BOOKS BOOKS and Periodicals Received
Volume XXII, No. 2
A History of Polish Christianity, by Jerzy Kloczowski. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. Maps, charts, photographs, index. xxxviii + 385 pages. Hardcover. $70.00.
Excessively concentrated on ecclesiastical and hierarchical rather than social history, this tome is nevertheless a worthy beginning. The issue at hand is integration of Polish Catholicism into the history of Christian Europe and elucidation of the role Christianity has played in making Europe powerful culturally and politically. The author points out that Catholicism in Poland was slow to take root but when it did, the effect was overwhelming. At the time when Poland truly became Christianized (two or three centuries after the initial baptism of 966), the theological debates in western Europe tended to concentrate on the doctrine of the Incarnation and the role of Mary as the Mother of God. These two doctrinal points sank in deeply and played a greater role in Polish Catholicism than in the Catholicism of Poland's western neighbors. In particular, popular religiosity developed a deep attachment to these two dogmas, and it has created a range of artistic expressions to affirm them (the cr¸che tradition, popular songs and poetry, caroling etc.).
Poland's Security Policy, 1989-2000, edited by Roman Kuznar. Warsaw: Scholar Publishing House (Krakowskie Przedmiescie 62, 00-322 Warszawa, Poland, firstname.lastname@example.org), 2001. 606 pages. Index, appendix, biographical notes. Hardcover.
A collection of essays by various authors on Polish relations with NATO, OSCE, Russia, the United States and other countries. At the end of the book, there are useful tables showing military expenditures of Poland's neighbors. According to one table, in 1995 Russia spent $82 billion on its military, whereas Germany spent $41.8 billion.
Russia and Ukraine: Literature and Discourse of Empire from Napoleonic to Postcolonial Times, by Myroslav Shkandrij. Montreal & Kingston: McGill University Press, 2001. Bibliography, index. xvi + 334 pages. Hardcover. $75.00.
The author is a professor of Slavic literatures at the University of Manitoba. His work sketches out the tense relationship between Ukraine and Russia over the last two centuries. Ukraine's relationship with Poland is also considered, and Poland does not always look good. One of the urgent tasks for the Central European nations is to recognize Ukraine as distinct and separate from Russia. The book is elegantly and clearly written, and it is warmly recommended for audiences in countries bordering on Ukraine, as well as for those interested in questioning Russian hegemony over Ukrainian discourse (or the Eastern European discourse in general).
Polka, by Manuela Gretkowska. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo WAB (http://www.wab.com.pl), 2001. 346 pages. Hardcover. Available from Szwede Slavic Books for $23.00. In Polish.
With its soft-porn-like front cover presenting a headless and naked female body, and with a sexually attractive picture of the author on the back cover, this novel may be mistaken for pulp literature. But, like Witold Gombrowicz's Pornografia, it has little to do with pornography. Gretkowska is an up-and-coming Polish novelist who dares to take on the topic of pregnancy, birth, and women's emotions and attitudes surrounding these familiar but intellectually neglected processes. What do women really feel and think about the process of pregnancy, are they always the welcoming mothers as history has presented them? The sheer originality of Gretkowska's topic pushes her to the forefront of Polish prose fiction of the early twenty-first century. The novel is a first-person narrative of a none-too-intellectual female who experiences the hopes and humiliations of the Central and Eastern European females who have traveled to the West in search of a better life or to escape the destructive vapors of communism.
"A Geography of Snow," by Anthony Bukoski. In Chronicles: A Magazine
of American Culture ($39.00/year,
Like Geraldine Glodek's novel, Nine Bells at a Breaker (reviewed in SR, XXII:1, January 2002 ), this is a story about the real Polish Americans: the reliable whites who take low-prestige jobs in factories and mills of America, whose parents likewise worked in unglamorous professions, who do not seem to be going anywhere, who timidly form clubs and associations where they rehearse the tired slogans of their "Polishness," and who are light years apart from the euphemistic and homogenized culture of America's official cultural outlets. The story takes place in Wisconsin and the time of action is the late 1960s during the Vietnam war. A powerful piece, very much recommended for the Polish intelligentsia.
Letters to Vilna 1805/Listy do Wilna 1805, edited and translated by Richard Sokoloski. Foreword by Sergej Ivanovich Nikolaev. Ottawa, Canada: Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and Institute of Russian Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences, 1999. Bibliography, index, illustrations. xiv + 218 pages. Paper.
A bilingual collection of letters written by Prince Adam Czartoryski, onetime member of an unofficial Committee at Tsar Alexander's court, eventually demoted to curator of "Vilna University" (Szkola Glówna, or Akademia Wilenska, founded by Polish King Stefan Batory in 1575 and renamed "Vilna University" by Tsar Alexander I). Rumor had it that Prince Adam was an illegitimate son of Catherine's ambassador to Poland, Prince Repnin, and for that reason he was initially trusted by the Russians. It turned out however that Prince Adam's Polish mother exerted an influence on him, and he turned out to mind Polish interests more than the Russian. Alexander would not tolerate that, hence Prince Czartoryski's demotion to a job in the provinces. However, it should be addeed that before Nicholas I closed Akademia Wilenska in retaliation for the 1830 Uprising, it was the largest university in the Russian empire, and it surpassed in the number of students (1,322) the University of Oxford in England. Thus Nicholas's revenge was massive, aiming as it did at the cultural heart and identity of Russia's western colonies.
