Edited by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm
The letters presented here will be published in the original Polish in 2000 by the Czytelnik Publishing House in Warsaw. They will be part of the series titled Archiwum Kultury. The collection will include letters preserved in the Archives of the Institut Littéraire in Paris and in Melchior Wankowicz's Archive in Warsaw (the Wankowicz Archive belongs to Aleksandra Z. Boehm).
As evidenced by their letters, the two intellectuals differed considerably in their political views, and the differences grew as time went on. While Wankowicz refused to take political stances, Giedroyc was a born politician. While Giedroyc initially accepted Wankowicz's articles and novels for publication by the newly created publishing house, Institut Littéraire, he eventually parted ways with him. When World War 2 ended, Wankowicz was a relatively well known writer, while Giedroyc was a beginner. As time went on, Giedroyc gained popularity and acquired financial means, while Wankowicz fell into poverty and relative obscurity. The changes in mutual relations can be gauged by their letter headings. They start with "My dear Jerzy" [Drogi Panie Jerzy] and "My dear Melchior" [Drogi Panie Melchiorze] in 1949, and change to "Dear Sir" [Szanowny Panie] toward the end of Wankowicz's émigré period. In 1958, Wankowicz returned to Poland, while Giedroyc remained in Paris, continuing to edit the Polish émigré monthly Kultura and managing his publishing house which gained a sterling reputation among dissident writers in the Soviet bloc countries.
Editorial clarifications are in square parentheses and they follow the Sarmatian Review style (as opposed to that of the Czytelnik Publishing House).
My dear Melchior:
I have to ask you for a big favor which [our common acquaintance Aleksander Polczynski] Janta has already mentioned to you, I believe. At stake is the future of Kultura. As you can easily guess, this publication has a negative cash flow in spite of the slow but steady increase in the number of subscribers. I hoped that our reserves would last until the fall, but a catastrophic drop in the stock market in France makes me solvent for the next few months only. I do not want to ask [the Poles in] London, partly because this would be a hopeless attempt (they too are impecunious), and partly because I would like Kultura to be truly independent. I came to the conclusion that I need funds for two consecutive years; after that, I hope Kultura would be self-supporting; besides, over a period of two years one can not only begin a great many things but also achieve them. Since most émigré periodicals are closing down and the London émigré community is comatose, I would like to broaden Kultura in such a way as to make its subject matter cover all relevant areas. In that connection, I need to increase the number of pages in each issue to 300. I could then add a novel in installments, a large political archival section (replacing the "International Affairs" section), an extensive "Cultural Chronicle," a bibliographic section and reviews of foreign and domestic books. Then Kultura would fulfill the tasks I envisage for it.
The émigré circles are so clueless and horrible, politically speaking, that I decided to take action. In cooperation with Kultura friends and collaborators, I decided that this periodical has to formulate some positive policies and positions on issues that others avoid in a cowardly fashion. Issues such as the German question, our attitude to the Russians, the matter of European federalism, etc.
In order to put to work this two-year plan, I need 14 thousand dollars. This will cover the cost of paper and print, as well as enable me to pay slightly higher honoraria to authors who continue to fall into deeper and deeper poverty. In present circumstances, I think that the only way to get this kind of money is to make an appeal in the United States, even though I realize how difficult and nearly hopeless this might be, given that horrible entity called American Polonia. Thus I do not count on Polonian organizations at all; instead, I would like to make an appeal to some several dozen well-to-do people tapping not only their civic sense but also their vanity. I envisage a Committee of Friends of Kultura that would seek and find such possible donors. Both individuals and organizations could be donors. There would be three levels of donations: $500, $100, and $50. We would dedicate a Kultura issue to those giving 500 dollars, and their names would appear in all issues as sponsors of the periodical. Those offering less would see their names mentioned in each issue on the list of friends and supporters.
For such a committee to be effective, it would have to consist of a small number of people of high authority and a sterling reputation; they would have to be flexible self-starters. And here comes my request. I cannot imagine anyone except yourself in the role of the organizer. If you are of the opinion that Kultura is needed, if you trust me sufficiently to believe that we [at Kultura] are capable of delivering on promises and that these promises make sense, I would very warmly ask you for help. Become a leader and organize such a committee. Please give me a frank answer. I realize that this is a problem of believing or disbelieving in me, in my ability to do something with that kind of money. If you refuse, our relations will not change. At the same time, it goes without saying that I cannot offer you any guarantees except my sincere conviction that I am able to create a reservoir of political thought among and by Polish émigrés, and thus I hope to find a justification for the existence of these émigrés. So please take a risk.
