Issue: 3/2018

Pamiętnik Literacki 3 / 2018

Bibliographical Review

From the Comic Spirit
Stanisław Brzozowski’s Theory of Laughter

The aim of the article is an analysis of the theory of laughter derived by Stanisław Brzozowski from English literature (especially from George Meredith) and explicated primarily in chapter Humor i prawo (Humour and Law) from the treatise Legenda Młodej Polski (The Legend of Young Poland). In the thinker’s view, the essence of humour is the antinomy and the movement of meanings activated in the key (for him) notions connected with Polish culture at the turn of the 19th and 20th c. Relatedly, the literary functions of such a stance become cognitive, that is philosophical, functions. The article’s context is modernist philosophy, especially Friedrich Nietzsche’s and Henri Bergson’s.

Damaging Catastrophism, Inspiring Catastrophism?
Avant-Garde and World Destruction in Bruno Jasieński’s “Nogi Izoldy Morgan” (“The Legs of Izolda Morgan”)

The article contains considerations about the destructive tendencies that were developing in the Inter war period and having their origin e.g. in early modernism and decadence. It is also an attempt at verifying of the rigid division of the Inter war Years into bright and dark ones. The paper analyses Bruno Jasieński’s text Nogi Izoldy Morgan (The Legs of Izolda Morgan) (1923), while the context for the novel is a critical revision of the Polish futurism included into Futuryzm polski (bilans) (Polish Futurism. Summary) (1926). Jasieński’s futurist awareness is steeped in reflection about the end and twilight of civilisation, and the novel contains observations on the condition of the then technology and its development. The piece is a peculiar “farewell to futurism,” an answer to the rapid changes in civilisation and fall of values, a challenge to gullible adoration of machine.

In Search of a New View
Stanisława Przybyszewska’s Prose between Avant-Garde and Vernacular Modernism

The text formulates a question about Stanisława Przybyszewska’s prose interpretive potential in the perspective of vernacular modernism (Miriam Bratu Hansen) and an avant-garde project of “film novel” (Jan Brzękowski). Considering Przybyszewska’s inspirations from both popular cinema (early Hollywood) and avant-garde one (German expressionism and Soviet revolutionary movie) as well as the strategy of “plagiarism” of which she took advantage, the author of the paper underlines the problematic for modernity connection of high and low forms of culture. She also comprehends Przybyszewska’s unfinished prose pieces as avant-garde laboratory of new modes of simultaneous seeing. Ultimately, she questions for a gender aspect of Stanisława Przybyszewska’s narrative quests

Homoerotism, Mimesis and “the Art of the Fugue”
André Gide’s Creativity (“Corydon,” “Les Faux-Monnayeurs” ) in Polish Inter-War Literature

The article presents the influence of André Gide’s creativity over the mode of homosexuality representation in Polish Inter-war literature. It discusses literary pieces (S. I. Witkiewicz’s Pożegnanie jesieni <Farewell to Autumn>), political commentary journalism (T. Boy-Żeleński), and correspondence (P. Hertz, J. Iwaszkiewicz). The second part of the sketch offers an insightful interpretation of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz’s short story entitled Przyjaciele (Friends) as a breakthrough story for Iwaszkiewicz’s poetics and also as that which heavily relies on inspirations by Gide’s Les Faux-monnayeurs (The Counterfaiters) of which Iwaszkiewicz was the translator.

Interpretation of Dreams According to Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz familiarised with psychoanalysis when he underwent a therapy at Karol de Beaurain’s and it is at that moment when his fascination with dreams increased. The artist developed his own method of recollecting occurrences which consisted in evoking them in reverse order in comparison to that in dreaming. Though Witkacy initially rejected Sigmund Freud’s thought, with time he became its supporter, and the description of Genezyp Kapen’s dream in Nienasycenie (Insatiability) is deeply influenced by it. An in-depth analysis of this oneiric phantasy reveals original traces of Witkiewicz’s views on the nature of human psyche. The main source of human struggle is, according to him, initial amazement with Mystery of Existence.

