THE REAL POLAND: An Anthology of National Self-Perception by Alfred--Ed. Bloch

THE REAL POLAND: An Anthology of National Self-Perception

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A thin offering, hardly warranted even by the current interest in things Polish. Bloch has collected samples of the work of 13 Polish authors, ranging from an obscure 15th-century state governor named Jan Ostrorog (whose contribution amounts to a page-and-a-half on tithes, the election of bishops, and payments to the Pope), to Pope John Paul II--with two of Poland's three Nobel laureates in literature, Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905) and Wladyslaw Reymond (1924), included. (The third is the 1980 winner, Czeslaw Milosz.) Aside from Ostrorog, the Pope, and two others, all the writers are literary figures, and, aside from John Paul, only three are still living. Most of the excerpts, moreover, are fragments--arranged under the headings ""Political Theorists and Social Critics"" (one is Ostrorog, the others are from the 16th and 18th centuries), ""The Gentry,"" ""Vignettes of City Life,"" and ""The Peasants""; the Pope's selection is an epilogue. None is long enough to accomplish much, and there are not enough selections under each rubric to make up the slack. The overriding feeling is of an unhappy people for whom freedom is a nebulous but constant goal. Since that picture of the Poles is practically a clichÉ by now, Bloch's anthology accomplishes little. It may be true, as he points out in his long preface, that because Poland was not a nation when national histories were first being written, we have to turn to literature to make up the loss; but then we need more of it than this.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1982
Publisher: Continuum