In case you agree, I have some suggestions. Try to bring [Józef] Wittlin into the Committee. I have heard that he enjoys considerable respect in Jewish financial circles in America. The same for Janta who could be secretary of such a Committee. Janta is very flexible and hard-working, he knows America and I think that he likes Kultura. Perhaps Mr. Wellisz [a Polish Jewish financier] would also be interested. I have seen to it that he [would] soon receive a letter from one of his friends; that letter will speak warmly about such a Committee. I mention these names somewhat like a blind man tapping a road with his staff; I do not really know the personal geography of Poles in America. I should think that the lectures which you so frequently give in Polish circles could be used for our purpose: I am certain that a few Chicago butchers would want to enter History for a mere 500 dollars. Perhaps Artur Rubinstein could be drawn into this as well, or [Witold] Malcuzynski; perhaps an appeal could be made during a concert, in the style of the Kosciuszko Foundation which I hear does this sort of thing. In any case, all this would have to happen quickly and be over by the end of May. Until then, I can hold on. After May, I can only drag it on, and that precludes maintaining and developing a serious policy even with regard to authors: it is difficult to commission an article or translation of a novel if one is not sure whether the periodical would continue to appear.
Please answer as quickly as possible. We mailed you Józio's book [Józef Czapski, The Inhuman Land, London 1951]; it is our most recent publication. Let me know what you think of it.
My dear Melchior:
I have another major request. Please write for Kultura an article about the American Polonia and the recent Polish migration to the United States, with particular attention paid to intellectuals and their sterility.
This would be a follow-up to [Andrzej] Bobkowski's article which, in addition to factual information, contains a lot of spin.
Would you be willing to write a review of [Tadeusz] Katelbach's Spowiedz pokolenia?
I do hope that you will not "betray" us for either [Mieczyslaw] Grydzewski's or [Józef] Bielatowicz's periodicals.
With warm regards,
My dear Melchior:
Many thanks for your letter of March 20. I did not know you were enough of a contrarian to write an excellent article in the form of a letter. Would you agree to publish this letter [in Kultura] as a kind of a guidepost leading in the direction so far taken only by Józio. I very much hope you will say yes.
I do correspond with [General Zygmunt Szyszko] Bohusz. He calls me "my dear Major" (apparently that puts me in a symbiotic relationship with Józio's military title), but nevertheless he did write to OrzelBiay [a Polish periodical published in London] to ask whether they were going to print his work or not; he is supposed to tell me when he hears from them. I urged him to hurry up.
I am returning the clipping as asked. I do not understand why you did not yet receive either Kultura or the book. I am sending you a second copy, although it is hard to believe the first one got lost.
I have always wonderedunsuccessfullywhat is the secret of Grydzewski's charm. In spite of the total sterility of his periodical [Wiadomosci, a Polish émigré periodical published in London, attempted to be a more conservative continuation of a left-wing and pro-Commuist pre-war periodical Wiadomosci Literackie], not to speak of the harm it does (it is like the one before the war, only in reverse), everyone seems to be attracted to it. It is hard to compete with him and I humbly await the crumbs from his table. If they do not want this "farming" story of yours, I will take it.
It is a waste of time to write about the situation in London's "Polish world." It is monstrous in its decomposition. In any case, I have rebelled. I concocted a memorandum to the "leader" [Grydzewski] about "how the little Giedroyc imagines the salvation of Poland." I will mail it as a kind of ultimatum accompanied by a note saying that if it is not accepted, or at least subjected to discussion and used as a basis for a counter-proposal, I am going to go against them. In order to make it more dramatic, I declared that I am out of money, I included reports, etc., etc., so that they would not take me for a crook who took public money and wasted it [on Institut Littéraire]. In other words, I would ask for further funds if we come to an agreement. Naturally I oversimplify, and all this is confidential. I think the entire matter will come to a head within a month, for I am not one to accept phony solutions. It was hard for me to use such language, but I see no other way. As you can see, the situation has changed since my last letter. But I have no choice.
Would you please let me know by return mail whether you permit me to publish your Letter? The April issue is already in print, but the May issue remains open 'til April 10.
Warm regards from all of us at Maisons-Laffitte to both of you,
My dear Melchior:
I have not yet heard from you concerning my query as to whether you are inclined to get involved in our financial problems, yet I am writing to you again. I got a letter from Wellisz (he is actually an acquaintance of mine), whom we also tried to persuade to underwrite Kultura. He found an excuse in family troubles. Nevertheless, he sent us some printing tools. He cannot stand Janta; according to him, you are the only person who could become for us the great alms collector. I enclose an excerpt from his letter.
