Other names: Ire ad Sol (pen-name)
A Polish-German author, playwright, and actress, Kalkowska was the daughter
of Emil Kalkowski, an architect, and Maria Spitzbath, who was from a rich
and noble family. Her childhood was spent in Warsaw until 1895 when she
was sent to school in Breslau, Germany. The family then moved to St Petersburg
in 1897. Kalkowska studied at the German gymnasium Annenschule, graduating
in 1899. She then studied science at the Sorbonne in France.
There she became associated with socialists and reactionaries, and became
friends with Marceli Szarota, a Polish Socialist Party activist. They
married in 1903.
Kalkowska's literary debut was in 1904 with her short-story collection
The Hunger of Life, published in Polish. Afterwards, she moved
to Lower Silesia and in around 1908, she attended Max Reinhardt's acting
school where she began to make a name for herself. She continued to write,
and she published translations of Polish and Russian poetry. She received
critical acclaim for her anti-war manifesto of 1916 entitled Der Rauch
des Opfers, which also gave her recognition in Poland. Kalkowska
decided to abandon her acting career and devovote herelf to literature.
After moving to Munich, she turned to writing plays, and the turning point
in her career was in 1929 when she debuted her play Josef, which
brought her immediate recognition in Germany and internationally as a
playwright. This was followed by a number of other successful plays which
earned her praise and admiration from author Karin Michaelis who helped
further her career.
Kalkowska later became involved in various women's and artistic communities
and organisations in Germany. Her most successful play, Zeitungsnotizen,
which dealt with the subject of suicide connected with the widespread
poverty and unemployment in Germany, debuted in 1932. The play was cancelled
due to Nazi opposition, and after Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Kalkowska
she was arrested, but was soon released through the help of a Polish envoy.
She went into hiding with the help of the sculptor Milly Steger, but was
soon arrested again and deported. She spent the rest of her life in exile
in Paris and London, never returning to Germany again.
Kalkowska continued to stage her plays in Paris and received a nomination
for the Kleist Prize for her play Sein oder Nichtsein. By around
1936, or earlier, she left France for London. There, some of her plays
were translated into English, and broadest on the BBC. She travelled to
Switzerland for medical attention in 1937, but died there.
Place of birth: Warsaw
Place of death: Bern