Originally, the Letters were part of a collection maintained by Polish historian Ignacy Onacewicz who lived in St. Petersburg. Whatever remains of the collection is presently held by the Russians, an instance of hundreds and perhaps thousands of colonial appropriations that the Russian empire affected to the disadvantage of the colonized peoples. How did Onacewicz's property become Russian property? The editor keeps mum on that. Nor does Sergey Nikolaev's Introduction deal with the problem. Instead, the Introduction gives the official Russian version of the reasons for Russia's aggression against of Poland (it was the Poles' fault, you see), and it tries to legitimize Russian robbery of Polish lands including the appropriation of a major portion of the property of the Jesuit Order in the Russian-occupied part of Poland. That this kind of writing is still produced and published by a Canadian university can only be cause for wonder and distress.
A note: it is regrettable that a greater concern for Lithuanian sensibilities has not been demonstrated in selecting the volume's title. The word "Wilno" rings pleasantly to Polish ears, but to Lithuanians ears it has the same connotations as the word "Breslau" has to the Polish. Since Wilno, or Vilnius, has never been an ethnically Russian city, there was no reason to use the Russian version in the title. It should have been "Vilnius."
The Letters themselves are of considerable historical value, and thanks are due to Professor Robert Sokoloski for translating some of them into English. Most of these letters are in (bad) Polish, some were written in German or French. Not all have been translated: the choice seems to have been the editor's.
Marian Hemar: od Lwowa do Londynu. Szkic do biografii artysty, by Anna Mieszkowska. London: Polish Cultural Foundation, 2001. 254 pages. Index, bibliography. Paper. Available from the Nowy Dziennik NY Bookstore, tel. 212-594-2386. In Polish.
Marian Hemar (1901-1972) was the author of hundreds of cabaret texts widely known in Poland before the second world war. He was born in Lwów/Lviv (then Lemberg) to an assimilated Jewish family. In 1925, he moved to Warsaw where he worked at the popular cabaret "Qui pro Quo." He also performed in "Banda" (1931-1933), "Cyganeria Warszawska" (1933-1934) and "Cyrulik Warszawski" (1935-1939). Among his most popular songs are "Kiedy znów zakwitna biale bzy" and "Karpacka Brygada." His songs were performed by such popular singers as Hanka Ordonówna, Mira Ziminska, Fryderyk Jaroczy, Kazimierz Krukowski, Ludwik Sempolinski, Mieczyslaw Fogg and others. In other words, he was a quintessential entertainer, and his success far exceeds that of his colleagues in the trade.
From Mieszkowska's book, we also learn that Hemar was baptized in April 1935 and married in a Protestant church the Polish actress Maria Modzelewska. During the war, he served in the Polish Carpathian Brigade in Palestine and Egypt. In 1942, he settled in England where he headed the Polish theater "Orzel Bialy" and worked for the Polish section of Radio Free Europe. His literary output include collections titled Kon trojanski (Warsaw, 1936), Dwie Ziemie Swiete (London, 1942), Sciana placzu (London, 1968), Wybór wierszy (London, 1988), Pamietnik satyryczny (New York, 1955), Chlib Kulikowski. Wiersze, satyry, piosenki (London, 1971), Liryki, satyry, fraszki (London, 1990). He has also published theater plays and memoirs. Anna Mieszkowska is a noted specialist in theater, and she writes for the monthly Pamietnik Teatralny. (Aleksandra Ziólkowska-Boehm)
Spotkania z Brodskim, dawne i nowe, by Piotr Fast. Katowice: Slask Publishing House, 2001. Bibliography. 171 pages. Paper. In Polish.
A collection of essays on Josif Brodskii by one of Poland's notable Russicists. The personal tone of the essays make this little book attractive to those who, like Fast, find Brodsky to be a ‘kindred soul.' Fast says: "I discover in Brodsky's poetry meanings which correspond to my way of looking at the world and my emotional life." Probably many intellectuals feel this while reading Brodsky. According to Fast, Brodsky's central concern is time and its influence on human beings. Brodsky himself once said that in the center of his interests lies the influence the passing of time has on individuals; he tries to understand how time changes individuals, how it reshapes them. A fine homage to a fine poet.
"Ot sveta istiny k siianiiu istiny: poetika sveta papy rimskogo Ioanna Pavla II i russkoe pravoslavnoe videnie dukhovnogo prostranstva," by Jelena Twierdislowa. Przeglad Rusycystyczny, No. 3 (95), 2001, 5-25. In Russian.
This article appeared in the quarterly titled (in Polish) Russian Review. The quarterly is published in Katowice under the editorship of Professor Piotr Fast. This particular article compares the vision of light in John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor and the writings on related topics by Russian Orthodox theologians.
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