BOOKS BOOKS and Periodicals Received
Volume XXI, No. 3
Socjologia, spoleczenstwo, polityka (sociology, society, politics), by Kazimierz Z. Sowa. Rzeszów. Wydawnictwo Wyzszej Szkoly Pedagogicznej w Rzeszowie (Rejtana 16B, P.O. Box 155, 35-310 Rzeszów). 2000. 213 pages. Index, bibliography. Paper. In Polish. Price not given.
A valuable analysis of what has been happening in Poland in the last several decades of the twentieth century. The author is a sociologist and onetime president of the Rzeszów Pedagogical University, and he stands apart from the rough-and-tumble struggle for political influence; thus, his analysis is not an attempt to present events to the advantage of someone's political biases, as is often the case with the Warsaw analysts. At the end of the book, the author rightly cautions Poles against excessive reliance on the state, pointing out that individual initiatives and a self-generated sense of responsibility are essential for the Poles to succeed. The book is dedicated to Miroslaw Dzielski, "a philosopher and a man of action," whose views the author espouses.
Spotkania Wschodu (meeting the East), by Jan Kieniewicz. Gdansk: Novus Orbis (81-862 Sopot, ul. Kujawska 24/A/7, Poland, email@example.com), 1999. 263 pages. Paper. Index, bibliography. In Polish.
A losely structured book on the historical processes accompanying the creation of concepts such as Orient-Occident, Intermarium, East-West; and on the place of Poland in these schemes. The author rightly points out that the Orient-Occident distinction is not culturally equivalent to that between East and West. The former is a product of a long historical process that, in Poland in particular, did not lead to 'orientalization' (to use the term in a way consistent with Edward Said's usage) of the Orient, but rather to a relationship that could be described as an Encounter (Spotkanie). The East-West distinction emerged from the Cold War or, more broadly, from the perceived distinctness of tsarist and communist Russia as a culture that could not be fitted into European molds. The author's professional knowledge of India adds a unique dimension to his discussion of the Encounter. A most stimulating and worthwhile volume. The author is a professor of history at the University of Warsaw and a former Polish Ambassador to Spain.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Poles on Jedwabne, edited by Jacek Borkowicz et al. Introduction by Israel Gutman. Warsaw: Wiez (Kopernika 34, P.O. Box 209, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland), 2001. 330 pages. ISBN 83-88032-38-0. Paper. Price not given.
A collection of 33 essays (including one by Jan Tomasz Gross) written by Polish men and women of letters of all political persuasions, from the respectable left to the respectable right. The foci of these essays vary: some deal with the details of the crime (Jacek Zakowski's essay is titled "The devil is in the details"), others with the circumstances, still others (Tomasz Strzembosz) with the necessity to investigate the entire period of Russian and German occupation of Poland during World War II. The full text of the book is available on the Web at the following address: http://www.polandembassy.org/jedwabne/jedwabne_thou_shall/main.html.
Zydzi i Polacy, 1918-1945: Wspólistnienie--Zaglada--Komunizm (Jews and Poles, 1918-1945: Coexistence, Shoah, Communism), by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. Warsaw: Fronda, Marszalkowska 55/73, 00-676 Warszawa; <www.fronda.pl), 2000. 731 pages. Index, notes. Paper. In Polish.
This detailed book by a young American PhD is divided into three sections titled, respectively, the inter-war period, or the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939); World War II (1939-1945); and the Soviet occupation (1945-1955). It is a solidly documented tome that deals with issues related to the author's PhD dissertation (to appear in the East European Monograph Series distributed by Columbia University Press).
Jerzy Giedroyc-Melchior Wankowicz: Listy 1945-1963, edited with an introduction by Aleksandra Ziólkowska-Boehm. Warsaw: Czytelnik (firstname.lastname@example.org). 2000. 547 pages. Index, notes. Paper. In Polish.
Jerzy Giedroyc (+1999) was a Polish political strategist who edited the émigré monthly Kultura between 1946-1999. Melchior Wankowicz was a writer of superior talent who was caught in a situation that usually spells the death of writers: a loss of his natural audience (Poland was Soviet-occupied during most of his life, and émigré existence did not suit Wankowicz's temperament.
In addition to the Letters, the tome contains Wankowicz's "Klub Trzeciego Miejsca," a collection of essays and analyses of the Polish situation after World War II; and Giedroyc's essay on Wankowicz.
