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January 2008

Volume XXVIII, No. 1

Chechyna: The Case for Independence, by Tony Wood. London-New York: Verso, 2007. 199 pages. ISBN 13: 978-1-84467-114-4. Glossary, index. Paper. $22.95 on

From the horrific photograph on the cover to the last page of text, this book is a heartbreaker. Not only because it describes injustices that surpass anything most potential readers have ever heard about, but also because, like Darfur, Chechnya is place where it is in nobody’s interest to stop the injustices. It goes without saying that the imperial interests of Russia compel it to continue occupation, destruction, murder, and torture of Chechens. In the long run, of course, this is not in Russia’s interest, but once launched, imperialism is blind until it burns itself out. Russian imperialism has not yet burned itself out.

The author is Assistant Editor of the New Left Review, the publisher is a far-left publisher. It is an indictment of the conservative wing of American intellectual establishment that no attention is paid to Chechnya. Woods traveled to Chechnya and described the last twenty years in that country, from high hopes of independence under President Dzhokar Dudaev to present day desperation. Exemplified by the declaration by rebel Chechen president, Doku Umarov, that from now on, the enemy is not only Russia but also the West, because it failed to react to Russia’s actions in Chechnya. Umarov’s declaration was not mentioned in the book that had been written before this statement was made. Representatives of the rebel Chechen government abroad, such as Ahmad Zakaev, vigorously oppose this declaration. In November 2007 Zakaev resigned his post in the government in protest. But, as a proverb says, a drowning man grabs a razor. Tony Wood makes a convincing case for Chechnya’s independence based on economic, cultural, historical, and political foundations. Will Russia listen?

Imhibition [sic], edited by Roman Działkiewicz and Ewa Tatar. Kraków: Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie and Korporacja Halart, 2007. Photographs. 182 pages. ISBN 83-89424-75-4. Paper. Bilingual in Polish and English. Paper.

A collection of postessays (or is it pot-essays?) written by a postrational and postconceptual crowd of Polish academics. Easily the weirdest volume we have recently received. If one seeks a dead end for humanities and letters, this is it. We have a question, however: to whom is this postbook addressed? We fear that the only readers will be the authors themselves, and they will only read their own productions (the ouroboros syndrome).

Szkoła moskiewska w literaturze rosyjskiej, edited by Piotr Fast and Katarzyna Jastrzębska. Częstochowa: Wydawnictwo Wyższej Szkoły Lingwistycznej (, 2007. 179 pages. ISBN 83-921963-6-8. Paper. In Polish.

A collection of fourteen papers and one interview, primarily about Vladimir Makanin, a truly mediocre Soviet Russian writer who survived into the post-Soviet period. The book illustrates a wider problem that Polish rusycystyka faces: a lack of audience. In Russia, hardly anyone pays attention to Polish scholarship about Russian writers. In the United States and other first-world countries, scholars have enough trouble with learning Russian to read anything but Russian- and English-language scholarship. In Poland itself the audience for scholarly works about authors tainted by the Soviet system is minimal. One suspects that it is limited to the authors of articles and their circle of friends.

Polish rusycystyka has to develop a profile of its own if it wants to avoid nullity and irrelevance. The selection of topics might be related to a time period (the nineteenth century, for instance), or to a methodology (it is too late for formalism, but perhaps postcolonialism?), or nonliterary studies such as sociology. When reaching for a book or an article by a Polish Russicist, the potential reader must know that analysis of a certain kind will be offered. Otherwise, the works of Polish Russicists will remain, with few exceptions, an exercise in futility. The public money used for educating such scholars and providing subsidies for their publications is certainly wasted.

Madness and the Mad in Russian Culture, edited by Angela Brintlinger and Ilya Vinitsky. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 2007. xi + 330 pages. Hardcover. ISBN 0802091407. $70.00.

A collection of essays by some fifteen Russicists on one of the subjects that make Russian culture different from the rest of the Slavic world (and from Europe as well). While the subject of madness gained ground in European literature starting with Romanticism, it never achieved the status it has consistently maintained in the East ever since Muscovy came into being. The very choice of topic makes this volume notable, although in many essays the characteristics of Russian culture are played down or treated as an occasion to introduce psychiatry into literary citicism.

Other Books Received:

Awaiting the Green Morning, by Maria Rosa Lojo. Translated by Brett Alan Sanders. Austin, TX: Host Publications (, 2008. ISBN 978-0-924047-47-3. 119 pages. Paper.

