Solidarity, Solitude

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Unless Poland's political reform is accompanied by a spiritual transformation, Poles could revert to the dullness of mind that made possible Communist totalitarianism. That cautionary message is suggested by these impassioned, conversational, eloquent essays from Zagajewski, a Polish emigre poet who has lived in Paris since 1982. He views as twin dangers communist slavery and ``negative spirituality,'' which has roots in Nietzschean nihilism. Writing as one suspended between two cultures, Zagajewski views each sphere with an outsider's independence, balancing acute commentary on Mann, Orwell, Rilke and Keats against a running dialogue with Kundera, Milosz and Gombrowicz. Although he touches on specific events like a trial of Solidarity activists, his primary concern is the spiritual freedom that revolutions are supposed to nourish--and artists and prophets extend. (June)
Library Journal
Given recent events in Eastern Europe, the near-simultaneous publication of three books of essays on Eastern European politics and culture should come as no surprise. What is surprising is how distinctive these three books are. Literary critic Kott ( Four Decades of Polish Essays) , born in Warsaw in 1914 and a resident of the United States since 1969, argues that the choice of essays shows how the Polish essay and Polish culture generally have ``always been receptive to writers and thinkers from all corners of the earth.'' Although the theme of exile and the ``wound of history'' run through many of these essays (published from the 1950s to 1980s), their focus ranges widely, moving from Zbigniew Herbert's ``Defense of the Templars'' and Boleslaw Micinski's ``Portraits of Kant'' to the genocide of Polish Jewry in World War II. Most of Baranczak's essays on the relationship between politics and culture in Eastern and Central Europe were written in exile. (Baranczak came to the United States in 1981 and is currently professor of Polish literature and language at Harvard.) Baranczak's main aim is to explain what it was like ``trying to breathe under water and coming up for air'' in postwar Poland. He does not claim to have predicted contemporary events in Eastern Europe, but his essays clearly foreshadow those events. Included are portraits of his countrymen, Pope John Paul and Lech Walesa. Zagajewski, a Polish poet born just after World War II who now lives in Paris, offers a series of diffuse and highly personal statements that will likely mystify most Americans. He even fails to tell us when his essays were written. Whereas the books published by his compatriots-in-exile will help lay readers achieve a greater understanding of Eastern European, particularly Polish, culture, Zagajewski's effort is best left to specialists.-- Edward B. Cone, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880011860
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/1990
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.69 (w) x 8.53 (h) x 0.81 (d)

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