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BOOKS BOOKS

and Periodicals Received

September 2002
Volume XXII, No. 3


Ego Gertruda: studium historycznoliterackie (I, Gertrud: a historical and literary study), by Teresa Michalowska. Warsaw: PWN (http://www.pwn.com.pl), 2001. Appendices, index, reproductions of illuminated mss. in color. Summaries in French, German, and Italian. 292 pages. Hardcover. In Polish.

This biography posits that Princess Gertrud Piast's Prayer Book was the first original work of Polish literature. Gertrud (+1108) was the daughter of the Polish King Mieszko II (+1034). Her Prayer Book was recently discovered; that such discoveries are still being made speaks volumes of the damages to cultural development in Poland brought about by colonialism. Poland's neighbors appropriated Polish territory and made sure that Poland's economic and cultural development lagged behind that of the winner nations. The Prayer Book is not even owned by Poles: it was discovered in an Italian collection.

Michalowska's book is scholarly and meticulous. However, it suffers from structural problems that have plagued Polish scholarship ever since the Soviets prevented Polish scholars from developing normally. The book lacks the transparency which contemporary biographies written in Western countries routinely possess. Michalowska's book seems to have been written for a specific university course; its organization and ordering of items resembles Silvae rerum rather than the style of modern books. This severely limits the book's readability and thus its potential impact and outreach. Still, it is an important work. Princess Gertrud's Prayer Book is an impressive example of the self-perception of Polish women in the eleventh century.


Czarna legenda Polski: Obraz Polski i Polaków w Prusach 1772-1815 (The black legend of Poland: the image of Poland and Poles in Prussia between 1772-1815), by Dariusz Łukasiewicz. Poznan: Wydawnictwo Poznanskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciól Nauk, 1995. Vol. 51 of the history and social sciences series. 183 pages. Illustrations, tables and indices of persons, localities, and topics. ISSN 0079-4651. ISBN 83-7063-148-7. Paper. In Polish with English and German summaries.

The stated aim of this scholarly study is to trace back the negative stereotypes of Poles entrenched in German historiography and popular culture ever since Prussia and Russia engineered the partitions of Poland in the eighteenth century. The treatise begins with a survey of authors and readers of the Prussian statistical publications in the period under review. We learn that the credibility of Beamtentumsliteratur (studies written by petty officials in Prussia) was often marred by corruption and dishonesty of said officials, as well as by their lack of proficiency in Polish. The data they collected were also marred by incompetence, ignorance and a classically hostile attitude toward the Other--in this case, toward the Poles. The writers' generalizing helped to distort the picture: whenever they did not like something, they were likely to say "as is always the case in Poland;" but when they encountered a city they liked (Poznan), they commented that "the city was built according to German standards." German officials routinely compared Polish peasant farmers to the wild inhabitants of "Kamchatka and the West Indies," or to "Roman slaves and American Indians." Such scholars and travelers as Johann Georg Forster compared Poles to "cattle in human form" (in Sämtliche Schriften). A certain Lichtenberg (said to be Forster's friend) wrote that Poland was inhabited by "landowning despots, dirty Jews and plica" [Weichselzopf, or koltun]. The expression "German cockroaches" must have entered the English language owing to the similarly brutal descriptions of German immigrants to America by those who came earlier from the British Isles.

Among the specific complaints of these official record keepers were the prevalence of Catholicism among Poles (it was considered scandalous), low level of education, consumerism and vanity of the Polish landowners, poverty and servitude of the Polish peasantry, and the greed of Polish Jews who were seen as Poland's "third estate" and whose numerosity in Poland (by comparison to Prussia) irritated the German officials. Łukasiewicz's conclusions are that the Prussian officials created a taxonomy within which persons of Polish nationality were perceived as inferior and in need of Prussian tutelage.

Czarna legenda is a valuable study, and it is well documented. Unfortunately, its scholarly methodology is archaic. Üukasiewicz seems to be unaware of the advances in methodology made by postcolonial scholarship. The situation Łukasiewicz describes is typically colonial, and his evaluations and conclusions would have been greatly enriched if he compared the treatment of Poles in the Prussian partition to the treatment of Irish by the English, or indeed to Ďorientalization' of colonized peoples in other parts of the world. It is typical of the colonizers to present the colonized as primitive, dirty, unintelligent, uneducated, and in need of the colonizers' leadership. The process of reinforcing these stereotypes has been well analyzed in the works of Edward Said and his followers. A lack of familiarity with postcolonial perspectives detracts from the attractiveness of Łukasiewicz's work. Not infrequently, the author gets lost in details where analysis and interpretation are called for. He has collected a great deal of facts, but his ability to interpret events and texts is modest. Łukasiewicz's book is worth buying and reading as a primary source, yet it is also an instance of the ossification of Polish scholarly methodologies during the Soviet occupation of Poland (1945-1989).