A bilingual book of poetry by an Argentinian writer, on topics both feminist and feminine.

Wizerunek Niemca i Rosjanina we współczesnej literaturze polskiej: Rekonesans, edited by Tadeusz Błażejewski and Heinz Kenip. Łódź: Łódź University Press (, 2006. 245 pages. ISBN 83-7171-928-0. In Polish and German. Paper.

A collection of academic papers on the image of Germans and Russians in contemporary Polish literature.

Looking for the Horse Latitudes, by Miguel Gonzalez-Gerth. Austin, TX: Host Publications, 2007. 159 pages. ISBN 978-0-924047-49-7. Paper.

Host Publications specializes in poetry. This is a bilingual (Spanish-English) book by a Mexican-American poet.

Romantyczka, by Joanna Rostropowicz Clark. Kalisz: Kropka (, 2004. 162 pages. ISBN 83-919802-0-0. Paper. In Polish.

A novel by a noted American Polish Slavist.

“Czemu, Cieniu, odježdžasz”: Trzy opowiadania, by Joanna Clark. Lublin: Norbertinum (, 2007. 168 pages. ISBN 978-83-7222-294-7. Paper. In Polish.

Otwarta rana Ameryki, by Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm. Bielsko-Biała, Poland: Debit Publishers (, 2007. 271 pages. Illustrations, index. ISBN 978-83-7167-556-0. Hardcover. In Polish.

An impressive book on American Indians by one of Poland’s most prolific practitioners of the gawęda genre.

Ostatni Stańczyk: Michał Bobrzyński. Portret konserwatysty, by Waldemar Łazuga. Toruń: Adam Marszałek Press (, 2005. 264 pages. Bibliography, photographs, index of names. ISBN 83-7441-119-8. Paper. In Polish.

A well executed critical biography of one of Poland’s great historians. Bobrzyński (1849-1935) is the author of the much-discussed interpretation of Polish history, Historia Polski w zarysie. He bet on a wrong horse: he believed that (Catholic) Poland could be reborn only in alliance with (Catholic) Austria. He also condemned nineteenth-century uprisings and put the blame on Poland’s loss of independence on the Poles themselves.

A Handbook of the Communist Security Apparatus in East Central Europe, 1944-1989, edited by Krzysztof Persak and Łukasz Kamiński. Warsaw: Institute of National Remembrance (, 2005. 352 pages plus 8 pages of photographs. Index of names, list of abbreviations, diagrams, and tables. ISBN 83-89078-82-1. Hardcover.

An English-language sourcebook on intelligence operations and internal security apparatus in the USSR (1917-1945), East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. It outlines the structures of internal security in aforementioned countries and their contribution to Soviet intelligence. Examples: number of Czechoslovak agents abroad in 1955: 232 verified names. Budget for internal security in East Germany in 1979: 2,390 million marks. Number of internal spies in East Germany in 1982 (pop. 17 million): 85,512. Number of internal spies in Poland in 1981 (pop. 36 million): 25,634. A good source of data for papers and presentations.

The Autonomy of the University: Its Enemies and Friends, edited by Jan Kieniewicz et al. Warsaw: Instytut Artes Liberales, 2007. 189 pages. ISBN 83-920349-6-1. Paper. In Polish, English, and Russian, with English summaries.

A collection of worthwhile essays on an unadulterated vision of what universities are all about. The tenor of this publication corresponds to that of the ISI and Modern Age. The volume offers a Central European perspective on the Latin legacy of the West.

Narracje po końcu (wielkiej) narracji: Kolekcje, obiekty, symulakra, edited by Hanna Gosk and Andrzej Zieniewicz. Warsaw: Elipsa (, 2007. 471 pages. Index of names. ISBN 978-83-7151-776-1. Paper. In Polish.

A collection of theoretical papers and recent interpretations of mostly Polish literature of the last several decades.

Archiepiscopus Damianus Zimoń, Doctor Honoris Causa Universitasa Silesiae Catoviciencis, edited by Zbigniew Kadłubek and Piotr Wilczek. Katowice: Para Press (, 2007. 117 pages. ISBN 078-83-61061-08-3. Paper. In Polish.

A collection of essays and statements (related to the event described in the title) that are strikingly relevant and occasionally truly profound.

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