Kronika dziejow Polski [a chronicle of Polish history], edited by Stanislaw Kolodziejski et al. Introduction by Marek K. Kaminski. Krakow. Wydawnictwo K. Kluszczynski [30-110 Krakow, ul. Kraszewskiego 36]. 1996. Copious illustrations, photographs, graphs, reproductions of paintings. Index. 400 pages. 12_ x 9.5_. Hardcover. ISBN 83-86328-34-7. In Polish. No price given.
This is a superb example of the revival of the art of publishing in post-communist Poland. The quality of this book compares favorably with any art book published anywhere. The volume is a chronological and encyclopedic history of Poland written by over a dozen Polish scholars from various branches of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The format alternates between narrative and dated entries. The book takes the reader from the Ice Age on what later became Polish territory, to the events of 1994. Among its most recent entries are the new Gdansk oil refinery, a new chapel in the village of Lapszanka in Podhale, and the story of General Maczek who died at age 101 on 11 December 1994.
The book is copiously illustrated: those looking for "typically Polish" experiences will find them in pictures as well as in words in this opulent volume. We would like to recommend this book to Polish libraries in this country, Polish cultural clubs and parish libraries, Polish genealogical societies and private readers. Write to the Kluszczynski Publishers for a price list that should have been more widely distributed.
Polish Baroque and Enlightenment Literature: An Anthology, by Michael J. Mikos. Columbus, Ohio. Slavica Publishers [P.O. Box 14388, Columbus, OH 43214]. 1996. 382 pages. Illustrations and Photographs. Hardcover.
The first English anthology of Polish prose and poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The prolific "Sarmatian" seventeenth century is represented by Piotr Kochanowski, Daniel Naborowski Hieronim Sarbiewski (translated from the Latin of course), Hieronim Morsztyn and Jan Andrzej Morsztyn, Wac_aw Potocki and many others. There is even a letter translated from the famous collection of King Jan Sobieski's Letters to his wife. Bishop Ignacy Krasicki's Fables figure prominently in the eighteenth-century section, which also contains a rich selection from later eighteenth-century reformers. We are looking forward to Professor Mikos' Romanticism anthology.
A longer review to follow.
Swoboda na smyczy: Wspomnienia 1946-1956 [leashed freedom: memoirs 1946-1956], by Leszek Dziegiel. Krakow. Arcana Publishers [ul. Dunajewskiego 6, II p., 31-133 Krakow]. 1996. 286 pages. Illustrations and photographs. Paper. ISBN 83-86225-55-6. In Polish.
A professor of ethnology at Jagiellonian University, Dziegiel (b. 1931) describes the life of educated youth in Soviet-occupied Poland in 1946-1956. These were the years of the greatest oppression and the most intense efforts to separate Polish students from their cultural and religious past. Written in the style of the gaweda, Dziegiel's engaging memoirs will ring a bell for those who experienced those times, and will provide a useful resource to those who did not. An easy read.
Democracy, Civil Society and Pluralism in Comparative Perspective: Poland, Great Britain and the Netherlands, edited by Christopher G.A. Bryant and Edmund Mokrzycki. Warsaw. IFiS Publishers [00-330 Warsaw, Nowy Zwiat 72]. 1995. 424 pages. Paper.
A collection of very competently written articles on the three countries mentioned in the title. The Polish authors represent the political and social ideology associated with the Left (Freedom Union and Social Democracy of Poland). Consequently, there are many denunciations here of things that have to do with tradition. The British authors are likewise somewhat leftist, renouncing Thatcherism at every opportunity. We found the two articles by Christopher Bryant to be particularly useful and enlightening, as they show sensitivity toward the growing multi-ethnicism of Britain which has absorbed nearly three million people from her former colonies. Bryant also deals intelligently with the devolution of unity of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Do Snowia i dalej... [to Snowie and beyond...], by Jaroslaw Marek Rymkiewicz. Krakow. Arcana Publishers [ul. Dunajewskiego 6, II p., 31-133 Krakow]. 1996. 240 pages. Paper. ISBN83-86225-95-5. In Polish.
This is volume four of the projected five-volume opus by one of Poland_s most "Polish" writers. It strongly smells of Rodziewiczowna. However, the author is fully conscious of postmodernity, and he is a literary scholar by profession. As was the case with Dziegiel, Rymkiewicz uses the gaweda genre to tell his tale centered on the life of Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1856) in a Polish-Lithuanian-Belarusian setting, with an admixture of another story about Polish poet Ludwik Spitznagel and echoes of modernity. For those who like the gaweda genre, and for those who wish to taste the essence of the traditional and somewhat passive Polishness, Rymkiewicz is tailor-made.