Skamander and Avant-Garde on the Firm Ground
On Karol Wiktor Zawodziński and Józef Czechowicz’s Argument

The article is an account of a vigorous polemic between two important representatives of the Inter-war literary life, namely Karol Wiktor Zawodziński and Józef Czechowicz. It took place in the papers in the year 1935. On the surface, it referred to the issues connected with poetic criticism, but in consequence it led to personal accusations and almost ended with a duel. What remains in the background is the revealing of Czechowicz’s homosexuality which in the 1930s meant infamy and became the source of his grave personal problems.  The article also allows to reconsider the picture of Polish Inter-War literary life. As it transpires, the representatives of the epoch’s elites were familiar with prejudice, disrelish and simple meanness

Miłosz and Elijah

The article analyses Czesław Miłosz’s one of the most recognisable piece – Piosenka o końcu świata (A Song on the End of the World). The poem’s interpretation is directed on the context of the Apocalypse and Christian eschatology. The Jewish tradition, which belongs to omitted perspectives of analysis, proves vital due to the poet’s private contacts with and interests in Judaism and due to the poem’s subject referring to the end of the world. In Miłosz’s poem the point of reference is the Biblical prophet Elijah, a messianic figure signalling the final days. A more insightful reading of the two pieces – the Biblical and the poetic one – supported by exegesis leads to a conviction of a relation between the scene of Elijah’s expecting death and Czesław Miłosz’s lyrical situation of the poem.

The Memory of Saturn
Melancholic Past in the Prose of Intellectual Squaring (1946–1948)

The theme of the paper is the prose of intellectual squaring of 1946–1948 (K. Brandys’ Drewniany koń <The Wooden Horse>, S. Kisielewski’s Sprzysiężenie <Conspiracy>, P. Hertz’s Sedan <Sedan>, S. Dygat’s Jezioro Bodeńskie <Lake Constance>, and S. Otwinowski’s Nagrobek <Tombstone>). The postwar literary criticism interpreted the novels through the prism of Marxist ideology, seeing in them only attempts to define the role of intelligence in the conditions of historical breakthrough. Taking advantage of the category of melancholy, the paper enriches the trend’s traditional understandings with a new context and rehabilitates the intellectual pictured in them. It concentrates on the protagonists’ work of memory the aim of which is to overcome the temporality of human being and to tame the fear-fuelling present. Intellectuals are joined by a typically melancholic state of deficiency resulting from the fact that they lost their past and that they ceased to live in the world the sense of which is easily perceptible.

A Short History of “O!” (around Julia Hartwig’s Poem)

The paper presents the main evolutionary stages of the exclamation “O!” in European poetry from antiquity to modern times. A pretext for the research is Julia Hartwig’s poem “O!” in which “O” is both an initial element of the proper text and the sole word in the title. However, the article can also be read otherwise, in which case the analysis of Hartwig’s O! is considered as the main topic whereas the repertoire of meanings and functions of “O”, as preserved in the literary tradition, serves as its pre-text. Semantic variants of “O!” in Greek and Latin literature are also indicated and seen as variants derived from a division into two functions, namely an appeal to the addressee, and an appeal to the superaddressee. Next follows an outline of a process through which autonomy from national languages was granted to “O!,” thanks to which the word became an international lexeme of poetic language. The illustrative material is taken from English, French, German, Italian, Polish, and Provençal literatures.

Unknown Facts from Jan Parandowski’s Biography

The aim of the article is a presentation of effects of research in Jan Parandowski’s biography carried out in Ukrainian and Polish archives. It is an attempt at answering the questions strictly connected with Parandowski’s still unexamined life history, especially those linked to the Lvov period of his life. The analysis scrutinizes a number of church and state documents; the writer’s memories are also verified while reaching for other witnesses’ relations. The papers preserved in Ukrainian archives allowed to explain a number of issues including such ones about which Parandowski himself remained silent or, when questioned for them, he effectively misguided the former scholars. The paper establishes, who the writer’s parents were, especially his father about whom Parandowski never mentioned though they lived under one roof for 25 years. The archive search query connected with exploration of written sources not only helped to figure out the threads of family relations, but also to interpret them in the social context. In this mode the paper also proves that the experience of the prewar Lvov multiethnicity and multiculturality coupled with the humanistic education of the Galician school exerted influence on the future writer’s development of interest. Owing to it, Parandowski’s biography’s hardly known fragment becomes accessible for the contemporary reader.

Władysław Reymont’s War Memories
An Unknown Manuscript

The Kosciuszko Foundation Archive treasures a manuscript by Władysław Reymont. Its origin is chiefly connected with the writer’s diplomatic mission in the USA where he was sent by the then Ministry of International Affairs. His main duties of the future Noble Prize winner were promoting the idea of reborn Poland among the Polish émigrés, striving to find funds to rebuild it and inducing the émigrés to repatriation. Touring the American cities, Reymont delivered over 30 speeches, which was great effort to him not only due to organisation but also as far as his health condition are concerned, all of which is well documented in his letters to family and friends (placed in commentaries to the text). The memories, apart from a description of occupation reality, contain an unusually vivid and touching account of the first days after regaining independence.