I am trying to advance the matter of Józio's speaking tour of America. It now appears that Br[onislaw] Mlynarski, who now lives in Hollywood and is married to a starlet, promised to find an agent who would organize such a tour. I keep trying. I really would like for Józio to go to America in the fall.
I am also trying to convince some Frenchmen to underwrite a bilingual Polish-French daily, and I tell them that this ultimately would benefit the French. So far so good. If I succeed, this will be quite a coup. Also, I try to raise the issue of a university that would serve students from behind the Iron Curtain. [James] Burnham is an enthusiast of this project, and he is supposed to start an advertising campaign in the United States as soon as he returns home from Europe. Such are my occupations now. But I prefer them to the London [Polish community's] bad smells which intensify as time goes on. We are doing our best to explain to Wladyslaw [unidentified, Ed., possibly Anders] to stop doing silly things and start working, but to no avail. At present, [the Polish] London is ruled by Rubel [unidentified] and [Wieslaw] Wohnout [a minor émigré]. I am not exaggerating.
Any news about the article on the American Polonia? Have you decided to write it? I really would like to have it. The June issue closes May 20-25.
My dear Jerzy:
Excuse my long silence. But what can I say except repeat such cliches as "I am at your service." That does not bring in funds, because the person performing the "service" is powerless. As proof, please consider the fact that having completed two long typescripts, I am unable to find a publisher for them or even to publish them in installments in some [American] periodical. I have not made a penny since I came to the United States, and my attempts to drum up some support for Joe's book ended in total failure. Perhaps Janta will be able to help; he lives in New York, while I live in the country. Over the last five months, I spent two days in New York, and only because I had some paperwork to do there. Now I am here for a four-day stay on the occasion of the Monte Cassino battle anniversary. The celebration has been laboriously organized by a Committee of Five United [Polish] Organizations; they worked on it for three months. The inestimable Opalinski from Polish Book Importing introduced me as the greatest national bard alive. He set up a book stand with my books, displayed my portrait and press clippings, invited General Kwasniewski to say enthusiastically that my books contain photographs of events I would be talking about (not to mention the fact that an autograph of the Distinguished Author can be obtained for free). After all this, it turned out that only three copies of my book were sold. A public opinion survey (to use the London Polish style) revealed that these copies were bought by three schlemiels who had just washed up from Europe.
I hear that there exists somewhere in New York a mythical "Ganna" or "Hanna" whose name escapes me, a Polish woman married to a rich American who subsidizes [Jan] Lechon as an epicenter of Polish aspirations; but I am unable to reach the above "Ganna," Perhaps Janta rather than I could do it; he should sacrifice his, well, contrary tastes for the fatherland's sake. (By the way, on page 19 of the book you published, he confesses that he is particularly fond of capons.)
My dear Jerzy, you are burning, and I throw at you my coarse farmer's humor. But what else can we do? I am like a Belarusian peasant seated on a river bank, slowly chewing his bread and onions and advising his drowning comrade: "Do not waste your energy, friend, go directly to the bottom."
Let me stop joking. It certainly would be a lesser loss if [the émigré government of President August] Zaleski went down rather than if Kultura did. But what can be done? The last issue is excellent. Although I must confess that articles such as those by [Waclaw] Zbyszewski irritate me: this is the only article I have not read. To write about what must and will happen in Poland is pompous idiocy. We are just a result of a Great Transformation, and I learn more about Poland when I read about Russia or the United States than when I read about Poland itself.
Szyszko-Bohusz wrote that you would publish his review. I am glad. Did you have any trouble because of Katelbach? Czernyszewicz wrote me demanding a review in Kultura.
My dear Jerzy:
I wrote "Letter to Florczak" [Florczak wrote for Kultura for a number of years using the pen name, Pelikan] because of your request to discuss things. It ballooned to 22 Kultura pages. It does contain subtitles, dialogues etc., but I fear that you will reject it on account of its length.
I did not have a typewriter with me and wrote by hand; I'll start a clean copy tomorrow. But I have to wash eggs on the farm, and so it will take me some time to do the rewriting. Just in time to receive an air mail letter from you giving me Florczak's address. I would like to send that "Letter" to him even if you print my text in Kultura, because I would like for him to prepare a rejoinder for the next issue; and if you do not publish my "Letter," it will still provide fodder for his thoughts and writing. In any case, I'll send you a copy via air mail [rather than by fax], because of the lower cost.
P.S. When will Józio arrive here?
My dear Melchior:
Thank you for your letter. Florczak's address is as follows: 43 rue d'Irlande, St. Gilles-Bruxelles. I am looking forward to your contribution to the discussion. I would, however, like to get it no later than mid-August.
