Constitutions, Elections and Legislatures of Poland, 1493-1993, by Jacek Jedruch. Foreword by Norman Davies. New York. Hippocrene Books (distributor). 1998. V + 487 pages. Index, bibliography, tables, appendices. Hardcover. $35.00.
A useful collection of commentaries and primary sources that are hard to find in English translation. As Norman Davies says in the Foreword, 'the English-speaking world has often been unaware of parliamentary traditions other than their own' Davies mentions Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Scandinavian countries, Novgorod, and Poland as representatives of parliamentary traditions that have been ignored. Poland 'had established the principle of Habeas corpus nearly three centuries before England and had accepted the idea of "No taxation without representation" long before England's American colonies had even been founded.' Tables and appendices include a list of Polish constitutional arrangements since 1550, a list of hereditary and elective kings confirmed by the Sejm, lists of bills passed by the Sejms, and many other facts and figures. At the very least, this book sensitizes the reader to the complexity of the Polish parliamentary tradition of which elements such the liberum veto were only a small part.
Fronda: A Quarterly. Nos 4/5(Spring-Summer 1995), 9/10 (Fall 1997), 11/12 (Spring-Summer 1998). Each issue ca. 400 pages. Editorial offices: ul. Reymonta 30/61, 01-842 Warszawa. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Web address: www.webfabrica.com.pl/fronda . ISSN 1231-6474. In Polish.
This is the most amazing periodical we have seen in a long time. It is medieval, in the sense that its highly intellectual authors totally ignore the phenomenon of the Enlightenment, reverting instead to Thomism and scholasticism in their search for rationality and principles of reasoning. Topics discussed are likewise politically incorrect. Among books which the Fronda Editors have reprinted, one notes those by Chateaubriand and Chesterton, The authors writing in Fronda belong to the generation of the 1960s: it is a publication run by young people. There are many of them, literally dozens in each issue. Nor are they all unknown: we spotted in Fronda well known scholars and writers who also publish in Rzeczpospolita, Zycie, Arcana. They are authors of books and teachers at universities. They live all over Poland, another amazing fact in the life of journals which are usually run by people living in one locality. Each issue contains dozens of articles on an wide range of topics. Surprised at this embarrassement de richesse? We were.
What else is medieval about this periodical? It contains a tongue-in-cheek, or maybe just an ambivalent index librorum prohibitorum. It prides itself on being clerical, although among authors we have not noticed any clergy. It takes an interest in the entire gamut of human spirituality. It loves controversial topics. The periodical is the opposite of dull. Contact them about a subscription which, in a medieval fashion, is not spelled out in dollars.
Treny - Laments, by Jan Kochanowski. Translated and edited by M.J. Mikos. 2nd edition. Lublin. Norbertinum <email@example.com>. 1998. 101 pages. A bilingual edition with Notes. Paper.
The first bilingual edition in Poland of the sixteenth-century poet Jan Kochanowski's Threnoids, or Laments, written after the death of his daughter Ursula. The nineteen Laments represent an early example of Polish lyrical poetry. They have been aptly translated by Professor Michael Mikos.
Stalin Against the Jews, by Arkady Vaksberg. Translated by A. Bouis. New York. Knopf. 1994. 308 pages. Index. Hardcover.
Vaksberg demonstrates that Stalin conducted a personal vendetta against the Jews, and that he used as his hatchet man against them a Jew, 'the infinitely hypocritical and sadistic Lazar Kaganovich.' Vaksberg details campaigns against Jews such as the drummed-up 'doctors' plot,' and he ends his book with a bitter reminder that anti-Semitism is not yet dead in Russia. Books of that kind raise the perennial question of the cultural identity of a people who, unoccupied by a foreign army, allowed a monster like Stalin to acquire and hold onto power, and this for thirty years. Vaksberg tries to identify a strand in the Russian cultural identity that needs to be studied more closely.
Pears on a Willow Tree, by Leslie Pietrzyk. New York. Avon Books. 1998. 272 pages. Hardcover. $23.00.
A novel about four generations of Polish American women by a Polish American novelist. Perhaps it is not accidental that the most readable novels about Polish Americans have so far come from the pens of women (Suzanne Strempek Shea, and now Leslie Pietrzyk). We have always held that those minorities who are in some way discriminated against and Poles in America have certainly been so discriminated! survive thanks to their women.
