17.04.2015 Books

My Guardian Demon: Letters of Andre Tchaikowsky and Halina Janowska 1956-1982

Star crossed lovers on two sides of the Iron Curtain

My Guardian Demon tells the story of two remarkable artists. Separated by the Iron Curtain, their twenty-five year correspondence occasionally censored gives an intimate view of their unique bond. In their letters that were funny and sometimes brutally honest Halina and Andre shared a consuming love of music and literature and a fascination with the foibles of human nature. ‘You know that Rimbaud is my guardian demon’ – were Andre’s words in a letter to Halina. Andre’s homage to his alter ego and their shared dark side led him four years later with sardonic wit to donate his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was subsequently used in performances of Hamlet starring David Tennant. Arthur Rubinstein said of Andre ‘I think Andre Tchaikowsky is one of the finest pianists of his generation – he is even better than that – he is a wonderful musician.’ Yet Andre’s professional passion was composition. In 2013, three decades after his death, Andre’s opera The Merchant of Venice was premiered by David Pountney at the Bregenz Festival gaining international recognition. Author Anita Halina Janowska has journeyed from musical conservatoire to a PhD in criminology and a career as a writer. In Poland My Guardian Demon (Mój diabeł stróż) has achieved three editions and cult status making Andre Tchaikowsky a household name.


You have made me really happy with this book! It is a genuine love story, about the difficult, complicated, but constantly-revived relations between two extraordinary people.
— Wislawa Szymborska, Nobel Prize winner for Literature

These letter between the pianist Andre Tchaikowsky and his closest friend Halina Janowska, form a narrative which is almost a love story and yet, at the same time, rather more than a love story. By turns tender, wise, frustrating and often deeply moving, this is a book which will make you think about that dangerous but fascinating place where friendship and romantic love overlap.
— Jonathan Coe, writer and novelist, author of Expo 58


The musician, sociologist and writer Anita Halina Janowska was born Halina Wahlmann in Łódź, Poland on 2 February 1933. She has also written under the pen-name Halina Sander. After graduating from the Fryderyk Chopin Conservatoire in Warsaw with a degree in piano performance, she read sociology at Warsaw University and later worked as criminologist for the Polish Academy of Sciences. Janowska wrote her PhD thesis: Murders and their perpetrators in 1974. She has published numerous scientific books and articles, and since 1997 has been a member of the Association of Polish Writers. Her literary output includes an autobiographical novel Krzyżowka (My Problems with Hitler and Stalin), for which she received the Warsaw Bookseller’s Award (July, 1997). Her last novel The Autumn Variations was published in 2011. Anita Halina Janowska lives in Warsaw.

Andre Tchaikowsky (1 Nov 1935-26 June 1982) studied piano with Emma Altberg, Stanisław Szpinalski, Lazare Levy and Stefan Askenase, and composition with Kazimierz Sikorski, Hans Keller and Nadia Boulanger. In 1955 he was admired as the youngest laureate of the Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition and a year later won the third prize at the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Brussels. Artur Rubinstein, one of the judges, wrote of him that he was one of the best pianists of his generation, and even more than that a wonderful musician. He was in great demand throughout his short life as a solo concert pianist and also played with the world’s great orchestras and conductors, performing with them extensively throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. Tchaikowsky lived most of his adult life and died in England where he is remembered as an exceptionally gifted pianist and an artistic personality of wit and erudition. Composition was his true vocation, so in his later years Tchaikowsky limited his concert activity to concentrate on writing music. His most important works include: the Shakespearian opera The Merchant of Venice, which premiered in 2013, two piano concertos, two string quartets, Seven Shakespeare Sonnets, a sonata for clarinet and piano, Inventions for Piano and Trio Notturno.

My Guardian Demon: Letters of Andre Tchaikowsky and Halina Janowska 1956-1982
By Anita Halina Janowska
Translated by Jacek Laskowski
Published by Smith-Gordon, April 2015
ISBN-10: 1854632493
ISBN-13: 978-1854632494
Order online
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