The book has been widely reviewed in Poland, and Aleksandra Ziólkowska- Boehm's "benedictine work" has been universally praised. Indeed, to select the material and identify hundreds of names takes a person of considerable ability and capacity for work. The volume conveys the flavor and texture of Polish émigré debates, in addition to providing factual information.
Ideas in Russia, edited by Adrzej de Lazari. Vol. 4. Lódz. Institute of International Affairs and Institute of Sovietology at the University of Lódz (email@example.com). 2001. x + 672 pages. Paper. Index for vols.1-4. Price not given.
This is the last volume of the trilingual (English, Polish, Russian) encyclopedia of Russian culture. Articles are printed alphabetically, and the authors include scholars from Eastern, Central, and Western Europe, as well as the United States. A treasure trove of documented information and analysis. Much recommended for America's academic libraries.
Between Lvov, New York and Ulysses' Ithaca: Józef Wittlin--Poet, Essayist, Novelist, edited with an Introduction by Anna Frajlich. Torun-New York: Nicholas Copernicus University and the East Central European Center, Columbia University, 2001. xix + 272 pages. Bibliography. ISBN 83-231-1246-0. Paper. $12.00. Distributed by Labirinth Books, <www.labirinthbooks.com.
A collection of conference essays devoted to one of the finest Polish writers of the twentieth century. Wartime emigration broke Wittlin's contact with his natural audience in Poland, and his popularity never recovered.
Yearbook of Polish Foreign Policy: 2000, edited by Barbara Wizimirska. Warsaw: Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2000. 391 pages. Paper.
Articles by Bronislaw Geremek, Jan Kulakowski, Zdzislaw Najder and many others. The volume covers Polish policies concerning Europe, NATO, and the European Union, as well as relations between Poland and the major European countries (the Czech Republic and Slovakia are missing, but Belarus is conspicuously present).
It is regrettable that the translations are not smooth; they should have been checked by a native speaker. The translation of Zdzislaw Najder's essay is particularly rocky: ironically, Najder speaks good English.
Anioly na ostrzu igielnym (angels at the head of a pin), by Jurij Druznikov. Kraków: Arcana, 2001. Translated by Alicja Wolodzko- Butkiewicz, Afterword by Lucjan Suchanek. 501 pages. Hardcover. In Polish.
A Polish translation of Druzhnikov's excellent Russian novel, Angely na konchike igly, dealing with Brezhnevite Russia and its nomenklatura. The plot centers around a fictitious daily newspaper (resembling the various Pravdas published in Soviet cities), and its editors and collaborators. Druzhnikov's original addition to the art of the novel consists in introducing "personal forms" (ankiety personalne) that citizens had to fill out in Soviet- occupied countries to become eligible to be hired for any position. They had to write about their relatives and reveal various personal secrets. Each character in the novel had to fill out such a form, and the forms are included in the text. Druzhnikov resembles Aleksandr Zinoviev, the creator of the expression "homo sovieticus," but as a novelist he is far superior to Zinoviev. A translation into English would be most welcome.
Litwa: Dzieje Panstwa i Narodu (Lithuania: a history of the state and the nation), by Henryk Wisner. Warsaw: Mada Publishers, 1999. 300 pages. Indices, bilbiography, appendices. ISBN 83-86170-25-2. Paper. In Polish. Price not given.
A fact-laden history of Lithuania from its beginnings to the mid-1990s. Even though the author ostensibly eschews interpretation, his position is strongly pro-Lithuanian.
Nagrobek ciotki Cili (aunt Cila's tombstone), by Stefan Szymutko. Katowice: University of Silesia Press, 2001. 98 pages + photographs. Paper. In Polish.
This is a most unusual book. It begins as a narrative of a native Silesian from a working family; photographs of tough-looking workers and farmers accompany the narative pages. But the author goes on to meditate on the problems of identity, being, nothingness and 'has-been-ness' invoking Heidegger, Kafka, and Nietzsche. Szymutko, who teaches at the University of Silesia, is able to exist in a very simple world of industrial workers one the one hand, and in the world of sophisticated discourse on the other. He presents "the boys from Cimok" who reluctantly entered the world of money and impersonality, career and technological advancement. A very original and absorbing book.
