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BOOKS BOOKS and CDs Received

January 2005

Volume XXV, No. 1

BOOKS BOOKS and CDs received

Gesta principum Polonorum: The Deeds of the Princes of the Poles, by an anonymous 12th century author. Translated by Paul W. Knoll and Frank Schaer. Central European Medieval Texts, vol. 3. Budapest-New York: Central European University Press (, 2003. Bibliography, list of figures, map, and genealogical table. Indexes of proper names, geographical names, and names of peoples. lxv + 318 pages. ISBN 963 9241 40 7. Hardcover. $44.95 on Barnes & Noble (www.barnesand noble). Bilingual in Latin and English.

A laudatory comment on this English translation of the first Polish chronicle is in order. This volume is obviously a foundational one, so far as the history of Poland in English is concerned. The idea that Poland is a “new nation” that erroneously emerged out of the ill-conceived Treaty of Versailles is by no means rare among American historians. In due time, translations like this one should make a difference.

Historia Polski, 1795-1918, by Andrzej Chwalba. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2001. 671 pages. Buibliography, indices of persons, geographical names, and subjects. Tables, illustrations, photographs. Paper. Zl 65.00 (including postage) at In Polish.

Finally, a history of Poland that is not merely a history of war and diplomacy. This history concentrates on demography, GDP, transportation, living conditions in the homes in both cities and the countryside. The book brims with crucial figures and statistical data, and it paints a realistic picture of Polish society in the nineteenth century. It shows the connection between standards of hygiene and quality of housing on the one hand, and the success or failure in defending Poland’s national interests. It is fascinating to read, and we cannot recommend it highly enough. It is easily available at the Merlin Bookstore. Among the dozen or so books we have ordered from that mail-order Polish bookstore, all came on time and in perfect condition.

Faunt-le-Roy i jego eskadra w Polsce: Dzieje eskadry Kościuszki, by C. Meriam Cooper. Chicago, IL: Faunt-leRoy, Harrison & Co., 1922. vii + 287 pages. Copyright (and translation into Polish?) by Joseph Wedda. Appended: Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s telegraph to Col. Faunt-le-Roy. Numerous photographs. In Polish.

This rare book was authored by C. Meriam Cooper, the American who created the Polish Air Force and used it to stop Marshal Semyon Budyonny’s konarmia from joining Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky in the attack on Warsaw in 1920. Cooper is best known by Americans for his production of the movie King Kong plus most of the John Ford/John Wayne western classics. More important was his key work in the relief of Lwów/Lviv in 1919 and his defense of that city in the summer of 1920.

Interestingly, Cooper’s great-great grandfather had carried the dying Casimir Pulaski off the field of Savannah and had given to his descendants the charge to help return the debt of honor America owed to the Poles. Needless to say, the book gives an entirely different picture of the Polish-Bolshevik war than one known through Isaac Babel’s Konarmia. (jrt)

The Labyrinth of Dangerous Hours: A Memoir of the Second World War, by Lilka Trzcinska-Croydon. Foreword by Norman Davies. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8020-3958-8. xviii + 152 pages. Numerous photographs. Hardcover. $40.00.

The author is an Auschwitz survivor. Before Auschwitz, she was involved in the Polish Resistance. Among the remarkable features of this book are the photographs (of excellent quality) of the three heroes of Aleksander Kamiński’s classic Kamienie na szaniec: Zośka (Tadeusz Zawadzki), Alek (Alek Dawidowski), and Rudy (Janek Bytnar). All three perished fighting the Nazis; Bytnar died after horrible tortures by the German Gestapo. He did not betray his coconspirators. Zawadzki was a born leader: his pseudonym was eventually assumed by a Home Army Battalion. Zośka, Rudy, and Alek were buried at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw. Their graves remain carefully tended, and they are among the most admired heroes of the Second World War. While Trzcinska-Croydon mainly tells her own story, she came from the same Polish circles that produced so many irreplaceable figures of the Polish Home Army. (sb)

Słowo i obraz: Na pograniczu literatury i sztuk plastycznych, by Janusz Pelc. Kraków: Universitas (al. 3 Maja 7, 30-063 Kraków, Poland), 2002. 413 pages. Hardcover. In Polish.

