Issue 1/2012

Pamiętnik Literacki 1 / 2012

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“Wheat and Corn Cockle.” Biblical Intertexts in Bolesław Prus’ “The Doll”

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The article aims at analyzing the function that Biblical quotations perform in Bolesław Prus’ The Doll (Lalka). In the first part the author examines the prefigurative potential of the signalled quotations which demarcate the lot of many minor characters (e.g. the Wysocki brothers, baron and baroness Krzeszowscy). The second part discusses so called “acts of quoting” in which intertextual relations are cut down to the scenes the quotations appear (e.g. the walk in Powiśle, the events in Skierniewice). In both cases the Bible as well as the theological discourse that interprets it prove to be a functional tool for understanding a number of unclear fragments in Prus’ masterpiece.

The Sacred in Adolf Dygasiński’s “Feasts of Life” (“Gody życia”). On Non-Positivistic Natural History and Irrationalisms

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Adolf Dygasiński’s literary creativity associated with naturalism transgresses the limits of Positivism. A conventional motif of vain biological circle, the concept of love and suffering close to that of Christians, interest in metaphysics, means of expressions typical of Young Poland’s symbolism and emotional earnestness – all of them make up a token that Dygasiński’s writings break up with the established models. Dygasiński’s most intriguing piece, i.e. Feasts of Life, manifests the sacred. The rhythm of vegetation that symbolize the mysteries of cosmic reviving make up the novel’s metaphysical design, the sacral dimension is organized by the structure of Slavonic year’s rituals, whilst moral explanation of Feasts of Life is settled by hidden quotations from the Bible.

A distance from Positivism is also marked in Dygasiński’s other pieces, e.g. Oak trees (Dęby), Wonderful tales (Cudowne bajki), Extreme (Krańcowy), A Description of Mr. Albert Milicery’s Battle (Opis imprezy wojennej imć pana Alberta Milicerego).

Great Eating, Smaller Eating, Supposedly Eating. On the Motif of Eating in Bolesław Leśmian’s Fairy-Tale Prose. The Case of “Adventures of Sindbad The Sailor” (“Przygody Sindbada Żeglarza”)

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The article describes transformations of the traditional patterns of fairytaleness in Bolesław Leśmian’s adaptation of the stories of Sindbad the Sailor from a book of Arabian Nights. Leśmian’s version is so far-reaching reinterpretation of the “Arab stories” that it forms a new pattern that can be seen as a modern literary fairy-tale. A symptom of modernising the fairy-tale is a shift in stylistic tone and “autobiographising” the fairy-tale. The direction of the transformations reflects the poet’s aesthetic affinities, e.g. for grotesque, as well as some of his psychical and emotional inclinations. The key motifs and fictional threads of Adventures of Sindbad the Sailor contain literary transpositions of Leśmian’s likings and prejudices, fascinations and idiosyncrasies, in other words – his phantasms. The analysis refers to one aspect which focuses on the motif of hunger and eating, the latter transforming into perverse culinary obsessions.

On the Nature of Soul. Witkacy’s Reading Bolesław Prus’ “Emancipationists”

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Bolesław Prus in his novel Emancipationists (Emancypantki) placed a philosophical lecture on the sense of existence. One of his protagonists, professor Dębicki, searching for evidence for the existence of soul, discusses the various views of contemporary sciences and philosophy and against such a background he suggests his own system of ideas in mathematics and physics based on a combination of science and religion.

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz read the novel written by his father’s friend in his youth, and in his philosophical and literary papers he adopted a number of subjects from Dębicki’s lecture, especially the problem of “I – not I” expressed through introspection, the issue of the borderline between perception of oneself and perception of the world, and internal and external sensations. The lecture might have attracted Witkacy’s interest also due to thorough philosophical considerations within the framework of the popular novel. He expanded such a strategy of developing philosophy also outside purely scientific field, namely in his own novels and dramas.