Zycie surowo wzbronione (life is strictly forbidden), by Antoni Marianowicz. Warsaw. Czytelnik. 1995. 324 pages. Numerous photographs. Paper.
Antoni Marianowicz, a Polish Protestant of Jewish background who did not perish during the Holocaust and who retained the name under which he was hiding on the 'Aryan' side of Warsaw during the German occupation (his father's name was Berman, no relation to Jakub), told the present reviewer that his family, including a sick father, went voluntarily to the walled Warsaw Ghetto established by the Germans. 'Why?' I asked in amazement. 'Because conditions there were better for us,' Marianowicz said. He added that his family was very well to do, and in the Ghetto they could find doctors and servants of a better quality than on the 'Aryan' side. But his father died nevertheless, and then the family moved out of the Ghetto. 'How?' I asked, again in amazement. It turned out that it was not that difficult to cross to and from the Ghetto, if one had money and was willing to take the risk.
Marianowicz's book takes the form of an interview conducted by a literary critic Anna Baltyn. The book occasions many a good laugh. It records Marianowicz's youth, much of it spent in 'luxuriant conditions' (so he says) during World War II. For those who do not know him, he is a humorist writer who for many years was president of ZAIKS, or the Association of Polish Authors, an organization which looks after the authors' financial interests. His present upper middle class lifestyle is supported by his prudent selection of job assignments: he translated into Polish the text of the musical Fiddler on the Roof. The musical was a hit in Poland as well, and Marianowicz's bank account swelled. The book's unique contribution is to adumbrate the situation of rich Jews in Poland before and during World War II. It also contains a wealth of information about the Polish elite, Christian and Jewish, before and after the war. Marianowicz's family belonged in that circle.
Other Books received:
Zaglada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej, 1945-1947 (the destruction of the second republic, 1945-1947), by Aleksander Gella. Warsaw. Agencja Wydawnicza CB (02-495 Warsaw, ul.
Kolorowa 1). 1998. 236 pages. Index, photographs. Paper. In Polish. A review to follow.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko: The Purest Son of Liberty, by James S. Pula. New York. Hippocrene Books (171 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016). 1999. 357 pages. Notes, bibliography, illustrations. Hardcover. $29.95.
Bitter Glory: Poland and its Fate, 1918-1939, by Richard M. Watt. New York. Hippocrene books. 1998. Numerous illustrations. 511 pages. Paper. $16.95.
This is one of our favorite books on Poland, and we are delighted that Hippocrene reprinted this magnificent work originally published in 1979. A review to follow.
New Horizon. October 1998. Published by Bicentennial Publishing (333 West 38th Street, NY, NY 10018). Subscription $30/year. Founder and Publisher: Boleslaw Wierzbianski. Associate Publisher: Jacek Galazka. 16 pages.
A middlebrow Polish cultural monthly that wishes for a broad readership.
Samoidentyfikacja mniejszosci narodowych i religijnych w Europie Srodkowo-Wschodniej (self-identification of national minorities in East Central Europe), edited by Andrej Czarnocki. Lublin. Instytut Europy Srodkowo-Wschodniej. 1998. 119 pages. Paper. In Polish.
Samoidentyfikacja mniejszosci narodowych i religijnych w Europie Srodkowo-Wschodniej: Problematyka atlasowa (self-identification of national minorities in East Central Europe: the mapping problem), edited by Jan Skarbek. Lublin. Instytut Europy Srodkowo-Wschodniej. 1998. 191 pages. Paper. In Polish.
Samoidentyfikacja mniejszołńci narodowych i religijnych w Europie Srodkowo-Wschodniej: Problematyka prawna (self-identification of national minorities in East Central Europe: the legal problems), edited by Monika Ploska. Lublin. Instytut Europy Sodkowo-Wschodniej. 1998. 87 pages. Paper. In Polish.
A collection of papers (given at a conference in 1994) on the problems of areas which identify themselves as inhabited by a minority nationality. Introduction in English; papers mostly in English but also in French, Belarusian, Czech and Polish.
Sprawy miedzynarodowe (international affairs). A quarterly edited by Henryk Szlajfer. January-March 1998 issue. 182 pages. Summaries in English; also published in English as The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs.
Contains articles on NATO enlargement by Boguslaw Winid, on Russian transformation by Wlodzimierz Marciniak, and on Poland and Germany by Jerzy Kranz. On par with the best.