Kilka opowiesci o niektórych dolegliwosciach bycia poeta emigracyjnym i inne historie (some stories about the difficulties of being an emigre poet, and some other stories), by Marek Pytasz. Katowice: Gnome, 2001. Bibliography, index. 187 pages. In Polish.
A collection of essays on Polish émigré literature ranging from analyses of writers and poems (Wierzynski, Smieja), to theorizing about émigré literature and its problems. The author's easy style creates a very readable book.
Did the Children Cry? Hitler's War Against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939-45 , by Richard C. Lukas. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2001. 263 pages. Photographs. Paper. $14.95.
A reprint of the famous book on the fate of non-German Central and East European children during and after World War II. Among the brutalities of post-World War II Germany, there were adoptions by German families of Polish children forcibly taken away from their parents in Poland because of their "Aryan" looks and never allowed to return to Poland after the war in spite of their real parents' attempts to regain the children. The case of Marian Gajewy from Poznan typifies the situation. He was taken away from his parents at age 7, renamed Martin Gawner and given to the Karl Dengler family in Esslingen. Notwithstanding the Polish investigator's efforts to enable the boy to return to his family, the Denglers hastily adopted the boy in 1946, despite the fact that postwar adoptions of children were prohibited by the Allies in Germany.
Or take the fate of the several hundred Polish Catholic children from the Zamosc area who were likewise kidnapped but did not "make it" to Germany because of their insufficiently Aryan looks. They were asked to sit on a stool, were given phenol injections into their chests and then instantly thrown onto a pile of corpses even before they actually died.
Then go on to the descriptions of slow starvation of children in the Jewish ghettos.
It takes strong nerves to read this book. Cruelty to children moved even Ivan Karamazov, and an average person risks an emotional storm after perusing these pages.
Poczwiennictwo: w kregu Fiodora Dostojewskiego, by Andrzej de Lazari. Lódz: Instytut Studiów Miedzynarodowych, University of Lódz Press (firstname.lastname@example.org), 2000. 190 pages. Paper. In Polish.
A fascinating study by a prolific critic. Professor Lazari is the initiator of a series on "Ideas in Russia" published by the University of Lódz Press (see a review on p. 813). The book under review is part of the series, but it is not included in the three-volume encyclopedia published under the same title. In it, Lazari takes on the concept of pochvennichestvo, or "adherence to the soil," a utopian Russian ideology related to Russian nationalism and exceptionalism. As is well known, Dostoevsky flirted with the idea of pochvennichestvo at many points in his literary career. Lazari discusses pochvennichestvo and its relation to the concepts of nationality, religion and state in Russia. His documentary materials come mostly from the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky's acquaintances and friends.
Spory o slowa--spory o rzeczy (arguments about words and things), by Jerzy Narbutt. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Unia (Okrzei 1, Katowice), 2001. 116 pages. Paper. In Polish.
Narbutt's commonsensical approach to problems is here present at its best. The book is a selection of essays published in cultural periodicals over the last quarter-century. While one may disagree with Narbutt on specifics, his invariably frank and open tone make his essays into good signposts in any intellectual debate. The wonderful ease of Narbutt's texts, the atmosphere of relaxation and naturalness that he creates, are rare in today's intellectual debates shot through with posturing and studded with fanciful terminology that intimidates instead of elucidating. Narbutt never misleads; sometimes, he does not lead far enough. But he does not try to reshape one's store of knowledge. He merely adds to it. Particularly good is his critique of Jerzy Giedroyc's political vision in "Ludzie za mgla" originally published in 1995. In it, Narbutt pokes fun at Giedroyc's dream of 'westernizing' Russia with the help of the Polish intelligentsia. He opines that the only thing that could change Russia is physical force, and that Ukraine and Belarus are pathetically weak and unable to resist Russia's advances in spite of nominal independence.
Znak niejasny, basn pólzywa (an unclear sign, a barely-alive tale), by Jaroslaw Marek Rymkiewicz. Warsaw: PIW, 1999. 62 pages. ISBN 83-06- 02792-9. Hardcover. In Polish.
A collection of poems by one of the acclaimed masters of the Polish language. Rymkiewicz uses simple, not to say childish, language; in that he reminds one of Jan Twardowski. This volume's content has to do with the passing of time, getting old, coping with an old body. The final section deals with cats. Not quite as good as Zbigniew Herbert, but it does have a rustic charm of its own.