“Salt of the Earth” (“Sól ziemi”), or Longing for the Epic Story

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The aritcle is an attempt at interpreting  Józef Wittlin’s Salt of the Earth in the context of the epic story’s historical semantics and the novel investigated not as much as regards their formal construction but the original connections with the different cultural formations which as superior “macrostructures” define the conditions of the authentic functioning of those artistic forms. In his analyses the author refers to Hegel’s aesthetic views and Lukács’ Theory of the Novel. He asserts that Wittlin’s novel is of internally antinomic and intentionally equivocal structure: it is set between an attempt at reviving the epic story as a form that corresponds to “closed culture” and a need to be a novel form peculiar to culture in which “totality of the world” is no longer accessible. It results in the construction of the narrator who wants to be an epic story aoidos but cannot be one in the world alien to him.

“Bildung’s” Black Variant. On Relationships Between Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” and Stanisław Lem’s “The Hospital of Transfiguration”

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The article’s main keystone is a detailed comparative analysis of the similarities and differences between Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg) and Stanisław Lem’s The Hospital of Transfiguration (Szpital Przemienienia). To achieve this goal the author resorts to the deeply rooted in German literature concept of “bildung.” Moreover, the text outlines the potential possibilities of other interpretations, including the reading of Lem’s novel through the prism of “autobiographical parable” or as a “novel-testimony” attesting the destruction of the insane on the territory of the Polish Republic occupied during the war.

A Meeting with Great Mother. Paleolithic Art in Wisława Szymborska’s and Zbigniew Herbert’s Writings

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A feature of 20th century art was an attempt at reaching the cultural tradition older than Greek-Roman Antiquity. Worth noticing is the artists’ confrontation with the products of paleolithic culture that offers a unique kind of hermeneutic experience since it consists in a journey to the beginnings of the art. Wisława Szymborska’s and Zbigniew Herbert’s writings contain pieces which recall the most widely known paleolithic culture artifacts: rock paintings and women figurines (Great Mother). Confronting the relics of prehistoric art, the authors tried to return to the most primordial forms of thinking. Szymborska, through her philosophical investigations, reaches the attitude of wisdom, while Herbert, shaping his statements into a prayer, conforms to religious one. Both cases prove that the two Polish poets strived to oppose instrumental reason’s arrogation which reifies a man’s relation to the world.

Romantic Reviews in the Newest Prose

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The article attempts at interpreting three novels in which Romanticism of the 1840s received interesting revisionist proposals inspired by feminist thought and by new historism. In her novel Dissonance (Dysonans) Ewa Stachniak tries to picture a feminist herstory in which Eliza Krasińska and Delfina Potocka regained “voice” that allows to put forward a view of romantic love being different from the then love view. Paweł Goźliński wrote a novel Jul, an intertextual romantic crime novel, into which he inserted a revisionist thesis referring to Towiański’s ideology. This ideology is similarly looked at by a Hungarian writer György Spiró in his long novel Messiahs (Messiások). In the three books in question the romantic principles, following the researchers of eminent literary historians and new intriguing readings of romantic texts, appear as emergence of madmen viewed in the atmosphere of scandal, and also in a dream about a different, spiritually developed world.

“Minx Filigree,” or on the Translation of Linguistic Imitation from Wisława Szymborska’s Ekphrastic Poems

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The article considers the problem of translating linguistic imitation as based on Wisława Szymborska’s ekphrastic poems. Resorting to the notion of katena, it examines the original and the translations of the poem Coloratura (Koloratura) as well as offers a detailed discussion on the originals and translations of other poems, i.e. Rubens’ Women (Kobiety Rubensa), A Byzantine Mosaic (Mozaika bizantyjska), Landscape (Pejzaż), and A Medieval Miniature (Miniatura średniowieczna). Brajerska-Mazur does not settle the theoretical controversies on arts correspondence, ekphrasis, or the borderline between the literary translation and the intersemiotic one. By contrast, she is interested in a more practical issue, namely to which level of the linguistic imitation the translator is expected to be faithful: to the ekphrastic poem, to the art the poem imitates, or to the reality imitated by the art. The research shows that translating ekphrasis it is best to copy the art imitated by the original. Barańczak and Cavanagh followed the idea and their translations of ekphrastic poems proved perfect, especially those which imitated the style characterized by excess, glamour and comedy (Coloratura, Rubens’ Women, A Byzantine Mosaic). The translations of poems expressing simplicity in art are slightly worse (Landscape, A Medieval Miniature), which could be explained by the translators’ tendency to “improve” the poem and “amend” the author by additional play on words and sounds, and by comic effects.

