BOOKS and Periodicals Recieved
Volume XXIII, No. 1
Sula, by Tony Morrison. New York: Penguin USA, 1982. 174 pages. Paper. $13.00.
Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for literature, Tony Morrison is a writer who explains black America to white America. Sula is one of her early novels. First published in 1973 by Knopf, this short and succinctly written tale brims with sidetracks to the lives of two main heroines, Nel and Sula, both of them black and poor. Morrison does not shy away from the violence that permeates the lives of African Americans and accounts for a disproportionate number of murders of blacks by blacks, but her tale is told against the background of unrelenting poverty and discrimination to which African Americans have been subjected over generations. Somehow the brutalities of black life become understandable as Morrison injects her quiet anger at years and years of lack of access to jobs and social standing. One also notes that her "nigger jokes" have also been told about Polish Americans. Morrison is a bold defender of blacks. One wonders, where are the Polish American writers that would do the same for the Chicago Poles? Somehow Polish intellectuals are given to bashing their uneducated brethren, whereas black intellectuals stand up for their weaker brethren. What a contrast.
Poland's Security Policy, 1989-2000, edited by Roman Kuznar. Warsaw: Scholar Publishing House (Krakowskie Przedmiescie 62, 00-322 Warszawa, Poland), 2001. Appendices consisting of documents, index, biographical notes. 606 pages. Hardcover.
A collection of essays by various authors elaborating on problems of Polish security. The topics covered include relations with neighbors, relations with organizations such as OSCE and UN, the armed forces and arms industry. The essays are reasonably well documented and they provide a fair survey of thinking and accomplishments concerning the gigantic change of course Poland undertook when it shook off the Soviet occupation and became sovereign (insofar as medium-size and impecunious states can be sovereign in the postmodern world). On the negative side, many essays represent that unhappy mix of propagandizing and scholarship that entails too little scholarship and ineffective propagandizing. There is too much of a self-congratulatory tone, and too often the obvious is belabored. This volume might impress the know-nothings, but such people do not read books. The only target audience for the volume are the political scientists interested in Poland at English language universities--and such political scientists would not be impressed. What is lacking in this book is inventiveness about Poland's possibilities and candidness in presenting Poland's precarious situation vis-a-vis those international forces that are unfriendly to Central European interests. Perhaps one of the reasons for the absence of such frankness is the parochialism of the Polish political establishment: deprived of access to real international power for generations, Poles tend to pigeonhole world problems into polite and simplistic categories. (jb)
Dwuskrzydle swiatlo: Poezje wybrane /Dvokrile svitlo: Vibrani poezii, by Janina Brzostowska. Translation into Ukrainian by Irena Masalska, with assistance of Witold Brostow and Wolodymyr Donchak. Lwów/Lviv: Lviv Polytechnic Press, 2002.115 pages. Photographs. Paper. Bilingual in Polish and Ukrainian.
The attractiveness of this book lies not only in the wonderful common sense which the poet weaves into her poetic texts, but also in the fact that it is a bilingual Polish-Ukrainian publication. Janina Brzostowska's Polish roots in Lwów/Lviv do not make her irrelevant to Ukrainians today, let alone to Poles who should take delight in this light-hearted wisdom poetry. In a moralistic poem titled "Either way," Brzostowska thus defines the present age: "You want to receive while offering insincere words/Maneuvered so they'll bring you profit. . . .You stare fascinated at your alimentary tract and your genitals. . . appalling pillars to future generations."
Journal of Markets and Morality, vol. 5, no. 1 (Spring 2001), edited by Stephen J. Grabill. Published by the Acton Institute (http://www.acton.org) headed by the Rev. Robert A. Sirico. 308 pages. Subscription: $25.00 per year.
The idea behind the Acton Institute is that capitalism and a Christian social system are not only compatible but in fact inseparable. Christianity can be credited with the invention of free trade and the modern banking system. The modern capitalist system was invented by the Catholic city of Venice during the Renaissance. One of the promoters of a connection between Catholicism and capitalism was Lord J. E. E. Dahlberg-Acton, a British thinker of the nineteenth century (who, incidentally, also wrote a scathing critique of Prussia's and Russia's role in the partitions of Poland). The current issue of JMM features papers given at an interdenominational Christian conference held at Calvin College in Michigan. The conference was largely devoted to Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch thinker dedicated to the promotion of "the third way." The journal's ambition is to become "the leading interdisciplinary journal at the intersection of economics, theology, and moral philosophy." Among the papers published there is one by the Rev. Maciej Zieba. It is titled "From Leo XIII Rerum Novarum to John Paul II's Centesimus Annus." The readers may recall that Centesimus Annus began with an invocation of Leo XIII's famous encyclical, and it is often described as an endorsement by Pope John Paul II of key elements of the capitalist system.