Molestowanie moralne. Perwersyjna przemoc w žyciu codziennym (French original, Le harcélement moral: La violence perverse au quotidien. English translation, Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity, translated by Helen Marx with an Afterword by Thomas Moore, published by Helen Marx Books, 2000), by Marie-France Hirigoyen. Translated by Jolanta Cackowska-Demirian. Poznan: W drodze (www.wdrodze.pl), 2002. 207 pages. Bibliography, notes. Paper. Zl 29.00. In Polish.

This pioneering book defines and articulates the phenomenon that received scant attention from scholars, let alone from social reformers: a certain kind of psychological mistreatment of individuals by their superiors, parents, or peers leading to an individual's loss of self-esteem and a violation of his or her personal identity. In particular, the techniques of Ďfreezing out' a person slated for destruction by the management of a company are described in detail; they include isolating an individual (he/she eats his lunches alone), denial of access to information (he/she is not privy to the management's plans about which other coworkers are consulted), irony and sarcasm (this is practiced by colleagues rather than by supervisors), and other manifestations of hatred and rejection. Such treatment may lead to a breakdown or even suicide of the victim, and it often makes the victim leave the job which is what the management wanted in the first place.

Emotional abuse is also used by parents with regard to children. It employs similar strategies: a refusal to communicate (the parents maintain a studious silence so that the child becomes disoriented and tries to attract attention by behaving outrageously), sarcasm, and isolation. It is often used in such professions as education where achievement cannot be measured quantitatively and where personal likes and dislikes often decide who is kept on the job and rewarded and who is forced to resign or is punished It is seldom used in professions related to the production of material goods where quality and efficiency can be quantitatively measured.

The author is a psychiatrist by profession. She maintains that such abuse is similar in culpability to sexual molestation of children and adults. Yet it is practiced unpunished in many places of work and in some homes. The author's goal is to identify the phenomenon and to make people aware of it, so that counter-measures can be taken and psychological destruction of an individual does not occur.

It is significant that the book was published by the foremost Catholic publisher in Poland, W drodze, run by the Dominican Fathers. In the course of reading it becomes obvious that this kind of molestation is a grave sin, an institutional sin as it were in most cases (although committed by individuals, as all sin is in Catholic doctrine), and in the case of parents, a personal sin. There is much material here for moral philosophers and for the ubiquitous Ďethicists' at various American institutions who have displayed a curious blindness to the problems presented by Dr. Hirigoyen.


Jan Kochanowski of Czarnolas/Jan Kochanowski z Czarnolasu, by Tadeusz Ulewicz. English text translated by Teresa Baluk-Ulewiczowa. Kraków: Nakladem Kasy im. Józefa Mianowskiego, 2002. 64 + 77 pages, numerous illustrations and reproductions. Paper. Fully bi-lingual (English and Polish). A bibliophile's item: this handsomely published little Renaissance poet, plus photographs of items related to Kochanowski.


Pallas Silesia: Pólrocznik III/1-2 (4-5). Edited by Dariusz Rott. Katowice: Pallas Silesia Fund Plac Sejmu Ślaskiego, 1 (Pokój 407), 40-032 Katowice, Poland), 1999. 187 pages. Paper. In Polish, Czech, and Latin, with occasional Latin and English summaries.

A bi-yearly scholarly periodical on ancient, medieval and Renaissance literature. More generally, a periodical supporting the view that present-day Western culture originated in the Mediterranean basin rather than in the Northern European Enlightenment. But apart from this orientation, Pallas Silesia affords the pleasure of immersion in ancient times, the times that did not know the discoveries of Nietzsche and of other Ďphilosophers of suspicion.' Human nature is here discussed sub specie aeternitatis as it were. The issue under review contains a charming essay on the teaching of Latin; among the books reviewed are studies of Dante and Socrates, of time and space in Polish seventeenth-century sermons, and of philosophical writings on the misery and dignity of humankind.


Punkt oparcia (point of reference), by Piotr Lisiecki. Warsaw: Biblioteka Frondy, 2001. 352 pages. Paper. In Polish.

An original voice in the debate about contemporary philosophy. The author takes on Franz Rozenzweig, Emmanuel Levinas, Marian Zdziechowski, and Hans Uhr von Balthasar (and his Polish equivalent, Father Waclaw Hryniewicz, OMI).


Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, by Jan T. Gross. 2d expanded edition, with a new preface by the author. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002. xxiv + 396 pages. Paper.