Karol Irzykowski’s Forgotten Articles
Introduction by Henryk Markiewicz; Karol Irzykowski, Polish Literature in the Last Century. (Translated from the German by Małgorzata Łukasiewicz); Karol Irzykowski, Postwar Literature in Poland, Relaxations and New Tensions.(Translated from the German by Małgorzata Łukasiewicz)

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It is the first publication of Karol Irzykowski’s two sketches of Polish literature written in German and published in 1928 in the German periodical “Völkermagazin” under the common title Poland’s Spiritual Life (Das geistige Leben Polens). In the former article Irzykowski outlines Polish 19th century literature which includes Romanticism, Positivism  and Young Poland. In the latter, referring to postwar literature, the author discusses the new literary trends which spread from other countries and reached Poland but changed their nature due to the new situation in Poland after the First World War. Irzykowski surveys the literary activity of postwar poets, novelist, and dramatists, starting with the Skamander Poets, then moves to novel and drama and stops at pacifistic and memoir literature.

A Difficult Friendship. Dmitry Filosofov – Maria Dąbrowska – Stanisław Stempowski

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The article discusses Maria Dąbrowska’s and Stanisław Stempowski’s contacts with a Russian critic Dmitry Filosofov in the period of Filosofov’s stay in Poland in 1920s and 1930s. Minor figures of the relations are Jerzy Stempowski and Filosofov’s close collaborators. The main source are Filosofov’s letters to Dąbrowska and to Stanisław Stempowski, which offer a testimony to their profound friendship and deep ideological and mental disparities. An important thread of the research is the process of composing of Night and Days which Filosofov greatly appreciated, keeping a distance from Dąbrowska’s journalistic commentaties. However they were open, tolerant, and their views on their home cultures proved to be far from radically nationalistic, there were also misunderstandings between them following from the traditional Polish-Russian controversies. In the final analysis, the misunderstandings failed to conceal their true friendship and intellectual conformity.

On Herbert’s Juvenile Poems
Review: Mateusz Antoniuk, Otwieranie głosu. Studium o wczesnej twórczości Zbigniewa Herberta (do 1957 roku). Kraków 2009

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The review presents Mateusz Antoniuk’s book on Zbigniew Herbert’s juvenile (till 1957 year) poetry. Especially valuable in this volume are remarks on the development of Herbert’s poetic language against the then dominating poetics and means of expression. The reviewer’s critical remarks are rooted in a different methodology, yet we cannot fail to appreciate Antoniuk’s work which reveals fascinating secrets of the poet’s archive – only recently a subject of a heated public debate.

Metaphysical Grochowiak
Review: Michał Nawrocki, „Tego się naucz każdy, kto dotykasz próżni”. Rzecz o poezji Stanisława Grochowiaka. Kraków 2007

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The review discusses Michał Nawrocki’s book on Stanisław Grochowiak’s poetry. The scholar offers a synchronic view on the lyric poetry and shows that from juvenilia to the last poems the reader faces the same fears, obsessions, and the same poetic imagination focusing on God and final matters. Nawrocki writes, “The more the poetry calls for God, the more God is away from it, and the stronger God is absent from it. And Grochowiak’s poetry recalls God unceasingly.” The book supplements the readings of Grochowiak’s poems to date, especially its school reading stereotype.

An Essay on Topography and Writing
Review: Andrzej Sulikowski, Album spotkań z ks. Janem Twardowskim. Lublin 2008

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The review discusses Andrzej Sulikowski’s book which is a peculiar guide to priest Jan Twardowski’s private homeland. Though the book speaks indirectly about Twardowski’s poems, it might become an important context for their interpretation. The album in question bears the characteristics of a diary of meetings. Sulikowski precisely sets his observations in time, reconstructs the reality of the travel to Warsaw, the ways to the Visitation Nuns nunnery, and the aura of his private discussions with the writer. Above all, Sulikowski proves to be a subtle observer of topography and an inquisitive seeker of the meanings the poet assigned to particular places and object he tamed.

Zofia Wójcicka (March 20th, 1931 – June 28th, 2011)

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Zofia Wójcicka – a literary historian, publicist, academic lecturer, retired professor of the University of Szczecin – was an expert in Romanticism, especially in Great Emigration utilitarian and occasional literature.

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