Geografia ludnosci Rosji (Geography of the Russian population), by Piotr Eberhardt. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PAN (http://www.pwn.com.pl), 2002. 307 pages. Bibliography, list of tables, list of figures. Paper. In Polish, with some English translations.
This encyclopedic tome by one of the world's renowned demographers of Russia has one drawback: it is written in Polish, and not enough English summaries are provided to satisfy a monolingual Anglophone. Still, even without knowing Polish it is possible to cull a wealth of information from this comprehensive book. Looking for vital statistics of the Russian population in 2000? You will find them in Table 22. Want to know about fertility of women in the Russian Federation in 1991-99? Look at Table 26. Want to compare age structure in the Russian Empire a century ago with the Russian Federation of today? Compare Tables 78 and 82. There are 142 tables, and the figures they reveal are significant. Particularly worthwhile are historical statistics that are hard to come by. E.g., would you like to know the number of people who emigrated or escaped from the newly-formed Soviet Union in the early years of its existence? You will find a discussion of it and a Table in the book. Dates, the little known political ukazes of Russian and Soviet rulers, rural-city dynamics, and more: the book is a treasure trove for political scientists and historians, not to speak of journalists who might find more material here for columns than they have ever imagined.
Gestwina (Thicket), by Boguslawa Latawiec. Warsaw: Twój Styl, 2001. 252 pages. Hardcover. Available from the Nowy Dziennik Bookstore in New York (tel. 212-594-2386, ksiazki@ dziennik.com). In Polish.
Latawiec is a noted Polish poet, the author of several collections of essays, and editor of the Polish literary monthly Arkusz. Gestwina is a collection of essays written in 1972-96. It contains commentaries on the author's travel to the United States and France, and meetings with poets Stanislaw Róžewicz, Wislawa Szymborska, and others. Latawiec writes in a very private, almost intimate way about human behavior and frictions that arise between people. She is a wonderful and delicate observer, and witty and humorous as well; the result is that one feels friendly and knowledgeable about the people she mentions. In a timely chapter titled "Koniec wieku" (End of a century), she writes about Paris and the security guards frisking visitors before the latter enter museums, schools, and the like. The procedure indicates how afraid the French were of terrorism even before September 11, 2001. (Aleksandra Ziólkowska-Boehm)
Scenes from a Disturbed Childhood, by Adam Czerniawski. A K Publications (Great Britain), 2002. ISBN 1 84108 009 8. 198 pages. Family photographs going back to Józef Pilsudski's Legion. Paper. Ł10.00.
The author's recollections of unintended "travels"of his family and friends during the Second World War when the author was a preschool child. Some of his friends and relatives were tortured by the Gestapo, others were tormented by the NKVD. All were deprived of homes, incomes, education, and normal development. The book is a mixture of autobiographical narrative, poetry, and dialogue. The stories are told with a considerable narrative skill: the author is a remarkable writer. Together with many other such volumes that have recently appeared, this book is perhaps a collective if unconscious attempt to erect a verbal monument to the Polish Catholic Holocaust during the Second World War.
Other Books Received:
Russia in the Twentieth Century, by M. K. Dziewanowski. Sixth edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2003. 424 pages. Index, bibliography following each chapter. Paper.
The fact that this book went into a sixth edition testifies to the vigor of the author's analyses and to the continuing relevance of his commentaries on Russia. This is the best book on Russia for senior high students and for college students. It has been updated to include the Gorbachev period, disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the Yeltsin-Putin attempt to build up the Russian Federation. The proofreading is poor. A longer review to follow.
Political Borders and Cross-border Identities at the Boundaries of Europe, edited by John Borland, Graham Day and Kazimierz Z. Sowa. Rzeszów-Bangor:University of Rzeszów Press (35-601 Rzeszów, ul. M. Cwiklinskiej, skr. poczt. 155, Poland), 2002. 258 pages. Paper.
A collection of papers originating in a workshop on cross-border relationship and identities held at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onati, Spain. A review to follow.
Through the Poet's Eye: The Travels of Zagajewski, Herbert, and Brodsky, by Božena Shallcross. Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press (625 Colfax Street, Evanston, IL 60208), 2002. 190 pages. Index, bibliography. Hardcover. $27.95.
A review to follow.