The title of the book in English is Word and Image, and its concerns embrace literature and the fine arts. It focuses on the concept of the emblem. It presents Polish poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries against the background of the European sacred and secular culture. The author discusses the Renaissance and Baroque Polish writers from Mikołaj Rej to Zbigniew Morsztyn, as those who continued in their works the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome as well as medieval Christianity. There is also a discussion of the works of the Renaissance Latin poets Mikołaj of Hussów and Andrzej Krzycki. The development of the Polish use of the emblem in the Renaissance and the Baroque period is presented in the context of iconology, painting, sculpture, the occasional verse of the times, and old Polish religious culture. The author emphasizes the connections between the Polish use of the emblem in the seventeenth century and that of such Dutch authors as Pieter Hooft, Otto Vaenius, and Jakob Cats. A particularly valuable feature of this book is the multifaceted interpretation of poetry at the height of the Baroque period including the use of the emblem by Maksymilian Fredro (Peristromata), Zbigniew Morsztyn (Emblemata), and Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski (Adverbia moralia). Pelc recalls the chief themes of these collections of verse: the praise of virtue and reason, the dialogue between man and God, the maturing of the individual towards goodness and truth, focusing on the images of Divine Love (Amor Divinus) and Profane Love (Amor Profanus). The book presents emblematic forms found in sermons, architecture, and gardens, and it demonstrates in various ways the connection between poetry and the fine arts.

The use of the emblem reflected the intellectual and aesthetic needs of the seventeenth century, the love of puzzles and symbolic representations of states and occurrences. Pelc leads the reader into the world of early Polish culture, in which a combination of word and image occupies a privileged place. The work is enriched by numerous illustrations from the early books of verse reflecting the rich imagination of the Renaissance and the Baroque in the presentation of both secular and spiritual matters, the laws of the macrocosm, and the encounter of man with the sacred. Janusz Pelc’s monograph shows the spread of the emblem in European culture and highlights the part played by Polish authors in the development of early European literature. The volume is well written, and the author’s meticulous selection of source materials and penetrating interpretations deserve much praise. (Danuta Künstler-Langner)

Jewish Poland-Legends of Origin: Ethnopoetics and Legendary Chronicles (Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology), by Hayah Bar-Yitshak. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2001. ISBN: 0814327893. 195 pages. Hardcover. $34.95.

An interesting attempt to gather together various versions of Polish Jewish history in Jewish folklore. Partly based on the writings of Bernard Weinryb. Not entirely successful as a scholarly book, it is nevertheless interesting as a self-reflection of Jewish writers.

Serbołużyczanie: kultura i historia, edited by Leszek Kuberski and Piotr Palys. Brzeg: Opolski Oddział Towarzystwa Polsko-Serbołużyckiego, 2000. ISBN 83-906224-2-4. 40 pages. Paper. In Polish.

Pro Lusatia, edited by Leszek Kuberski. Opolskie Studia Łużycoznawcze, vol. 1. Opole: Opolski Oddział Towarzystwa Polsko-Serbołużyckiego, 2002. ISSN 1643-1391. 122 pages. Paper. In Polish.

Some of the most beautiful and inspiring manifestations of polskość, or Polishness, relate for this reader to generous Polish expressions of sympathy for other Slavs, a cultural and political feature not often associated with the Poles or the Polish stereotype. The two volumes under review have appeared through the efforts of an organization of enthusiastic Polish scholars founded in Opole in 1999 to promote the languages, history, and culture of the Sorbs (often referred to in America as Wends). Inhabiting the southeastern corner of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Sorbs are sometimes referred to as the “Last Mohicans” of Slavdom, and they represent the smallest Slavic nation.