What are the chances of you writing an article about the American Polonia which you once wished to write? Perhaps you are preparing it for the oh-so-patriotic Grydz[ewski]?
Józio leaves in early November. He will begin his tour in Canada where he was invited to give several lectures in French. This will not cover the cost of the air ticket, but it will take care of his living expenses in Canada, and whatever is left over will enable him to start off in the United States. We have grand hopes for the U.S., and, I in particular, place high hopes in the entire trip.
Things are going from bad to worse here, but our spirits are high.
My dear Jerzy:
Something unexpected happened: my topic grew to 64 Kultura pages, as you can see from the enclosed. I have covered the topic, so there will be no more surprises unless there are mistakes in counting, which may happen because I have not written by hand since my school days.
I have made a clean copy of half of it, namely, Part One, titled "World." The other half will take about a week. I'll mail it around August 10. I have no idea how long it takes by surface mail.
My dear Melchior:
Please excuse my long silence, but I continue to be in a whirlwind of troubles which do not leave me even during the holidays. Here are the answers:
I do not understand why you did not get the December issue [of Kultura] since Siedlecki got it, and we send the journal to all our American recipients at the same time. I double-checked and I am sure we mailed you the issue.
I keep dragging on the idea of the Third Way Club
[Klub III Miejsca, a political essay authored by Zbigniew Florczak, followed up by Wankowicz in "A Letter to Florczak" published in Kultura, and eventually developed into a book by Wankowicz], and I consider the publication [in Polish] of [James] Burnham's book [The Managerial Revolution] to be part of the program. Installments of Burnham's book will run in three consecutive issues: it is a lengthy piece considering our possibilities. Burnham updated it especially for us.
Glinka's piece seems weak, and it is also very long; I cannot publish it, but at his request I am sending the typescript to you.
Believe me, I neither regret nor fear the storm which your Third Way Club has occasioned. I only regret that it all ended in personal insinuations instead of a public discussion. But I believe the piece did its job in the so-called society. People got interested enough to quarrel, and you will thus obtain a few friends and a great many enemies.
On the other hand, when I look at that miserable entity called Europe, I despair about its ability to produce the will to achieve; it seems only able to conceptualize and to theorize. The situation in France in particular inclines one to total pessimism.
I agree with you that one should stay away from the small change of petty discussions. It is better to wait and, when the right moment comes, to present the entire accounting. I will publish [the] Stern [interview] in the January issue, just as I said. Unfortunately your corrections came too late, the issue had already been printed. Fortunately, we caught most of the typos ourselves.
Józio has not written for a long time, but I hear that he is quite tired and pessimistic. I still consider his trip to Canada a success and count on some golden fleece when he comes back. At the same time, I realize that he played the role of a pathfinder.
This first trip should be followed by a second and a better prepared one. The trick is to live long enough to see it.
I try to keep Józio alerted to two issues. The first is the [David] Rousset affair [Rousset tried to form an association of survivors of Nazi and Soviet death camps]. The second is the Arthur Bliss Lane issue [his campaign to give publicity to Soviet crimes]. No matter how lightweight his committee is, the issue of the Soviet death camps begins to gather steam. We could on that occasion bring in some Polish issues as well. As you know, [the Polish Army archives in the West] contain a huge collection of photos and films made in Soviet Russia. Perhaps it would be possible, with the help of some American politician, to create a traveling exhibit on the Soviet concentration camps. I envisage a facsimile of a real Soviet camp, its barracks and sleeping bunks, life-size figures of uniformed NKVD policemen; prisoners in rags, their meals and food portions, and assigned daily tasks: amassing a pile of wood or coal, and the area of forest which each prisoner had to clear. The original photographs would also be on display, as well as books in all languages that have been published on this topic.
There are architects and artists available, e.g., [Jerzy] Hryniewiecki, who could design such an exhibit. This exhibit would then travel through the largest American cities (those which could house so large a display). I think that if it were done well, such an exhibit could significantly influence American public opinion, and the agent who organizes it could make a tidy sum. I am writing about it because I want you to discuss this matter with Józio; if you think it is feasible and sufficiently "American," please urge Józio to do something about it, and do something about it yourself. I doubt there is another person in the United States, other than yourself, who could put such a thing in motion. Of course the exhibit would also feature lectures.
