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BOOKS BOOKS and Periodicals Received

April 2002

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,, 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 (, 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,, February 2002, pp. 22-26.

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.

Other Books Received:

  • Treny/The Laments, by Jan Kochanowski. Translated by Adam Czerniawski, Foreword by Donald Davie. Edited and annotated by Piotr Wilczek . Legenda / Studies in Comparative Literature 6. Oxford: EHRC (, 2001. 94 pages. Paper. $25.00.

    Kochanowski's Threnoids, or Laments, a series of unusual lyrical poems written to commemorate the death of the poet's daughter in 1579, attracted a number of translators. A review to follow.

  • Miedzy Wschodem a Zachodem. Przez pogranicza Europy, by Anne Applebaum. Translated from the English by Ewa Kulik-Bielinska. Warsaw: Prószynski i Ska (02-651 Warszawa, ul. Garazowa 7), 2001). 223 pages. Paper. Zl 35.90. In Polish.

    A Polish translation of Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe. The author traveled to Kaliningrad, Vilnius, Novogrodek, Minsk, Brest, Lviv, Chisinau, and many other cities with double and sometimes triple or quadruple names and histories. Her luggage included a writing facility and familiarity with the history of the region. The product is eminently readable.

  • Country of the Mind: an introduction to the poetry of Adam Mickiewicz, by Anita Debska. Warsaw: Burchard Edition (, 2001. Illustrations, bibliography. 219 pages. Paper.

    This aptly titled book delivers what it promises. It was written with the English-speaking reader in mind: even Mickiewicz's name is rendered into an easier-to-pronounce form of Mitskyevich. References to British history are common, thus enabling a reader innocent of the Central European realities to relate to facts and stories otherwise as alien as could be. The method of writing is clearly pedagogical, a mix of narration, poetry translations, summaries and historical commentary. This material may seem elementary to most Polish readers, but the author's ability to find parallels with British poetry and history make this volume extraordinarily useful to academic teachers of Polish literature in the United States. The book reads like one of the biographies of Russian writers by Henry Troyat; the difference is that Debska gives us incomparably more primary materials than Troyat ever did. Debska never criticizes too harshly: even the bitter relations between Poland and Russia or the brutality with which the Russians deported thousands of Poles (including Mickiewicz) into other parts of their colonial empire are passed over with relative serenity. Perhaps this is Debska's strong point rather than a weakness: the book is optimistic and cheerful, one of those tomes that can be read after dinner or in bed without evoking negative feelings and thoughts.

  • Sztuka po Holocauscie (Art after the Holocaust), by Eleonora Jedlinska. Introduction by Marek Edelman. Lódz: Biblioteka Tygla Kultury (, 2001. Illustrations, index, English summary. 228 pages. Hardcover. In Polish.

    Holocaust survivor Marek Edelman considers this book to be a pioneer work. It deals with connections between history, philosophy, and literature. Jedlinska states, as have so many others, that the Holocaust has had a profound influence on art. It resulted in a frequent presentation in art of the feeling of emptiness, apathy, despair, and catastrophe. Theodore Adorno's famous question: is poetry possible after Auschwitz, is also discussed, as are the history of anti-Semitism and the history of totalitarianism. (Aleksandra Ziólkowska-Boehm)

  • Wspomnienie o Januszu Rózewiczu/Janusz Rózewicz Reminiscences, by Feliks Przylubski. Edited and translated by Richard Sokoloski. Ottawa, Canada: Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, 2000. viii +100 pages. Illustrations. Paper. Bilingual English/Polish.

    Janusz Rózewicz was the older brother of the Polish poet Tadeusz Rózewicz. He was executed by the German Gestapo police in 1944. Feliks Przyluski was his school teacher. An interesting volume showing the destruction wrought on the Polish people by the (hopefully) the last colonial war in Europe: the second world war.

  • Warszataty Translatorskie/Workshop on Translation, edited by Richard Sokoloski and Henryk Duda. Ottawa-Lublin: Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and Department of Polish at the Catholic University of Lublin, 2001. 112 pages. Paper. Bilingual Polish/English.

    A collection of eight papers given at a workshop on translation held at KUL in 1999. The papers deal with translations from (or into) Polish from English, Russian, and Latin. Some attention is given to problem of period style, in particular, to translations of Polish baroque poetry into contemporary English.

  • Polszczyzna z oddali. Jezyk polski w anglojezycznym swiecie, by Krystyna Serejska Olszer. Warsaw: Media Rodziny (, 2001. Index. 277 pages. Paper. In Polish.

    A collection of essays culled from the pages of "Przeglad Polski," a literary supplement to the Polish American daily Nowy Dziennik. The author is a teacher of Polish who left Poland in the 1960s but has traveled there frequently. In a witty and entertaining manner, she comments on recent developments in the Polish language. She also writes about the attitude to Polish of the Polish immigrants to America for whom language is often a major source of identity and who teach it to their children and grandchildren. (A.Z.-B.)

  • Wczesna twórczosc Józefa Brodskiego, by Joanna Madloch. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Slask, 2000. 160 pages. Paper. In Polish.

    On early Brodsky.

  • Brodski w analizach i interpretacjach, edited by Piotr Fast and Joanna Madloch. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Slask, 2000. 165 pages. Paper. In Polish and Russian.

    A collection of essays by various Polish and foreign authors on Brodsky.

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