W walce o wielka Polske (in the struggle for a great Poland), by Wojciech Jerzy Muszynski. Warsaw-Biala Podlaska: Rekonkwista-Rachocki i s-ka (P.O. Box 143, 21-500 Biala Podlaska, Poland), 2000. 423 pages. Illustrations, index. Paper. ISBN 83-909046-9-1. In Polish.
A study of the extreme right wing of the Polish underground in World War II. This group refused to submit to the leadership of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) structures. Methodologically, the study leaves much to be desired; but it also is a valuable source of information owing to copious footnotes. Muszynski quotes an underground publication Szaniec which printed the following on 16 January 1943: "During the liquidation of the small ghettoes in the countryside surrounding the city of Lódz, the following procedure was used by the Germans. The Jews from the local ghettoes were taken to the local Catholic churches and locked up there for 48 hours. Then, the Jews were deported, and the local Catholic population was ordered in to view the inside of the church--which was, needless to say, in a sorry state."
Push not the River, by James Conroyd Martin. Philadelphia: Xlibris Corporation, 2001. 608 pages. Maps and wycinanki. Hardcover ($25.00) and paperback ($16.00). Available through <www.amazon.com>.
Push not The River is James Conroyd Martin's first novel. The action takes place in Poland in the late eighteenth century, during the period of dramatic struggle between Poles and their Russian adversaries. The plot centers around a young Countess, Anna Maria Berezowska. The story is told mostly through the Countess' diary. Anna evolves from a young and naive 'teen into a strong woman. The story highlights patriotism in Anna and in her Aunt Stella who are supporters of the Constitution passed by the Polish parliament on 3 May 1791. Other nobles side up with Empress Catherine of Russia who does her utmost to destroy the Constitution and prevent the reforms that would strengthen Poland. She wants to see Poland weak. The action is brisk, and Countess Anna loses her relatives in the armed struggle. The story highlights the points of view of four people: Anna, her Aunt Stella, another young countess named Zofia, and a Polish patriot named Jan Stelnicki. The daughter of Countess Stella Gronska, Zofia is a negative characte. Jan Stelnicki, the Gronskis' country neighbor whom Anna loves, goes away to fight Russian troops under the leadership of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko (who fought for freedom not only in America but also in Poland). Push Not the River is a good read and a good introduction to Central and Eastern European history. (David Buck)
Other Books Received:
A definitive study of several aspects of 16th- and 17th-century Polish literature. A review to follow.
A collection of papers given at a conference on the Union of Lublin (signed in 1569) uniting Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania into a single state.
A bibliography listing documents dealing with the Catholic Church in tsarist Russia. The documents are culled from the collections of the various Russian ministries: finance, commerce, communications, agriculture, education, internal affairs. Included also are archival documents from the Senate, the Holy Synod, and Court collections. This bibliography is meant to enable researchers to request the relevant documents from the Russian archives. While summaries are scarce, it can be gleaned from them that the documents deal mostly with the ways and means of curtailing the presence of the Catholic Church in Russia. Together with the Bibliographies published by the Institute of Eastern Affairs in Lublin, Poland (in past issues of SR we reviewed a number of these Bibliographies), this tome provides basic research materials for future historians of Russian attitudes toward Catholicism.
Born in Lódz, this Auschwitz survivor resides in Canada. She writes about the life of a small town in Poland before World War II, the town in which a substantial percentage of people spoke Yiddish rather than Polish.
Kolakowski has reached the point where he can write essays and books without footnotes, index or bibliography--and get published by a major publishing house. While we are not afficionados of excessive footnoting, Kolakowski's casual style is perhaps excessively casual for a tome issued by a university press. As the author explains in the Preface, the book contains essays written at various times and in various languages; he calls them "sermons." Like Alasdair MacIntyre, Kolakowski seems to realize that consistency is sadly lacking in modern intellectual debates, and concepts derived from incompatible sources are often advanced side by side. But unlike MacIntyre, Kolakowski does not advocate consistency. In fact, he seems to favor "moderation in consistency," to quote his Preface again. There are essays here on politics, religion, the devil, and "so-called crisis of Christianity." A professed atheist, Kolakowski serenely says that there is no crisis because Christianity has always been difficult, and there have been few true Christians; besides, Christianity does not really teach one how to behave in each and every situation in life. If you enjoy well written essays which lead to no conclusion, this book is for you.
A collection of fantasies for children and adults. We printed some of them in English translation in 1994.