Poszli w skier powodzi: Narodowe Sily Zbrojne w Powstaniu Warszawskim (The National Armed Forces in the Warsaw Rising), by Sebastian Bojemski. Warsaw-Charlottesville, VA: Glaukopis (firstname.lastname@example.org), 2002. 348 pages. Bibliography, index, numerous photographs, Erratum. ISBN 83-909046-9-1. Paper. In Polish.
A groundbreaking study of the National Armed Forces (NSZ) in the crucial period of Warsaw rising against the Nazis (August --October 1944).
World War II Through Polish Eyes: In the Nazi-Soviet Grip, by M. B. Szonert. Boulder-New York: East European Monographs (no. DCIV) distributed by Columbia University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-88033-502-5. viii + 399 pages. $45.00.
A documented family account of how Soviets and Nazis competed in destroying Polish families. Excellently narrated. The author is a lawyer by profession. A review to follow.
Lying Down with Dogs: A Personal Portrait of a Polish Exile, by Mark Zygadlo. Foreword by Norman Davies. Chester Springs, PA: Dufour Editions, Inc. (PA 19425-0007, email@example.com), 2002. ISBN 0-9535413-7-1. xii + 274 pages. Maps. Paper. $16.95. The book is an attempt by a British Pole (born in Britain) to reconstruct the life of his father who came to Britain as a refugee after the Second World War. The foreword by Norman Davies is a masterpiece. A review to follow.
Selected Poems, by Adam Czerniawski. Translated by Iain Higgins. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers (Amsteldijk 166, 1st Floor, 1079 LH Amsterdam, The Netherlands), 2000. xviii + 221, plus a CD with poetic readings by Irena Czerniawska-Edgcumbe, Iain Higgins, and Adam Czerniawski. Hardcover. Bilingual in English and Polish.
An innovative CD with real voices accompanies the written text. The book is part of a series initiated by Harwood Publishers titled Poet's Voices.
Day of Witness: A Novel, by Kazimierz Braun. Translated by Christopher A. Zakrzewski. Toronto: Omnibus Printers, 2002. 403 pages. ISBN 0-9716771-0-7. Paper.
Sarmatian Review published excerpts from this novel in the January 2001 issue.
Negotiations on Poland's Accession to the European Union: Selected Issues, edited by Jan Barcz and Arkadiusz Michonski. Warsaw: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2002.167 pages. Appendices. Paper.
Eight papers by Polish negotiators explaining the Polish position.
Korona dziewicy Maryi/The Virgin Mary's Crown. Selected,
edited, and translated by Roman Mazurkiewicz and Michael J. Mikos.
Kraków: Collegium Columbinum (
A collection of Polish poems and reproductions of Polish works of art about Virgin Mary from the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century. A primary source for a scholar, and a delight for a Catholic book lover.
Your Body, Your Health, by Neil Shulman, M.D., and Rowena Sobczyk, M.D. Foreword by Jane Fonda, commentary by Rosalynn Carter. New York: Prometheus Books (firstname.lastname@example.org), 2002. 291 pages. Glossary, notes, bibliography, index, tables. Paper. $14.00 on Amazon.com.
We do not usually review books on health topics, but we are making an exception for this remarkable volume for two reasons. First, as a journal we are focused on Americans of Central and Eastern European background--those "unmeltable ethnics" of whom Michael Novak wrote--and one of the authors of this book belongs to this category. Second, we have often noted that these white ethnics have all too often been brushed aside when it comes to recognition, publicity, awards, topmost positions and the like. The glass ceiling? You ain't seen nothing yet if you have not looked at the white ethnics. From university deanships to chairmanships of boards, these ethnics are curiously absent in leadership positions, even though there are plenty of white ethnics with doctoral degrees at universities, hospitals and business institutions.
The publicity surrounding this book is an example, starting with the misspelling of Dr. Rowena Sobczyk's last name on the bibliographical page of the book. Such a misspelling makes it difficult to find her name as a book author via various bibliographical searches. The ads and press releases we have seen speak only of the first author, relegating Dr. Sobczyk to the last paragraph. Since the names of the two authors are mentioned in alphabetical order and in identical sizes on the book's cover page, one presumes that the authors wished to be remembered jointly and with equal attention. But the advertising people did otherwise.
The book is a reader's guide to the human body and to modern medicine. It covers health and disease, offers a list of Websites for further study, and advises how to start looking at one's doctor as a consultant rather than as a magician. Its advice is right on target; truly a book for an educated layman/woman. It is lucidly written and a pleasure to read. A useful tome to have in a home library.
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Last updated 1/31/03