Jasieński’s Shadow
A Biobibliographical Contribution

In Bruno Jasieński’s literary output there is a piece which remains unnoted in biographical papers and bibliographies, namely a volume published in Moscov in the year 1934 entitled Беломорско-Балтийский канал имени Сталина: История строительства, 1931–1934 гг. (Belomor: An Account of the Construction of the Great Canal Between the White Sea and the Baltic Sea) edited by Maxim Gorky, Leopold. Auerbach, and Semen Georgievich Firin. Jasieński is found among the group of 120 writers who came to sightsee the White Sea–the Baltic Sea Canal build with the hands of prisoners, and subsequently entered the group of 36 men of letters invited to prepare a collective work documenting the visit. The work’s content is preceded by a list of contributors. Jasieński is found among the co-authors of chapter 9: To Kill Class Enemy in which the Polish writer probably prepared the parts the protagonists of which are Central Asia prisoners. Before his travel to the construction Jasieński published a novel in Russian about the building of a canal in Tajikistan entitled Man Changes His Skin. With the novel he might have won favor of Soviet authorities which made him responsible for preparing the fragments of chapter 9 about the ideological maturation of builders from national minorities. It cannot be excluded that Jasieński participated also in the parts prepared by Anna Berzin, at that time the writer’s wife.

Janusz Korczak’s Last Text Published in His Lifetime

The article presents and analyses Janusz Korczak’s last text published in his lifetime. The material in question is a short letter to the editor of “Gazeta Żydowska” (“Jewish Gazette”), the newspaper sanctioned by the German authorities and directed to the inhabitants of ghettos of the General Government, written by Korczak as an answer to the previous Guta Ejzencwajg’s panegyric report on the functioning of The Orphans’ Home directed by Korczak. Referring to not fully confirmed data and statements, Korczak depicts the orphanage as a “common work,” giving also an insight into how it worked in the last months of the war when ghetto still existed. The text, being both private (as a letter) and public (as accessible press démenti), is an interesting complement to Korczak’s private notes written in the walls of the capital city’s Jewish closed quarter.

Prus Degraded
Review: Monika Piątkowska, Prus. Śledztwo biograficzne. Kraków 2017

The review discusses Monika Piątkowska’s book Prus. Śledztwo biograficzne (Prus. A Biographical Investigation) in which the experience of fictional characters from the writer’s pieces (mainly protagonists from humorous tales selected in a biased way) are identified with the processes taking place in his mind. Prus’ mind, as a matter of principle, is depreciated, and e.g. the analyses of Prus’ handwritten notes on composition often mistakenly understood by Piątkowska lead her to formulating a thesis that they are effects of the writer’s mental disorder. Regardless of it, alongside to ignorance of Prus’ masterpieces (especially Emancypantki <Emancipated Women>) we oftentimes face academic dishonesty; in order to support her view on low value of the writing, Piątkowska at times uses manipulates quotes, and her comparison of Prus’ works to these of other writers almost always leads to the former’s depreciation, e.g. to accusations of lack of patriotism.

On Young Poland with High Quality, Erudition and Finesse
Review: Jan Tomkowski, Szkice młodopolskie. Warszawa 2016

The review discusses Jan Tomkowski’s Szkice młodopolskie (Sketches on Young Poland) (2016), a collection of interesting literary-historical texts presenting various phenomena of literary life at the turn of the 19th and 20th c. The texts encompass wide areas of Polish writing, from literary criticism, through lyric poetry, novel, short story to column articles and essays, as well as problems connected with the epoch periodization and book graphic art.

(Per)formative Projects
Review: Konrad Niciński, W poszukiwaniu nowego człowieka. Trzy projekty formacyjne w kulturze polskiej lat 1905–1930. Warszawa 2016

The review presents the methodological assumptions and the scope of problems of Konrad Niciński’s work W poszukiwaniu nowego człowieka. Trzy projekty formacyjne w kulturze polskiej lat 1905–1930 (In Search of a New Man. Three Formative Projects of Polish Culture 1905–1930). The subject is not a frequently recalled research context for Polish literature of the turn of the 19th and 20th c. which, as Niciński convincingly proves, is unjustified. The value of the book also lies in the description of the problem in question as based on the examples of eminent and charismatic authors of the beginning of the 20th century, namely Witkacy, Tadeusz Miciński, and Mieczysław Limanowski.

Messiah on the Coach
Review: Paweł Dybel, Mesjasz, który odszedł. Bruno Schulz i psychoanaliza. Kraków 2017

The author of the polemical review of Paweł Dybel’s book indicates exhaustion of psychoanalytical key in interpreting the work of the Drohobych writer. Dybel’s treatise is by no means the height of psychoanalytical interpretive tradition and offers a number of stimulating remarks (e.g. placing Schulz’s word philosophy in the framework of German idealism). Simultaneously, the impassable horizon of psychoanalytical interpretation blocks the perception of historicity and politicality written into Schultz project.

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