Another idea: since the IRO [the International Rescue Organization which helped refugees from communist countries] is about to breathe its last, perhaps a competition for the best DP [Displaced Persons] memoirs could be organized. I tried to do it already but found out that Kultura would not be able to raise funds for it. Such a competition could create important social and sociological documents, and it would be a parting shot for the IRO. Americans like all kinds of competitions, so I have tried to convince Józio to bring this project to the attention of one of the publishing houses or a foundation. It goes without saying that such a memoir would have to cover all the languages and be published in Europe, Argentina, and Australia, besides Canada and the United States. I recommend against the creation of a large and multinational jury because this would only increase the bureaucracy. The jury must be lean and mean, and it should consist of members of one nationality only; it should have at its disposal many translators. Do not laugh, but I see three people on such a jury: yourself, Florian Znaniecki,and Jerzy St´powski. Such a trio could extract all the juices from a mountain of material, and the winning memoir could become a bestseller, not to speak of its political value.
Please, do discuss this with Józio and help him to organize it.
Finally, some news that will not cheer you up; it did not cheer me up. Florczak decided to return to [Soviet-occupied] Poland. A couple of weeks ago I got a short and disjointed letter from him in which he made his family responsible for his decision: "I did it because of two women, one of whom is my mother who resides in Poland." Also, he was unable to obtain a refugee status from the IRO [such a status enabled the recipients to settle in Western countries]. He asks for our consideration and requests that no comments appear in Kultura about his decision; he does not even want to be defended if someone attacked him. When I tried to change his mind, he curtly answered that it was too late and that a "third prize" does not exist. I answered that I disagree, and I think he acted in a cowardly fashion; but I do not condemn him, for I had long ceased condemning anyone. Such was the end. So far everything is quiet, even though he had already left. I do not understand him, I really do not know him that well, but I think that his decision might be a result of the local Polonia's malicious gossip. I do not think he was an agent (even the ever-suspicious Wraga does not suspect him of that); I think he was simply a weak and unhappy member of the intelligentsia: a not-atypical situation. I think that the less said about this affair, the better. Personally I do not regret in the least that we published his works.
Cordially, and with best wishes from the entire staff,
My dear Melchior:
Would you be interested in reviewing for Kultura Arthur Koestler's last two books? They deal with Palestine. I need that review not only because I want to maintain good relations with him and with his editor, but also because we have finally found our way to Palestine: 50 copies of Kultura go there every month, not a bad beginning. If you agree, I'll send you the books in French immediately.
Unexpectedly, I got several intelligent rejoinders to your ms. about the Third Way Club. I am now obsessed with the English edition of Kultura that would be targeted at the United States, at first as a quarterly. I think that with some effort, one could create an interesting periodical that would differ considerably from the totally hopeless Polish Review. The main problem is, how to get money for it. According to a preliminary estimate, a single issue would cost thousands of dollars. Would it be possible to pinch anything from that Drew Committee? I know it is supposed to serve those intellectuals who are permanently anchored in the United States, but perhaps those intellectualsincluding yourselfcould sponsor Kultura as their own project. I would be grateful if you could discuss this with Józio and give me your advice.
One more thing. [Manès] Sperber (author of Et le buisson devint cendre), who advises [the French publisher] Calmann-Levy, suddenly got very interested in Polish mss. It occurred to me that he might want to take a look at your book on the Jews (both of them are Jewish). If you want me to pursue this, I shall; I would need a summary from you, if not in French then at least in English.
What do you think of Romer's idea of a tour of Canada and the Arctic with a view to promoting those Poles who were explorers? I think this is an excellent idea, and it could sell. It would be a book comparable to your Monte Cassino.
My dear Jerzy:
Letters from you are like vitamin pills.
Do not send me Koestler's books; I have them all, and I will write the review as requested. If I do not manage to do it before my departure for Canada, I'll let you know, so that you can assign this to someone else.
I am sending you a summary of my three "Jewish" books.
Erdman says that if the Polish details in [my book] Ziele na kraterze could be somehow removed, the book would become a truly universal piece. And that it would be even more successful than my Jewish books.
Did the Jews get offended at my remembrances of [Avraham] Stern?
I accepted Romer's proposal. I will go [to Canada] for a two-week tour and will give the first lecture on March 12. We would then talk, weigh the possibilities and perhaps arrange for a three-month tour in October.
You say this book [about Canada, the Arctic, and the Poles] could be as significant as Monte Cassino. I do not yet feel it. I shall undertake this project because I have no other possibilities. I would like to work on another book titled Miedzyepoka [between the wars]. Romer asked me to do a lecture especially for the young people. I made a little plan and it is growing, just as the "Letter to Florczak" metamorphosed into the Third Way Club. If I had enough money to live on, I would certainly not go to Canada but stay here and read. But since I have to choose between raising chickens for a living and sightseeing in a new country, I choose the latter.
I am most interested in comments about the Club. I am a bit worried that I did not protest all that nonsense that was written about me after the Club appeared, and that therefore it may stick.
