BOOKS BOOKS and Periodicals Received
Mr Cogito, by Zbigniew
Herbert. Translated by John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter. Oxford
-New York-Toronto. Oxford University Press. In the US and Canada by The Ecco
Press. 1993. vi + 62 pages. Paper. L7.99.
It has been said of Zbigniew Herbert that his poetry contains the very essence of Polish or, more broadly, east central European experience. Mr Cogito is vintage Herbert: marvellously concise, profound without heaviness, laced with wry humor. John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter are the foremost translators of Herbert into English. They have translated several volumes of his poetry. A sine qua non addition to every eastern European library.
Biografistyka staropolska w latach 1476-1627: kierunki i odmiany [Writing Biography in Old Polish Literature,
1476-1627: trends and genres], by Hanna Dziechcinska.
Wroclaw-Warszawa. Polish Academy of Sciences - Ossolineum. 1971. Index. 157
pages. Paper. Zl. 35. In Polish.
This monograph on the art of writing biography in Old Poland is the first scholarly work on the subject. It considers the genre of biography as part of history, and it deals with those biographies that had panegyrical objectives; it then considers the biographies of writers and, finally, Piotr Skarga's Lives of Saints. It contains an Index of all known biographies of the 1476-1627 period. A fine scholarly work by one of Poland's foremost specialists in parenetic literature.
Statystyczne sterowanie procesem: Metoda Deminga etapowej
optymalizacji jakosci, by James R.
Thompson and Jacek Koronacki. Warszawa. Akademicka Oficyna
Wydawnicza PLJ. 1994. xvii + 285 pages. Paper. In Polish.
A book which resulted from American-Polish cooperation in educating specialists in quality control in Poland. The team, headed by the authors of this book, supervised improvements in quality at numerous Polish factories. The book is directed to foremen and engineers, and its goal is to install the Deming method of quality control (widely used in Japan) in Poland.
Trans-Atlantyk, by Witold
Gombrowicz. Translated by Carolyn French and Nina Karsov.
Introduction by Stanislaw Baranczak. New Haven and London. Yale University
Press. 1994. xxx + 122 pages. Hardcover.
This untranslatable classic of the "buffoon" streak in Polish literature has at long last been rendered into English. While not all of the text matches the exquisite rhythm of the opening page (which the translators have admirably captured), the result is by and large a success. This caricature of the novel and of the Old Polish gaweda is also a caricature of the narrator's stay in Argentina during World War 2. Originally written in 1953, its intensely mocking tone is valiantly maintained throughout, with hardly a whiff of staleness.
Stabilization and Structural Adjustment in Poland, edited by Henryk Kierzkowski, Marek Okolski and
Stanislaw Wellisz. London and New York. Routledge (29 West 35th
Street, New York 10001). 1993. xi + 314 pages. Index, two Appendices, Tables.
Consists of twelve chapters dealing with economic transition 1989-1991, acroeconomic issues (banking and tax reform), structural problems (labor market, organizational issues, privatization, problems in industry and agriculture), and social issues (public health, social security and environmental protection). A collection of articles by leading specialists in the field. A good reference book. One of the co-authors, Professor Peter Mieszkowski (his contribution deals with tax reform) is a PIASA member.
Oto Ameryka: Polityka i spoleczenstwo [That's America: Politics and Society], edited by Irena Lasota.
New York. CSS/IDEE [181 Hudson Street, Suite 3A, New York, NY 10013]. 1987. 200
pages. Paperback. In Polish.
A collection of some twenty essays by well known American scholars on American politics and America's role in the world. Particularly interesting are those by Richard Pipes (on nuclear arms and America's relation with Russia, Arnold Beichman (on "demonization" of America by American university professors), William L. O'Neill (on Stalinism and the support given to it by American intellectuals), and Tom Bethell (on so-called "progressive" Catholics in America). A most useful collection for those Poles who wish to acquaint themselves with some no-nonsense interpretations of the U.S.
Matka Wincenta: Jadwiga Jaroszewska, polska samarytanka i jej dzielo [Mother Vincenta: Jadwiga Jaroszewska, a Polish
Samaritan and Her Achievement], by Emanuela Debowska. 2nd ed. Edited
by Danuta Skupienska and Andrzej Kaflik. Marki-Struga k. Warszawy. Michalineum
[05-261 Marki-Struga k. Warszawy, Poland]. 1990. 224 pages. Paper. In Polish.
