to be published as The History of Madness. While he was there, he became involved with a number of members of the gay community, including a certain “Jurek,” who eventually led the secret police directly to Foucault’s hotel room, causing his subsequent exit from Poland. That boy’s motivations and true identity were hidden among secret police documents for decades, until Remigiusz Ryziński stumbled upon the right report and uncovered the truth about the whole situation.

Nominated for the Nike Literary Award, Foucault in Warsaw reconstructs a vibrant, engaging picture of gay life in Poland under communism—from the joys found in secret nightclubs, to the fears of not knowing who was a secret informant.


About the Author: Remigiusz Ryziński is a philosopher, cultural critic, writer, and academic lecturer who works on gender and queer theory; he has published three academic books. He is a graduate of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and has also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. He has received grants from the French government, the Robert Schuman Polish Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, and the city of Warsaw. Foucault in Warsaw is his literary nonfiction debut.

About the Translator: Sean Gasper Bye is a translator of Polish fiction, reportage, and drama. He has published translations of Watercolours by Lidia Ostałowska, History of a Disappearance by Filip Springer, The King of Warsaw by Szczepan Twardoch, and Ellis Island: A People's History by Małgorzata Szejnert. He is a winner of the 2016 Asymptote Close Approximations Prize, a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow, and former Literature and Humanities Curator at the Polish Cultural Institute New York.


Praise for Foucault in Warsaw:

“A fascinating look both at a specific period of Polish history and at a formative experience in Foucault’s life, told with assurance and complexity.”
—Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders

“The admirably taut translation by Bye brings the hunt through Warsaw's archives to life. Readers will welcome this vivid and empathetic excavation of an historical footnote.”
Publishers Weekly

“Combining the techniques of literary reportage with the analytical tools of Foucault’s archaeology of knowledge, Ryziński has unearthed secret police dossiers and trawled through hundreds of pages of reports filed by undercover cops and snitches. . . . Sean Gasper Bye’s nuanced translation beautifully captures all the language registers, from dry officialese to the flamboyant flourishes in the snitches’ reports and eyewitness accounts.”
—Julia Sherwood, Asymptote Journal

“There is a type of history that is created by the records of the surveillance state and there is a different type of history that is created when you share a few cups of tea with a stranger telling you about their youth. Ryziński is able to put those two types of history in conversation to produce something that is fascinating in large and small scales.”
—Josh Cook, Porter Square Books