Once more, thanks for the vitamins.
Warm regards to all,
P.S. In addition to my Jewish book, I also have a translation of Szczeniece lata. Ms. Dziadulska once translated it into French but it was never published.
After I sealed the envelope, the following occurred to me, and so I unsealed it:
1. Would you be so kind as to send me the texts that take issue with the Club? Not in order to censor them, but to speed up the publication of discussion. As for myself, I made four copies of the Club: one for Kultura, the second for myself, and the remaining two were meant for Florczak and Bobinski; but you published it so fast that there was no necessity to mail the ms. to them.
And so I thought that perhaps we should recapitulate the discussion to-date. From the editorial standpoint, it might be right on target, because people have short memories. If you do not have copies of materials sent to you [à propos of the Club], tell the authors to send such copies to me.
3. I suggest you send Kultura (the issue containing the conversation with Stern) to Menachem Begin who heads another and stronger Jewish organization, the Irgun. He can be reached at the Knesset where he heads his party's caucus (he is a law graduate from Poland).
My dear Melchior:
Thank you for your letter of February 18. I am glad you decided to go to Canada. I do not think I exaggerate comparing this eventual book with Monte Cassino. Your book will be an introduction to the subsequent first book on overseas Polonia. This is virgin territory, and since international power has moved over to the United States, this miserable Polonia will play an increasingly important role. Not to speak of the fact that communist Poland, whose upper classes have been destroyed, will probably appear more attractive [to the Polish American peasants] than the old Poland.
Would you be willing to write an article, a report actually, on your first visit to Canada? Such a report would be important to us. First, because Canada is a center of dreams of so many Poles in Europe (they all want to emigrate there), and second, because your article would fit like a glove that English-language issue of Kultura for which money is now being collected in Toronto. I quietly hope that you will promote Kultura during your tour. I have no illusions about the possibilities of making Kultura really important for the Polish Canadian public, but in our circumstances, every new subscription is essential.
I still have crazy hopes about the English-language edition of Kultura, and I am impatiently waiting for Józio's return [from America]. Alas, the chances are slim. What do you think about that Drew Committee?
I received your "Jewish" summary. We have begun to work on it. I cannot surmise, much less promise, anything, but I think that it is worth a try. Contrary to malicious gossip, I do not misplace manuscripts, and I propose that you send me the English translation of Szczeniece lata. Manès Sperber is my main contact; he advises Calmann-Levy and knows English, so that he could evaluate the book from the translation. So far as Ziele na kraterze goes, I think Erdman is right. Do you have it in English, or only in Polish? If the latter, please send me a summary. Please do this before you leave; it will be necessary to go a-begging to the publishing houses which are now getting ready for the fall and winter season.
I have not received any additional comments on the Club. Here among Parisian Jews (the journalists) your article made a good impression and even brought in a few subscriptions. I sent that issue to Begin as suggested. We are now beginning to mail Kultura [to Israel]. To start with, 50 copies. Not bad.
Thus unfortunately, there were no more comments about your article. I turned down Glinka's commentary, but you already have that. In the April issue, I shall print a good rejoinder by Chmielowiec. The issue is now in print. I'll send you proofs. The idea of a summary and general response is good, and I shall be glad to publish it.
The "Polish Chronicle" section is a headache. I try and try and nothing comes out. Perhaps I can finally introduce it in the May issue.
Thanks for Koestler. Can I get that review some time in March?
My dear Melchior:
I am worried about the promised review of Koestler's books, and I also wanted to let you know about the situation concerning your books. It does not look good. Calmann-Levy said that he has enough Jewish topics (he had just published three titles), besides Koestler monopolizes this publishing house. Gallimard was interested, but having looked at your summary, its editor made nasty comments. You did not really send us a summary; besides, the copy is terrible, with parts of it missing. They want to know the following:
a. has the book ever been published
b. do you have an agent in the United States
c. if you do, send them his address
d. if you do not, send the ms. to M. Robert Gueneau (Gallimard, 5, rue Sebastien Bottin) mentioning Pawe Zdziechowski's name. He is my contact with Gallimard.
Perhaps it would be better if you send the ms. to us and let us dispatch it further. This way, there is a better chance that it will not get lost. I hope this would not be the eighth carbon copy; they really do not like that. Imagine that Marynia Czapska, who tried to show your "summary" to Daniel Halevy, was told to bring in a ms. or stop wasting his time.
I think that Ziele na kraterze has a chance, so please send it in too. If you have a translation, fine, if not, at least a good summary and a few translated chapters can act as bait. I will be able to send you Chmielowiec's polemic only on March 11; I'll use air mail. Mieroszewski is sweating out some kind of polemic with Krystek I asked him to send you a copy directly. There were no further press comments except for a silly note in Mysl Polska [a right-wing periodical in London] which alleged that when Florczak returned to Poland, you dissolved the Club because of a shortage of members.