A biography of Jadwiga Jaroszewska (1900-1937), the remarkable Polish woman who founded a new religious order, Ss. Benedyktynki-Samarytanki, combining Benedictine dedication to work and prayer with a commitment to helping those most despised and abandoned by society. Examples of pure and unadulterated heroism by the bushel. Jaroszewska worked as a volunteer in a hospital treating venereal diseases before she founded her Order. It branched out to run homes for children with special needs, and for persons disfigured by lupus and other diseases imposing social isolation on their victims. The Order's successes were remarkable given the grinding poverty of post-World War 1 Polish society, the disruption and death (starvation and bullets) during World War 2, and expropriation and persecution in the communist period. Jaroszewska was also a fine spiritual writer, and excerpts from her writings are included in the book. One cannot avoid the impression that, had Mother Jaroszewska been born in a more powerful country, she would have been counted among the great spiritual writers of this century, and her Order's achievements would have inspired books and movies. The book can be purchased by sending $20.00 in cash to the Order's headquarters: S. Helena Korda, Nieg[w-Samaria, 07-230 Zabrodzie, Poland.
Zegota: the Rescue of Jews in Wartime Poland, by Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski. Montreal, Canada. Price-Paterson Ltd. 1994. Maps, Illustration. 171 pages. Paperback.
A fine specimen of oral history. The book consists of testimonies of dozens of Jews who survived the war thanks to Zegota, a Polish underground organization associated with Armia Krajowa [the Home Army], as well as stories about those who participated in the rescue, were tortured and lost their lives in the process. It is undoubtedly a most useful book, and well worth promoting. Although it is truthful and correct, it is merely a drop in the bucket of well distributed and eloquent literature that deals with Poland's fate in World War 2 in such a way as to diminish both Poland's contribution to the Allied side, and the tragedy of Poles under foreign rule bent on wiping out Polishness in every shape and form through mass murder, pillage and destruction of national wealth.
The book is also an example of reactive literature, i.e., the writings that respond to something, rather than proposing their own terms of discourse. For decades, Poles have been on the defensive concerning the death of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1939-1945. This defensiveness is part of a pattern whereby Poland and Poles are defined from the outside as it were, and urged to adopt that outside definition as their own definition of themselves and of their nation. It is a dismissive definition, and it is far from friendly. Books like the one by Tomaszewski and Werbowski try to counter that trend, and their goal is laudatory; but they still fall into the category of books whose terms of discourse have been set by those who share in that dismissive definition of the Polish people and their land. There exists a need for books about World War 2 written in a language understandable to western audiences, in which the tragedy of Polish Jews would be incorporated into the tragedy of Poland during World War 2.
Czarny Ptasior [The Black
Birdie] by Joanna Siedlecka. Gdansk - Warszawa. Marabut - CIS
[Wydawnictwo CIS, Narbutta 30/3, Warszawa]. 1994. 155 pages. Paperback. ZL.
52,000. In Polish.
The author comes recommended by the nestor of Polish journalism Ryszard Kapuscinski. The book is a good specimen of investigative reporting by a young and talented Polish journalist concerning the background of Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird. She ferreted out some of Kosinski's benefactors who sheltered him during the war at the risk of death for themselves and for their families. It turns out that Kosinski chose to lie about the people who risked their lives daily to save him from the Nazi ovens. During the book's promotion tour in Poland, Kosinski's behavior in regard to those who saved him was devoid of elementary politeness, let alone gratitude. Kosinski's American wife tried to make up for this, and she apparently was quite surprised by his demeanor. Siedlecka concludes: "There was no abandoned boy: there was a boy who came from a wealthy family named Lewinkopf [Kosinski was a name they assumed during the Nazi occupation of Poland]. There was no barbarism - the people who preserved him were simple but decent, and they helped as best they could. There were no tortures of which he became a symbol in America. On the contrary, he was truly fortunate." Siedlecka quotes from such reference works as the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Current Biography and Contemporary Literary Criticism, contending that they offer a mendacious biography of this writer. She concludes in a typically Polish way, with a prayer: "Please Jesus, forgive us our sins...and help those who particularly need your mercy."
In Desert and Wilderness,
by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Edited and revised by Miroslaw Lipinski. New
York. Hippocrene Books. 1994. 354 pages. Map. Hardcover. $19.95.