The first volume contains five papers in Polish and Upper Sorbian from a conference on the Sorbs held in 1998 in Brzeg, Poland. Ewa Siatkowska in “Geneza jezyków łużyckich w świetle danych historycznych i lingwistycznych” offers a concise summary of the diverse views of linguists on the origin of Upper and Lower Sorbian, which represent two autonomous literary traditions and groups of dialects. Siatkowska also briefly comments on the linguistic ties linking modern Serbian and both varieties of Sorbian. Krzysztof Mazurski in “Ewangeliccy łużyczanie wobec współczesnych wyzwań” examines the history and current situation of Lutheran Sorbs who represent a majority among the speakers of Lower Sorbian (while speakers of Upper Sorbian are, for the most part, Roman Catholic). Leszek Kuberski in “Próby utworzenia państwa łużyckiego w latach 1918-19” looks at an interesting moment in the history of Czecho-Slovak Panslavism, when Thomas Masaryk and other Czecho-Slovaks advocated the territory of the Sorbs be detached from Germany. Unfortunately for Slavs, that plan was never implemented. The fate of the Sorbs under Communism, when the officially sanctioned Sorbian cultural institutions benefited from substantial government support, is examined by Edmund Pjech in “Politiske a socialne wuwiče lužiskich Serbow 1945-1989.” Some aspects of post-war Polish interest in the Sorbs are analyzed by Piotr Pałys in “Tematyka łużycka na łamach katowickiej ‘Odry’ w latach 1945-1949.”

The second volume contains nine articles in Polish. Dietrich Scholze-Šolta in “Serbołużyczanie-najmniejszy naród słowiański” offers a detailed overview of the factors influencing contemporary Sorbian identity. While pressures working towards assimilation with the German majority produce a steady decline in the size of the Sorbian population, several factors contribute towards the preservation of Sorbian identity, e.g. language and religious traditions (either Catholic or Lutheran). Though the fall of Communism has meant, to a great degree, the loss of government support for those academic institutions that support the Sorbian language and culture, since 1988 the broadcast hours of local Sorbian-language radio programs have actually increased, and since 1992 there is greater German television coverage devoted to the Sorbs. Scholze-Šolta points out that many older Sorbs today are illiterate as the result of Nazi policies that had prohibited the functioning of the Sorbian schools and cultural organizations. The number of speakers of Upper Sorbian today is estimated at thirty to forty thousand, and that of Lower Sorbian at ten to twenty thousand. “Sytuacja Łużyczan w Republice Federalnej Niemiec” by Leszek Kuberski offers an analysis of the state of affairs among Sorbs in contemporary Germany. A series of articles on Sorbian cultural and political activists is presented by Mieczysław Bałowski in “Michal Hórnik w artykułach wspomnieniowych,” in Leszek Kuberski’s “Jan Skała-dziennikarz i redaktor,” by Zbigniew Kolciów in “Michał Nawka i Jan Skała,” in Annett Brzanec’s “Polsko-łużyckie kontakty w działalności przewodniczącego ‘Domowiny’ Pawła Nędy (1934-1950),” and by Piotr Pałys in “Działalności Wojciecha Kólki w serbołużyckim ruchu narodowym w latach 1945-1950.” Jakub Brodacki in “Styl propagandy ‘Prołuzu’ w latach 1945-1949” examines postwar Polish sympathies toward the Sorbs, especially in the region of Wielkopolska. Krzysztof Stecki in “Łużyce 1945. Najmniej znana z polskich bitew?” looks at one of the final battles of the Second World War and its implications for Polish military history.

Scholarship on the Sorbs is scarce, and the materials presented in both volumes represent a valuable resource on one of Europe’s smallest nations. Particularly interesting is the information on the political and cultural situation of the Sorbs since 1989. The editors cite sources in Upper and Lower Sorbian, Polish, Czech, Russian, and German. It is regrettable, however, that no English summaries are provided. This reader looks forward to future publications from Opolski Oddział Towarzystwa Polsko-Serbołużyckiego. Finally, though the Sorbian cultural institutions since 1989 have been crippled by the loss of government funding, each summer Serbski Institut in Budyšin/Bautzen sponsors the International Summer School in Sorbian Language and Culture. Information on the activities of that organization can be found at (Kevin Hannan)

Cassubia Slavica. Internationales Jahrbuch für Kaschubische Studien. Hamburg, Germany: Aschenbeck & Isensee Universitätsverlag, 2003. 150 pages. Paper. Euro 24.00.

The first volume Cassubia Slavica is divided into two parts: one containing scholarly articles in linguistics, sociological, and literary studies; and one dedicated to reviews. This new journal accepts articles in Kashubian, Polish, German, Russian, and English.