Nothing new here: Józio is mad at me, I am mad at him, and we both dream of the dollar manna which somehow does not materialize.
What about Canada?
My dear Jerzy:
Thanks for your initiatives. I am sending you the smallest and the most "dangerous" of my Jewish books. It deals with Judaism, and since this religion is so peculiar, it is difficult not to crack a few jokes about it.
Perhaps the Gallic Jews have a Gallic sense of humor; generally speaking, I find Jews to be sensitive, suspicious and ready to take offense.
At present, I have only one copy [of this book]. The translator promised four copies, but already the second carbon is illegible. So if you find out that nothing can be done, I beg you to send it back immediately (of course not by air mail).
I went to Józio's Polish lecture. He was introduced as a Colonel who would talk about the "masquerade of Polish officers at Katyn" (it was supposed to be "massacre"). I also went to his first English lecture. He tried to pronounce the words according to a textbook, and he got [expletive omitted]. The listeners perspired and rushed for Coca-Cola. The discussion part was lively. The Americans asked questions, while Józio usually started his answer with a couple of lines from [the poet] Norwid. The translator spent five minutes translating these lines, and it went on like that. The good-hearted Orlowski, our former ambassador to Budapest, tried to comfort Józio by saying that only ten percent of his words remained unintelligible. Unfortunately, these ten percent contained all the subjects and all the predicates. But he pronounced his conjunctions perfectly. Whenever he said "and," the audience regained hope of understanding him, especially if a "but" came shortly afterwards. The Americans left satisfied that they finally understood what Russia is all about.
Well, what really happened could only be told by someone who is both a St. Francis and a crook. But altogether, it wasn't too bad.
You asked me about Koestler. It is two in the morning, and I have not packed yet. I go to Canada tomorrow for a month.
Who is Chmielowiec and who is Krystek?
My dear Melchior:
Thank you for your letter and for the ms. which I received today. Beautifully packed. I shall guard it as something precious. Shortly after Easter I shall visit Gallimard's with Zdziechowski. There is still another publisher named Editions du Pavois who has suddenly developed an unhealthy appetite for things Polish. So please send me the English translation of Szczeniece lata and a summary of Ziele na kraterze. Also, please answer the questions which I posed in the previous letter: do you have an agent etc. This is important for publishers here. Maybe nothing will come of this, but one should try. In any case, you can be sure that the mss. you sent will not be lost.
I am very curious about your Canadian impressions. [Kultura's Canadian friend] Radomski wrote us that your lecture went very well. I have no doubt that you will pick up a thousand or so new subscriptions for Kultura (ha ha). The article [about you] in Zwiazkowiec was also nice.
Since you plan to go to Buffalo for a guest tour, I beg you for an article about the Franciscan order there. I really need it very much, and I do not know of anyone who could do it but you.
All I know about Chmielowiec is that he is a protégé of Zawadowski (the one in Lebanon), and Zawadowski considers him to be "decent but unintelligent." I know even less about Krystek because he is in Australia.
Your description of Józio's lecture made us all roll with laughter. Literally. Even Marynia Czapska laughed, although she usually cannot stand "profaning" serious things.
Józio recently fell silent. So far, he has found money for two issues [of Kultura]. I begin to sweat thinking of the future.
P.S. I need that article about Canada by May 15.
Excuse my late answer, but troubles are mounting, the heat is unbearable and I am not in the best of moods. This slows down work.