The book gives a valuable overview of the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939 and it presents, in a pioneering way, some details of the subsequent terror, deportations, and expropriations of persons of Polish nationality from the territory of western Belarus and western Ukraine (as well as from such ethnically Polish territories as the voivodships of Lublin, Rzeszów and Bialystok). These topics remain virtually untouched by American Slavic scholarship: suffice it to say that the first edition of Gross's book, likewise published by Princeton University Press, did not receive a review in Slavic Review which publishes scores of reviews each year.

The original edition had 334 pages. Virtually all the additions are contained in a supplementary chapter titled "Historiographical Supplement: A Tangled Web" having to do with Polish-Jewish relations. Gross seems to agree with Jan Blonski's famous essay"The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto" which posits that "participation and shared responsibility are not the same thing" and states that Poles did not do enough to shield the Jews. With regard to the Communist apparatus of repression, Gross posits that "highlighting an inordinately high number of Jewish-born members therein does not lend itself to a simple interpretation. Communists of Jewish extraction . . .worked in the security apparatus qua communists and not qua Jews." Gross seems to argue that participation in the Stalinist security apparatus and in the Soviet apparatus of repression annulled the participant's background and ethnic identification.

Other Books Received:

  • Literatura jako trop rzeczywistosci, by Ryszard Nycz. Kraków: Universitas, 2001. 277 pages. Index of names. English summary. Paper. In Polish.

    A truly original study of Polish literature from Norwid to Milosz. A review to follow.

  • Syberia w žyciu i pamieci Gieysztorów--zeslanców poststyczniowych: Wilno--Sybir--Wiatka--Warszawa (Siberia in the reminiscences of the Gieysztor family--victims of Russian revanchism after the January Insurrection: Vilnius, Siberia, Viatka, Warsaw), by Wiktoria Śliwowska. Warsaw: DiG Publishers (email: DIG@DIG.COM.PL; www.dig.com.pl), 2000. Bibliography and geographical index. 400 pages. Hardcover. In Polish.

    Published in only 700 copies, this massive and detailed work contains a number of short biographies of Polish nobles, or former nobles, uprooted from their livelihoods in Poland and exiled to Siberia where they toiled for the greatness of the Russian empire. The number of tragedies that befell these people defies imagination, and the tragedies concern not only them personally but also their wives and children. Alas, the book shares in the methodological problems described in the reviews of Łukasiewicz's and Michalowska's books (see pp.896-7).

  • War in the Shadow of Auschwitz: Memoirs of a Polish Resistance Fighter and Survivor of the Death Camps, by John Wiernicki. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001). 273 pages. Harcover. $20.97 on Amazon.com.

    A Gentile survivor's memoir. He started as a draftee in the Polish Army, was arrested and sent to the Auschwitz death camp, and eventually escaped. He is now an architect in Washington, DC. Yearbook of Polish Foreign Policy: 2001, edited by Barbara Wizimirska. Warsaw: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2001. Includes a list of Polish diplomatic personnel in various countries of the world. 403 pages. Paper.

    Essays on the current aspects of Polish international relations. It is unclear however why an essay on the international activities of the Stefan Batory Foundation (funded mostly by George Soros) found its way into a book that is supposed to summarize activities originating in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Polish Sejm. Worthy as the Foundation is, it has no business in a book of this kind. The separation of NGOs from the government is one of the basic rules of democratic society. Only a very lax editorial supervision would allow for such a faux pas to occur.

  • Postscriptum, nos. 39-40 ((Fall-Winter 2001). Edited by Romuald Cudak and Jolanta Tambor. Katowice: University of Silesia Press. 152 pages. In Polish.

    The current issue is devoted to Polish studies in the German-speaking countries and it contains articles by persons teaching Polish subjects at German-language universities. A worthy sequel to an earlier issue dedicated to Polish in English-speaking countries.

  • Churches in Poland, a series published by Wydawnictwo Ornament MS in Warsaw. #14 of the series: Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw. Text by Mieczyslaw Szczepanski, photographs by Artur Mroczek. 2002. 16 pages.

    This high quality publication contains the history of the famous church on Krakowskie Przedmiescie in Warsaw. It also includes architectural description and first-rate color photographs. A worthy series that begins to publicize the churches of Poland among whom there are countless architectural and artistic gems.

  • Archiwum emigracji: Studia, szkice, dokumenty, no. 4 (2001), edited by Janusz Kryszak and Miroslaw Supruniuk. Torun: University of Torun Press, 2001. 324 pages. Paper.

    A periodical publication dedicated to academic research on Polish émigré artists and writers, especially those who collaborated with the Paris monthly Kultura.


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