A paper by Jörn Achtenberg and Marlena Porebska,“Research into the Vitality of Kashubian Language: An Empirical Study in Głodnica,” deals with the chances of survival of the Kashubian language. The authors’ research concentrates on demographics (birth, mortality, and migrations rates) and the existing institutional support (the role of school and church). The researchers confirmed their initial hypothesis that the vitality of the Kashubian language in the village of Glodnica is high. It is still a primary means of communication. Due to the introduction of bilingual education and of the language’s usage in church for prayer, Kashubian has been revitalized. Another paper by Iwona Joc looks at the Kashubians’ attachment to their region, and poses the question of why children should study Kashubian. She considers the language to be a part of Kashubian identity, and points to the role of teachers and schools in revitalizing the language. Jowita Kęcińska emphasizes the importance of regional cultures in the study of literature. In the modern world the existence of smaller cultures has been endangered. Their disappearance would be a loss for Europe whose vitality is rooted in cultural diversity.

Peter Oliver Loew presents fragments of Otto von Bismarck’s letters to his sister. In his time, Poland was under hostile partitions, and Bismarck was anxious to Germanize the originally Slavic Pomerania. He traveled through that region many times, even purchasing a piece of property there. During his travels Bismark came into contact with the Kashubians who, despite the politics of Germanization, retained their own language and identity. Aside from Bismarck’s negative remarks, his letters testify to the Kashubian identity that is neither German nor Polish. Lastly, Ferdinard Neureiter, an Austrian scholar, describes his “Path to Kashubians.” He is the author of a History of Kashubian Literature (Gdańsk, 1982), and has been honored for his studies in Kashubian culture by the Polish authorities. The volume also presents Zbigniew Zielonka’s introduction to Józef Borzyszkowski’s work on Aleksander Majkowski: Biografia historyczna. Majkowski (1876-1938) was the author of the first Kashubian novel, Remus’ Life and Adventures.

In the reviews section, Wojciech Osiński writes about Pawel Huelle’s novel Mercedes-Benz, Wiktor Peplinski’s study of Kashubian periodicals titled Czasopiśmiennictwo kaszubskie w latach zaboru pruskiego, and a collective publication dedicated to Boleslaw Fac, a recently-deceased translator and author (Boleslaw Fac. Dichter und Vermittler deutsch-polnischer Kultura, by Wolfgang Schlott, Inge Buck, and Konstanze Radziwill). Another review by Aleksander D. Duličenko takes on Język kaszubski: Poradnik encyklopedyczny (Encyclopedia of Kashubian Language) edited by Jerzy Treder.

Cassubia Slavica closes with excerpts from the 2002 Polish population census. According to this census, 5,100 persons in Poland consider themselves Kashubian, while 52,700 occasionally use the Kashubian language at home. Virtually all of them are inhabitants of Pomerania. It should also be added that the Kashubians have never wanted to separate themselves from Poland. They possess a double identity, Polish and Kashubian. This is best expressed in a Kashubian saying: “There is no Kashubia without Poland, nor Poland without Kashubia.” (Agnieszka Gutthy)

Torn Out Memories, by Danuta Zamojska Hutchins. Storm Lake, Iowa: Culanco Publications (827 Lighthouse Drive, Storm Lake, IA 50588), 2004. vii + 80 pages. Illustrations by the author. Paper.

A memoir of the Second World War by a survivor who was born during the war and was a preschool child in postwar Poland. The book is ideally suited for children, and it belongs to a growing body of memoirs of Polish survivors who managed to emerge alive from the Second World War, only to be thrown into the pit of Communism for fifty years following the war.

The Complete Mazurkas of Karol Szymanowski performed by Matthew Bengtson, piano. More about this pianist at This CD was received from Publicity Works, A WBE State Certified Agency, P.O. Box 557, Bowmansville, PA 17507.

It is not often that we have an opportunity to compare Chopin’s and Szymanowski’s Mazurkas. A lovely recording.

History Derailed: Central and Eastern Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century, by Ivan T. Berend. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press, 2003. xx + 330 pages. Hardcover.

As indicated by his emphases and by the choice of items for inclusion about nations he knows something about, and those he knows next to nothing about, the author’s expertise lies south and southeast of the borders of the former Polish Commonwealth. His center of attention is Hungary and adjacent territories. Jarosław Dąbrowski (rather than Romuald Traugutt) is singled out as “leader” of the January 1863 Rising (perhaps he was singled out because he participated in the Paris Commune). The book shows no understanding of the cause of liberty. It could have been written in Soviet-occupied central Europe. Avoid it.


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