In spite of all the difficulties, I have decided to hang on to Kultura. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, stubbornness is all, and thus I should succeed. I am researching the so-called varitypers [unidentified] which, or so Jerzy St´powski tells me, will revolutionize printing by making it much cheaper. He says that two such machines would allow me not only to publish Kultura but also to start publishing books. I would be grateful for your thoughts on the subject. In addition to Kultura's gain, this could also be of great service to the underground press behind the Iron Curtainwhen the moment is right. As I have ascertained through my random contacts with the visiting Varsovians, they would be most interested in buying such a machine and smuggling it into [Soviet-occupied] Poland. It occurs to me that perhaps it might be useful to go to Mr. Coxhead [unidentified] and propose to him that if we get two varitypers from him, we would popularize them behind the Iron Curtain in a proper way. Thus we shall create potential customers for him there. We could give him publicity through an article in Kultura about varitypers. Of course we would say not a word about their possible use for underground work, but instead present them as a competition for the international printing cartel. We could also produce here printed matter to be distributed in [Soviet-occupied] Poland, and we could train a dozen or so persons from behind the Iron Curtain in using the machines properly. With regard to underground printing, I think the best way would be to produce a series of brochures (not too long) on fundamental ideological matters; we would not even touch the current political events. I have in mind such works as I.M. Bochenski's essay on Marxism, Józio's essay on painting, Régamey's essay on music; then a treatise on biology, on Western literatures etc. I think such topics will be not only most unwelcome by the [communist] regime, but they also will be of interest to the public that becomes more and more separated from Western books and more and more subjected to the heavy indoctrination of Marxism. One more advantage: if the regime catches a group of partisans or finds a few guns hidden in a private home, or a radio transmitter, they can make it into a show trial. But to arrest people for reading say a brochure about Simone Weil and organizing a public trial for the "culprit" would be inconvenient for them for propaganda reasons. So far, I have had opportunities to send to Poland a few hundred copies of this or that. What do you think? If you agree with me, I have two requests: 1. Suggestions about the topics of these brochures (translations are acceptable), and 2. Please get in touch and talk to the management of those companies which produce varitypers. I wrote about it to Józio but got no answer. I think that given the complications of his trip, he simply was unable to think about anything else. If this sort of thing came through, our activities could be significantly broadened.
As to tightening up the Third Way Club, you are absolutely right. A good idea. What is going on in Poland is your inspiration, for which I thank you. I have had a lot of positive responses. But to collect materials is difficult. "Connoisseur" is a collective pen name of those who collaborate with Dziennik Polski. No single author writes the Chronicle. I know very little about Piatkowski. From what I know, he is supposed to be a very decent man. He had a bit of money which he used for Tygodnik Ilustrowany published by Samopomoc Lotnicza. He has ONR sympathies. He did not steal money from the Union but he "lent" some to his ideological leaders or superiors; they were supposed to return it but did not, and he assumed responsibility without mentioning their names. I wrote to Mieroszewski to collect some gossip and send it to you.
I do not have Pstrokonski's private address, but you can write c/of The Editors, Od A do Z of which he is a co-editor.
One request. You live close to Siedlecki who is a Kultura subscriber. He has not renewed his subscription even though we sent him a reminder. Please prevail so that he does renew it.
Finally, a big request. Józio told you about his financial failures. Still, his trip opens up possibilities and I have decided to go with him next time, which means in the winter. I hope for political and financial results. Among others, I plan to get some money in a banal way, one that never brings great amounts but needs to be tried, I think. We publish 2,200 copies of each issue, and we sell over 1,600. I would like to write a letter to all subscribers, asking them to find three new subscribers, and telling them that if that happens, we shall finally become financially independent. I think that such a letter will bring better results than publishing an appeal in Kultura. The letter has to be written in a proper way. Joe is too sentimental and too Norwid-like. Stempowski will make a treatise out of it, and I simply cannot write. I am sorry to abuse your kindness in this way, knowing how busy you are, but I am counting on you. Please let us have such a letter.
My dear Jerzy:
I am devastated by [writer] Ksawery's [Pruszynski] death. For me, this is like an unfinished book whose plot passionately interested me. He lived off the regimes which he treated roughly and which felt impressed by his mistreatment; but the communist regime would not have taken such behavior for long, and I really was curious how it all would end. ThenI still do not know how he eventually will be judged. He was a man of great talent. I have always said that, and I am not repeating it now just because he is dead. He was often dismissed as a man without character. Indeed, he did piggish things, and I sometimes was a victim myself. He embodied greed and disloyalty, and he liked scheming. But most of all, he had a marvelous ability to absorb life. This ability was his chief asset, and he cultivated it. But we do not live in a Renaissance-like epoch, but rather have entered the new Dark Ages; and in such circumstances he was bound not to last long. I was really fascinated by his incessant chasing after the easy life and paying with what his talent could deliver; but he needed that intense life not only for pleasure but also for experience. He carried tremendous possibilities within himself, he could still have sold himself for large sums and could have had a precipitous moral downfall. Hearing of his demise, I felt like a spectator at a bull fight that was interrupted by rain. God's job is difficult, and it would have been even more difficult if God were Polish. If I were God, however, I would opine that Pruszyski's account was ultimately in the black.
Excuse these random remarks. Going back to business:
I am sending you a project of an appeal concerning enlarging the circle of Kultura subscribers. I assume that trying to appeal to civic virtue is pointless. People are too lazy to engage in persuading others to subscribe to Kultura. But they do spend money on presents, so perhaps the idea of a present might work. Offering subscriptions as gifts is common in the United States.
Back to the September 1999 issue
The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 10/11/99