Kielce July 4, 1946: Background, Context and Events, by Tadeusz Piotrowski, Iwo C. Pogonowski et al. Toronto and Chicago: The Polish Educational Foundation in North America (390 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ONT M6R 2M4]. 1996. Maps, Bibliography, Appendices. 151 pages. Paper. $8.00 US
The oft-repeated and, according to the authors, much-abbreviated version of the Kielce pogrom is that on 4 July 1946 in the city of Kielce, a mob attacked a house inhabited by Jews. In the fight, 42 Jews and two attackers perished (some speak of 39 Jews and two gentiles). The Soviet-controlled police and army were present at the scene, and their role is the main point of contention in this book. The subsequent trial of perpetrators resulted in nine death sentences for Polish civilian participants in the pogrom.The authors of the brochure suggest that the Kielce pogrom was an elaborate plot by the security forces in Soviet-occupied Poland, devised to advance two goals: 1. to discredit anti-Soviet resistance in Poland by suggesting to the free world that only harsh Soviet rule could contain Polish anti-Semitism, and 2. to encourage Jews from the Soviet-occupied territories to emigrate to Palestine in accordance with the Zionist plan of creating there a Jewish state.
In support of their thesis, the authors point to several issues overlooked by most commentators. According to the testimony of a Jewish survivor, the first shots were fired by the police at the Jews : "The soldiers fired through the closed doors..." (p. 120) Dr. Seweryn Kahane, the head of a local Jewish association, was shot in the back of the head at close range, or Soviet excecution-style, by a uniformed police officer (p. 94). Many other questions are raised but none is fully answered. The ambiguities however suggest that the matter of the Kielce pogrom is overdue for a scholarly historical study. The book goes off on tangents too frequently, and the authors, some of them with academic credentials, are generally unable to maintain scholarly detachment without which a reassessment of Kielce events will not be possible.
A good number of Jews attribute the responsibility for the pogrom to Poles, since it happened on Polish soil and involved a Polish-speaking mob (albeit, as the authors suggests, controlled and goaded on by men in NKVD uniforms). A mention of the Kielce pogrom appears in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and in other Holocaust museums in the United States. Many Polish Americans perceive this as unjustified "dumping" of guilt on a powerless and largely voiceless Central European nation. For many Jewish Americans, Kielce constitutes proof of Polish complicity in the Holocaust and a particularly odious manifestation of anti-Semitism, as it occurred shortly after the Holocaust. In 1996, Polish foreign minister Dariusz Rosati officially apologized to world Jewry for the pogrom.
Among other questions raised by the book are the following: What kind of legal and moral responsibility is carried by individuals citizens, or a body of citizens, in a country subjected to a represssive military occupation? How should one interpret Czeslaw Milosz's comment that "The first cadres of the Polish Communist Party in 1945...were composed by men in uniform, a very large proportion of them intellectuals of Jewish descent." Or that of Aleksander Smolar, a Polish intellectual of Jewish descent, concerning the perception of the murderous Soviet occupation in the 1940s: "To many Poles, it seemed as though the Jews had won."
The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy, edited and translated by Wiesiek Powaga. New York. Dedalus/Hippocrene [171 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016]. 1996. 320 pages. Paper. $16.95 or L9.99.
A delightful collection of stories by twenty Polish writers, some of whom (Wladyslaw Reymont, Bruno Jasienski) you would never have suspected of writing fantasy. We were particularly delighted to find in the volume a story by Poland_s greatest writer of children_s literature, Kornel Makuszynski (whose novels amply deserve translation). A review to follow.
Hoopi Shoopi Donna, by Suzanne Strempek Shea. New York. Pocket Books [1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020]. 1996. 356 pages. Hardcover. $22.00.
A Polish American novel by the author of Selling the Lite of Heaven (reviewed in SR, September 1995). Strempek Shea has an uncanny ability to zero in on typical trivialities of life (in this case, Polish American life) and elevate them to the status of symbols. She is like Mike Royko and Garrison Keillor rolled into one. Her book, with its easy plot, at first seems to be another first-person, silly-little-girl narrative, but in this second novel Strempek Shea deepens her insights considerably, revealing the self-destructive side of the Polish character. But the book ends on a note of hope.
After Plattling, translated and edited with an introduction by Olga M. Cooke. Illustrations. Berkeley, CA. Berkeley Slavic Specialties. 1996. 69 pages.
