BOOKS BOOKS and Periodicals Received
Volume XXIV, No. 3
Wprowadzenie do historii cywilizacji Wschodu i Zachodu, by Jan Kieniewicz. Warsaw: Dialog (firstname.lastname@example.org), 2003. 397 pages. Bibliography, maps. ISBN 83-88938-40-1. Paper. In Polish.
An imposing introduction to the history of civilizations East and West, and an excellent companion volume to Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order . Not that Kieniewicz agrees with Huntington-he is much more attuned to the problem of colonialism and change than Huntington. But he does not eschew essentialism. For Kieniewicz, civilization consists of an ability of a specific social group or social culture “to preserve, pass on, and reproduce a system of values that is larger than a specific nation state” (14). For him, civilization is all about belonging; thus the narrowly chauvinistic view of civilization promoted, for instance, by some Russian nationalists is alien to his understanding of the term. Kieniewicz also distinguishes between empire and civilization.
Much attention is dedicated to European hegemony, which Kieniewicz describes as limited to three centuries, from the eighteenth to the twentieth. An interesting chapter on Russia would benefit many American students specializing in Slavics.
Kieniewicz’s historical grasp is impressive. He argues that the precivilizational stage, or barbarism, in India ended between the sixth and third century B.C. He points out that exploitative use of farming land caused degradation and salination in China, Mesopotamia, Cambodia, Yucatan, and the Iberian Peninsula at various points in history. He discusses internal and external expansion of nations and civilizations.
Kieniewicz compares the civilizations of China, India, and Europe, and tries to answer the question of why capitalism did not develop in the first two, even though in the eighteenth century China was the most populous and richest country in the world. In his opinion, the reason was a lack of internal or external pressure. Creative anxiety developed in Europe because Europe tried to overcome various crises. Kieniewicz also points out that due to the expansion of Russia, Europe shrank to what is now referred to as Western Europe. However, Russia did not get Europeanized through its expansion; its ties to Europe remain tenuous at best.
Kieniewicz is one of the few Polish scholars who dare to spell out facts that are distasteful to so many “finicky” Polish scholars: that in the perception of nineteenth-century Western Europeans, “the Polish lands incorporated into the Russian Empire were not considered European, while St. Petersburg was so considered” (240). Of course, Poles always considered themselves European, but the difference in perception (and the consequences of this difference) have been huge. In the nineteenth century the European periphery (including Poland) began to be seen in colonialist perspectives by Western Europeans (243). One should add that this perspective remains fundamentally unchanged at present, a fact which the vast majority of Polish scholars pontificating on “the place of Poland in Europe” are unwilling to recognize. They thus preach to an empty room and are unable to connect with world scholarship, let alone affect a change.
Professor Kieniewicz is a systematic scholar. He uses an intellectual marking pen to draw boundaries between concepts and processes. This is part of his essentialism, and in that he differs from the rank-and-file American scholars. The advantage of his methodology is that a student taking a course from him would gain conceptual knowledge that can later be challenged, rejected, or reassessed while providing foundation for further development. The fragmentary nature of much American scholarship denies students access to a body of knowledge that makes sense as a whole, while training them in an isolated aspect of it. But American scholarship is so permeated by post-Marxist desire “not to describe the world but to change it” that it might not listen to those whose goal is primarily to describe and to know. (sb)
They Came to See a Poet: Selected Poems, by Tadeusz Różewicz. Translated with an introduction by Adam Czerniawski. 2nd revised and enlarged edition. London: Anvil Press Poetry (70 Royal Hill, Greenwich, London SE10 8RF, email@example.com), 2004. 268 pages. Index. $19.95. Paper.
A poet’s translation of another poet.
The Roots Are Polish , by Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm. Translated by Nina Krygier-Michalak. Toronto: The Canadian Polish Research Institute, 2004. 247 pages. Photographs. ISBN 0-920517-05-6. Paper.
A collection of interviews with Polish personalities in Poland and abroad. Many interviewees are veterans of the Second World War, some are Canadian politicians, still others Yiddish or Polish writers. The volume contains valuable information as it rambles along the borders of notoriety and fame. Ziółkowska-Boehm is a talented and entertaining interviewer.
Glaukopis: Pismo spoleczno-historyczne, edited by Sebastian Bojemski (02-518 Warsaw, ul. Kazimierzowska 79/10, Poland). No. 1 (2003). 363 pages. ISSN 1730-3419. In Polish.
A new venture of the right-leaning Polish historians, some of whom have been associated with another peripatetic periodical, Fronda. The current issue contains articles on the Second Polish Republic (1919-1939), the Second World War, and the Communist takeover after the war. The goal appears to be to bring forth suppressed history and “fill in the gaps.” Many such ventures have languished for a lack of funds and social interest. It remains to be seen how successful the editors will be in countering these trends and introducing into Polish and American schools revelatory materials discovered in archives.
Journey from Innocence, by Anna R. Dadlez. New York: East European Monographs Series of Columbia Univ. Press, 1998. No. DXIII of the series. xii + 307 pages. Hardcover.
An autobiography of a Polish Gulag survivor who lost her home in Poland when the Soviets invaded in September 1939. She eventually married another Polish Gulag survivor in the United States. A review to follow.
Polskie wizje Europy w XIX i XX wieku, selected by Peter Oliver Loew and edited by Krzysztof Ruchniewicz. Wrocław: University of Wrocław Press (www.wbz.uni.wroc.pl), 2004. 284 pages. Paper. In Polish.
This is a publication of the Willy Brandt Center at the University of Wrocław. A review to follow.
Warsztat badawczy Profesora Zbigniewa Jerzego Nowaka: Charakterystyki, wspomnienia, bibliografia, edited by Marek Piechota and Barbara Malska. Katowice: Silesian University Press (www.wydawnictwo.us.edu.pl), 2004. 170 pages.
ISSN 0208-6336. Paper. Zl. 18.00. In Polish.
Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw, by Norman Davies. New York: Viking, 2004. xxvi + 752 pages. Maps, illustrations, capsules. ISBN 0-670-03284-0. Hardcover. $22.41 on Amazon.com.
A magisterial study of the 1944 Warsaw Rising by one of the great historians of our time. A review to follow.
Poland: A Transitional Analysis, by Richard J. Hunter Jr., Leo V. Ryan, C.S.V., and Robert E. Shapiro. Introduction by Hector Lozada. New York: PIASA, 2004. ISBN 0-940962-63-2. 204 pages. $15.00.
The Polish Deportees of World War II: Recollections of Removal to the Soviet Union and Dispersal Throughout the World, edited by Tadeusz Piotrowski. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland (www.mcfarland.pub.com), 2004. viii + 248 pages. Index, bibliography, appendices. ISBN 0-7863-1848-8. Hardcover. $45.00.
A review to follow.
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