Books and Periodicals Received

Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Genealogy, Encyclopaedia, Tradition, by Alasdair MacIntyre. Notre Dame, IN. Notre Dame University Press (Notre Dame, IN 46556). 1990. x+241 pages. Hardcover. $24.95.

Occasionally we come across books that are relevant to eastern Europe in a major way even though they do not directly deal with its peoples. Professor MacIntyre’s Gifford Lectures, brought together in this volume, are such a book. The volume is foundational. It recasts in a sophisticated language the philosophical dilemmas faced by the largely Catholic societies of eastern Europe and Poland in particular. As these societies catch up with the modes of philosophical enquiry in the western world, they will either embrace the anti-Thomistic (and anti-rational) point of view which culminates in Heidegger, or they will have to relearn and refine their Thomistic and rational base which still constitutes the rock-bottom of their social and historical narrative. MacIntyre explains the incompatibility of postmodernist, Heideggerian view of enquiry with Thomistic rationalism and with Enlightenment rationalism - indeed, with the view of a university as a forum where all points of view can compete for a hearing. He also suggests some ways in which the Nietzschean-Heideggerian narrative could be "translated into," and thus encompassed by, the Thomistic one.


Wiatr z innej strony: wiersze zebrane z lat 1953-1989, by Bogdan Czaykowski. Krakow. Wydawnictwo Znak (Krakow, ul. Kosciuszki 37, Poland). 1990. 201 pages. ISBN83-70006-174-5. Paper.

Czaykowski's poetry has great delicacy. There are good poets that are not marked by it, and they could conceivably have become prose writers or activists of a different kind. Not Czaykowski. He is almost self-effacing in his subtle drawings of nature, memory, geography and history. There are echoes here of the older poets, notably of Czeslaw Milosz and Zbigniew Herbert; but unlike Milosz, Czaykowski never puts himself in the center, and unlike Herbert, he remains uncommitted philosophically. The volume consists of several hundred mostly short poems arranged chronologically. It makes for lovely, melancholy and very civilized reading.


The Roots of Solidarity: A Political Sociology of Poland's Working-Class Democratization, by Roman Laba. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press (42 William Street, Princeton, N.J. 08540). 1991. xii+ 247 pages. Illustrations, Bibliography, Index. Hardcover. $24.95.

This is an exciting and masterful book. Professor Laba spent two years in Poland during the formation and later delegalization of Solidarity, and he came back with copious data proving that it was not the intellectuals but the workers of Gdansk who reached a balance between passivity and armed rebellion, and created three crucial strategies for struggle against the Soviet-controlled government. This book reached us after Lawrence Goodwyn's magnificent opus (SR, XII/1, January 1992), but it really should have been reviewed earlier because it preceded Goodwyn's. And we have never seen so bold a dust jacket on a Princeton University Press volume.

The book ends as follows: "The Soviet leaders miscalculated the viability of reform communists like themselves in East Europe, but their miscalculation was forced by Solidarity and it led to the union's electoral victory in 1989 and the rapid collapse of neo-Stalinists and reformers in the rest of East Central Europe. In this broadest sense the workers of the Baltic coast opened a prison door that all the peoples of the East have come crowding through." This amen corner says yes!


Continuity and Change in Poland: Conservatism in Polish Political Thought, by Rett R. Ludwikowski. Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of American Press (620 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20064). 1991. xiv + 313 pages. Hardcover. $39.95.

A survey of Polish political attitudes from the eighteenth century to the 1990s. Not a political history sensu stricto; it aims at the middle ground between analysis and narrative. It has its faults, but it is also exceptionally important because it articulates a history that has generally been kept mute by generations of vocal politicians and writers sympathetic to the Left. A review to follow.


Unquiet Days: At Home in Poland, by Thomas Swick. New York. Ticknor and Fields. (A division of Houghton Mifflin, 2 Park Street, Boston, MA 02108.) 1991. 284 pages. Hardcover. $14.95.

An American journalist meets a Polish student working at a summer job in western Europe. They correspond for several years and finally marry. He comes to Poland, takes a job as an English teacher in the Methodist School of English in Warsaw, and lives a Polish lifestyle on Polish wages. Then he writes a book. It is lightweight but exceptionally charming. Swick is a sympathetic outsider who is able to describe scenes familiar to Poles from a new angle. The book overflows with good-natured optimism and love of life.


Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski and Musical Life in Nineteenth-Century Poland, by William Smialek. Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter. The Edwin Mellen Press (Box 450, Lewiston, N.Y. 14092). 1991. xvii + 195 pages. Numerous musical illustrations, Index, Bibliography. Hardcover. $69.95.

A very carefully written and edited study of one of Frederic Chopin's contemporaries. A review to follow.


Return to September 1992 Issue
The Sarmatian Review
sarmatia@rice.edu
Last updated 04/10/97