Czerwona msza, albo usmiech Stalina [the red Mass, or Stalin’s smile], by Bohdan Urbankowski. Warsaw. ALFA Publishing House. 1995. ISBN 83-7001-867-X. 503 pages. Hardcover. 19.00. In Polish.
One of the first works that tried to detail the literary aspects of the Soviet occupation of Poland, and how some members of the Polish intelligentsia and the intellectual class submitted to it: "This book...is a dialogue and an expression of doubt....should one remind Poles about Stalinism, about collaboration, about poshlost. . . (13) The building of Soviet culture in Poland did not begin, as some historians wish to convince us, in 1949, but exactly ten years earlier. And it did not end in 1955; it lasted until the very fall of communism, although the methods changed continuously. . . Sovietism in Poland was not constructed by means of occasional poems by the young people who momentarily "erred." It was well planned, it was one of the Great Communist Enterprises, like the Belomor Canal. . . It was built not only by forced labor but also by volunteers. . . (15) Even if the builders suffered from fear (as they later told us), they lived in luxurious mansions and received generous financial prizes. . . people like Broniewski. . . Tuwim. . . Lec. . . Woroszylski.. . . Wazyk. . . Iwaszkiewicz. . . Slonimski. . . Kazimierz Brandys and Marian Brandys. . . Leonid Pasternak. . . Dobrowolski. . . Tadeusz Kubiak. . . Wirpsza. . . Slucki. . . Lewin. . . Braun. . . Miedzyrzecki. . . Mandalian. . . Kozniewski. . . (16)
Lec will enter history for he wrote the first sycophantic poem about Stalin in the Polish language, whereas [Adam] Wazyk’s place in history will be assured by his having written the most sycophantic poem of all, comparing Stalin to God. . . (17)"
These are excerpts from the Preface. Urbankowski’s work is a serious version of the Book of Toadies, Large and Small, reviewed below.
Las wokol: opowiadania [the forest around: short stories], by Andrzej Kalinin. Krakow. Wydawnictwo ARCANA [Krakow, ul. Dunajewskiego 6, II p.]. 1995. ISBN 83-86225-35-1. 135 pages. Paper. In Polish.
Andrzej Kalinin is a writer of the younger generation, known to Polish readers as a master narrator of stories about the ways in which Soviet power and those who cooperated with it ruined, broke or otherwise destroyed the lives of gifted Polish men and women. One by one, the stories of men who were imprisoned and tortured, whose families were killed and who themselves perished, are told in a simple, unemotional and realistic manner. These stories beg for translators, as do the stories of Jacek Trznadel reviewed below.
Z popiolu czy wstaniesz? Opowiadania "stamtad" [will you rise up from the ashes? stories from "over there"], by Jacek Trznadel. Krakow. Wydawnictwo ARCANA [Krakow, ul. Dunajewskiego 6, II p.]. 1995. ISBN 83-86225-70-X. 81 pages. Paper. In Polish.
In our opinion, the most powerful collection of short stories about the Katyn murders. It is written from the viewpoint of the Soviet soldiers who performed the hard work of shooting hundreds of prisoners daily, or from the standpoint of the victims. One powerful story fleshes out an episode of finding a Polish officers insignia near the execution scene: apparently some victims realized, minutes before they were surreptitiously shot, what the Soviet NKVD prepared for them, and they attempted to escape and/or wrestle away the weapons from the executioners.
Romantyczny sarmatyzm: tradycja szlachecka w literaturze polskiej lat 1831-1863 [romantic Sarmatism: the szlachta tradition in Polish literature, 1831-1863], by Andrzej Wasko. Krakow. Wydawnictwo ARCANA. 1995. Index. ISBN 83-86225-60-2. 214. Paper. In Polish.
A first-rate scholarly study of the Sarmatian tradition in Polish literature and culture. For those who are unfamiliar with the word (how many misspelled addresses have we seen on envelopes addressed to The Sarmatian Review!), Sarmatia is an ancient and legendary name for Poland, and Sarmata designates a type of Pole who combined the features of the medieval knights and the anarchic frontiersmen, and was not unlike Chaucer's pilgrims. His outstanding feature was his fidelity to heritage and religion, and his total political ineffectiveness. Wasko is a young literary scholar who knows his topic and knows how to interpret it in a scholarly way. The book is a gem.
"Starting over: Poland after Communism," by Simon Johnson and Gary Loveman. Harvard Business Review, March-April 1995, 44-57.
The authors argue that Leszek Balcerowiczs shock therapy was a good choice because it enabled vast numbers of private entrepreneurs to enter the market quickly and effectively. There were 45,011 private companies in Poland by the end of 1991, which together with the unincorporated entrepreneurs employed 3 million people outside agriculture, or 25% of the Polish labor force, and produced 40% of the Polish GDP. The future of privatization lies in the growth of these and other companies that started from scratch, rather than in the privatization of huge and inefficient state enterprises which the authors, one guesses, would like to consign to the dustbin of history. They point out that the longer these state-subsidized dinosaurs are allowed to exist, the more difficult the atmosphere for the new private companies will become. Examples are provided to support this argument.
