Although Polish Solidarity leader Walesa is now world-renowned, he is best known in Poland; so a ""collective portrait""--by...



Although Polish Solidarity leader Walesa is now world-renowned, he is best known in Poland; so a ""collective portrait""--by Polish academics, journalists, novelists, a poet, and a film director (together with a Walesa interview and a smattering of his fan mall)--would seem a likely idea. (And indeed the book, which predates Walesa's detention, did well in its Polish version.) But most of this, almost inevitably, is on the level of ""I remember Leszek well."" Film director Andrzej Wajda--whose Man of Iron features Walesa--talks about him as a product of Polish culture and an authentic working-class leader. Others praise his bargaining skill and his zeal at the bargaining table. To the extent that we actually see him, it's as a stubborn, arrogant, driven man, acting on instinct and relishing his role. In the interview, Walesa says, ""I have never been happy""--and portrays himself as dispensable, when he clearly doesn't mean it. He derides ""gaggle"" democracy, and denies acting in an authoritarian manner within Solidarity; no important decision, he insists, was ever taken undemocratically. Walesa, it turns out, was less than thrilled with the great August 1980 strike. It came too soon, so Solidarity's future plans had to he readjusted; and he admits to intervening to cool it down. Once the strike ended, the situation remained volatile; and the struggle to improvise new tactics, and to constantly reconcile tactics to ""the correctness of a course of action,"" put great strain on his resources and health. One can only guess, then, that the sudden army takeover last December left Walesa without any coherent plan. The collection does add slightly to our understanding of him--but little to our grasp of Solidarity as a whole, or of what the future holds.

Pub Date: May 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982