Who in Poland has not read this delightful story of a Polish boy Stas Tarkowski and an English girl Nelly Rawlison stranded in Egypt during the Islamic uprising of 1884? This tale of gallantry and adventure, in the Robinson Crusoe tradition, has certainly made it to the reading desks of Polish children and youth. Polish American parents could do their children a favor by purchasing this book which so admirably combines Polish and British traditions, and tells quite a bit of African history as well.
Emigracja i tamizdat: Szkice o wspolczesnej prozie rosyjskiej. [Emigration and Tamizdat: Essays on Contemporary
Russian Prose]. Edited and co-authored by Lucjan Suchanek. Krakow. Universitas [Wislna 2/24, 31-007
Krakow]. 1993. 416 pages. Index. ISBN 83-7052-161-4. Paperback. In Polish.
A collection of fifteen essays on twentieth-century Russian writers: Vasilii Grossman, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Varlaam Shalamov, Georgii Vladimov, Aleksandr Zinoviev, Vladimir Voinovich, Veniamin Erofeev, Boris Pasternak, Viktor Nekrasov, Abram Tertz, Vasilii Aksyonov, and Anna Akhmatova. It challenges the American and Soviet/Russian patterns of the study of Russian literature.
Essays for Yvonne Grabowski: 1929-1989, edited by John McErlean. Toronto. Polish Institute of
Arts and Sciences in Canada. 1993. xxiii + 195 pages. Paper.
A collection of some sixteen essays (including one by Yvonne Grabowski) on topics ranging from Polish and Russian literature to sociopolitical changes in eastern Europe in recent years. Among the most interesting essays are those dealing with adaptation in Canada of immigrants from eastern Europe. A Bibliography of works by Yvonne Grabowski is included as well.
Wiersze na jednej strunie
[Poems Played on One String], by Jan Karon. Houston, TX - Sheybogan,
WI. Artex Publishing. 1993. 120 pages. Paper. In Polish.
This charming collection of "family poems" by a respected member of Houston's American Polish community: master violin maker Jan Karo<, is a tribute to his family and friends, and it is permeated with radiant goodness>.
Batiar: male opowiadania z Podola, Polesia i Podkarpacia [Batiar: Little Stories from Podolia, Polesie,
and the Carpathian Region], by Jan Adamski. Krakow. Zebra Publishing
House. 1993. 80 pages. Paper. Photographs. In Polish.
The author is a survivor of the "ethnic cleansing" undertaken by the Soviets in regard to Poles in western Ukraine and Belarus during World War 2 and afterwards. The stories reconstruct the multicultural Lwow [Lviv], now the capitol of western Ukraine, and they record the martyrdom of those deported to Kazakhstan and elsewhere who lived to tell their story.
Polish American Studies: A Journal of Polish American History and
Culture.Published bi-annually by the
Polish American Historical Association. Vol. LI, No. 1 (Spring
1994). James S. Pula, Editor. Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of
America. 96 pages. Subscription: $20.00 per year.
The journal's laudatory goal is to publish works dealing with that culturally elusive group called Polish Americans, rather than with Polish emigres in America or with Poles in Poland. While perusing such journals one realizes how little this Polish American group has been studied, how timid it is in asserting its identity on the American scene, and how stubbornly it remains Polish in spite of tremendous odds.
The journal brings to focus a broader issue as well. There seems to exist an enormous gap separating Polish-Polish affairs and Polish-American affairs, and there are few people who realize that the gap exists, let alone proposing a means to narrow it. Perhaps the reason for poor coordination of political efforts of the two groups (Polish emigres and native-born Americans of Polish origin) is precisely this unacknowledged difference in priorities. In whose interest is it to keep the two groups apart? The Chicago newspaper Zgoda is oriented exclusively toward Polish Americans (but it is edited by a Polish emigre whose decades-old specialty has been Soviet cinema), whereas the New York newspaper Nowy Dziennik caters mostly to emigres (and is likewise edited by an emigre). There seem to be no attempts to reach out and coordinate the agendas. Is the editorial profile of both publications an accident or a deliberate policy to keep Poles apart? And how does it relate to that lack of interest in Polish history among the younger generation of which Professor Kulczycki speaks elsewhere in this issue?
Other Books Received:
Albanian Catholic Bulletin. Vol. XIV(April 1993). Published annually by the Albanian Catholic Institute, University of San Francisco. Edited by Gjon Sinishta. 232 pages. Illustrations.
Lucifer Unemployed, by Aleksander Wat. Translated by Lillian Vallee. Foreword by Czeslaw Milosz. Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern University Press. 1990. xii + 123 pages. Paperback.