A bilingual collection of 14 poems, in English and in the original Russian, written by Russian prisoners-of-war who found themselves in Germany in 1945. These were former soldiers in General Vlasov_s Army, as well as people forcibly deported to Germany from the section of the Soviet Union occupied by the Nazis. Many of them were then deported back to the Soviet Union by the Allies. They went to certain death. Among others, Polish novelist Jozef Mackiewicz wrote about this tragedy which was one of the ugliest examples of collaboration between the Allies and the Soviet regime.
The collection was originally published in Russian in the town of Plattling, Bavaria, in 1946, the site of one such deportation. Olga Cooke found the collection in the Hoover Archives, and translated it for the English reader. The poems express not only the sadness of captivity but also great patriotic fervor and hope for Russia. The Russians who wrote them loved Russia so passionately that even in the The tenor of these poems is strikingly similar to the poetry about Chechenya [Ishkeria] written by Chechen exiles today. This example of patriotic literature may also be worth comparing to the writings of Slavic peoples in similar circumstances.
Aleksander Wat: Life and Art of an Iconoclast, by Tomas Venclova. New Haven and London. Yale University Press. 1996. xiii + 369 pages. Hardcover.
In one of G.K.Chesterton_s stories, Father Brown is asked where is the best place to hide a letter. He answers, "In the forest." "What if there is no forest?" "Then you have to plant one," answers Father Brown.
This episode comes to mind as one reflects on the exposure given in Polish literary life to Aleksander Wat, a "disappointed" former communist and a sophisticated poet. First Czeslaw Milosz came forth with a massive two-volume, question-and-answer quasi-autobiography of Wat, and produced a book that opened to him many a door previously closed. Now an academic press that would most likely scorn a critical study of many a neglected Polish writer lends its prestige to yet another volume on Wat, by someone coming from the same intellectual circle as Milosz and thus unlikely to offer a strikingly novel interpretation. It seems that the volumes describing the life of a "dissident communist" contribute to a certain vision of communist times, obscuring the causes and consequences of the longest period of cultural and material destruction in eastern Europe, and highlighting the fate of the few intellectuals who agonized over this enterprise. Thus the story gives the communist slaughterhouse a human face, an eloquent ornamentation softening its historical image. A counterpart on the Nazi side would be a memoir of a "disappointed Nazi," imprisoned or shunned by other Nazis for his abandonment of radical Nazism yet not sufficiently hostile to the Nazi enterprise to be slaughtered together with radical oppositionists. In defense of Wat, one should say that he has most eloquently repudiated communism in his memoirs.
This said, the volume is excellently written by a Lithuanian American poet and scholar, Tomas Venclova. It starts with Wat's early years marked by futurist leanings and pro-Soviet sympathies (fortunately for Wat, he did not betake himself to Soviet Russia as he once planned), and it ends with Wat's exile in the West. Wat was one of those tragic Polish writers who in large measure were victims of forces beyond their control. As he shed off his early futurist mannerisms, he became a profound and austere poet given to meditation on topics of timeless relevance.
A longer review to follow.
Polish American Tourist: Turystyka do Polski, Published yearly by PAT- Polish American Tours, division of Worldwide Travel [1053 Riverdale Street, West Springfield, MA 01089, tel. 413-747-770]. 1996. 20 pages. Numerous photographs. Newspaper format.
The best resource on travel to Poland we have ever seen. It contains information about hotel rates, car rental, rail travel, escorted group tours, festivals and events, reservations and more. Information about Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Danube tours is also included, as well as tours which combine Poland with other countries.
Pokonac raka: Biografia dr Stanislawa R. Burzynskiego [conquering cancer: Dr Stanislaw R. Burzynski_s biography], by Wieslaw Horabik. San Francisco, CA. CanQuest Publishing Company [1360 Taylor Street, Suite 6, San Francisco, CA 94108]. 1996. 229 pages. Photographs. Hardcover. In Polish.
A biography of Houston's famous cancer doctor and researcher who has cured a number patients afflicted with untreatable kinds of cancer.
Songs, Dances, and Customs of Peasant Poland, by Sula Benet. Preface by Margaret Mead. New York. Hippocrene [171 Madison Avenue, Ny, NY 10016]. 1996. 247 pages. 16 illustrations. Hardcover. $24.95.
nie zaplacony czynsz: wiersze pieszyckie, by Adam Lizakowski. Dzierzoniow. OBOK Publishers. 1996. 75 pages. Paper. In Polish.