While one sympathizes with the spirit of this article, one is also painfully aware of the fact that the core Polish labor force, namely, the unionized workers, are still employed by the state-owned and inefficient enterprises, and that scrapping them in favor of instant laissez-faire would hurt Poland demographically, politically and socially. A similar problem exists in Russia where the nationalist politicians have said no to such liquidation even though Russia could better afford taking huge risks. Also, in the Polish case, something surely can be salvaged from those big factories that are favorably situated to provide cheap goods for the German market, among others. They were not all producing for the military, as has been the case in Russia. They need not all be scrapped. The article is interesting as an indicator of the views current in the leading U.S. business schools.
The Polish Heritage Songbook, compiled by Marek Sart. Illustrations by Szymon Kobylinski. Annotations by Stanislaw Werner. First American Edition. Cornwall Bridge, CT. Polish Heritage Publications. [75 Warren Hill Road, Cornwall Bridge, CT 06754]. 1995. Distributed by Hippocrene Books. 166 pages. Paper. $14.95. Texts in Polish, annotations in English.
This is an annotated translation of a songbook that appeared in Poland in 1988. It contains 80 songs (words, music, annotations), a vast majority of which were censored out of publication in Soviet-occupied Poland. This fact alone makes the collection valuable. The second reason it is worthwhile is that there is a dearth of good Polish songbooks in this country. The one published in Wisconsin by Polanki is huge but poorly edited. The present collection has some famous tear-jerkers like Rota, Maszeruja strzelcy, Trzeci maj etc. It is virtually impossible to choose examples, nearly all of these songs have lengthy biographies and have been sung by many generations of Poles. It is really a lovely collection, a great help in teaching Polish classes in colleges or elsewhere. It is also recommended for Polish language schools in the United States.
Ksiega lizusow duzych i malych: wybor cytatow [a book of toadies, large and small]. Edited by Stefan Kobierzycki. Berlin-Warsaw. Burchard Edition. Distributed by One World Books [Warszawa, ul. Kolejowa 15/17 pok.14, fax 32-32-60]. 1991. 100 pages. Paper. Numerous illustrations. In Polish.
A revealing collection of poems, speeches, portions of essays, newspaper articles and cartoons by prominent writers who came to occupy respectable positions in free Poland. The works quoted were written under Stalinism. They range from ordinary toadyism to statements that, in our opinion, are more than despicable. The essays by Jan Kott and Andrzej Drawicz on Czeslaw Milosz are remarkable. Kott calls Milosz a lackey, a traitor, and a petit-bourgeois, while quoting Stalin as his authority. Andrzej Drawicz inveighs against Milosz’s capitalist and bourgeois inclinations, and calls him a dead- end poet. Andrzej Mandalian’s poem glorifying the KGB is reprinted in toto. Leopold Lewin, Eugeniusz Szyr, Robert Stiller, Andrzej Braun, Stanislaw Wygodzki, and Jerzy Ficowski praise Bierut, Dzherzninsky, Swierczewski, and glorify the communist revolution in Spain. Kazimierz Brandys pours out his heart, broken at the news of Stalins death - ditto Marian Brandys, Artur Miedzyrzecki, Jacek Bochenski, Wislawa Szymborska, Tadeusz Konwicki, and Adam Schaff.
A little bite of this book amuses, but do not read all of it after dinner.
Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America: 50th Anniversary Album (1942-1992). Edited by the Staff of the Institute. New York. PIASA Publishers [208 East 30th Street, New York, NY 10016-8202]. 1995. 108 pages. Numerous illustrations. Hardcover on glossy paper. $22.25 (includes postage).
The title says it all. The Album outlines the tenures of the Institute’s various presidents and directors, some of whom have been notable scholars. As is usual with anniversary editions, the Album reads like a Who’s Who at PIASA, while implicitly arguing that there has been at the Institute quite a bit of shoulder brushing with the outside world.
Highlander Polish-English/English-Polish Dictionary, by Jan Gutt-Mostowy. Translated by Miroslaw Lipinski. Preface by Thaddeus V. Gromada. New York. Hippocrene Books [171 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016]. 111 pages. Paper. $9.95.
This delightful little dictionary will hopefully be one of the first steps in introducing highlander Polish into the Polish literary canon. People who speak that language are sometimes ridiculed as ignorant of proper Polish, yet highlander Polish, like highlander English in Scotland, has its own literary stature and it conveys its own message. However, words of that Polish dialect often cannot be found in standard Polish-English dictionaries. Americans of Polish highlander background are urged to buy this 4" x 6" book as one of the treasures of family history. Others will find it to be a charming addition to their Polish library.
Stalins Drive to the West, 1938-1945: The Origins of the Cold War, by R.C. Raack. Stanford. Stanford University Press. 1995. viii + 265 pages. Illustrations. Hardcover.
A review to follow.
XXXVII Rocznik Polskiego Towarzystwa Naukowego na Obczyznie [XXXVII yearbook of the Polish Scholarly Society Abroad], 1993/94. London. PTNO, 238-240 King Street, London W6 ORF. 168 pages. Paper. N 9. In Polish.
Contains a nice article about Polish emigration in the 19th and 20th centuries.