THE BLACK BOOK OF POLISH CENSORSHIP by Jane Leftwich--Ed. & Trans. Curry


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Tomasz Strzyzewski, a Polish censor, left his country in 1977 by hopping on a ferry to Sweden for what was supposed to be a vacation. Strapped to his legs, in plastic bags, were documents he had systematically copied and removed from his office: guidelines for censors and reports on censored material. These documents, published (in Polish) by an ÉmigrÉ publishing house in London in 1977 and 1978, are here translated, edited, and annotated by Manhattanville College professor Curry. It all makes pretty unexciting reading--except perhaps for devotees of central European bureaucratic dystopias. One rule says that ""no material concerning the Hippie movement in Poland may be permitted for publication if it expresses approval or tolerance""; others forbid mention of industrial pollution, details of specific crimes (rape, family murders, etc.), or even unauthorized obituaries of leaders of the interwar Peasant Party. Other no-nos are less obviously predictable, but predictable just the same--such as the ban on Watergate information instituted just before the hearings and lifted only after Nixon's resignation. (The authorities didn't want to show their partner in detente to be a crook.) Economic statistics not from the official press agency are prohibited (strategic information, presumably), and so are certain geopolitical terms such as ""German"" (GDR or FRG, ""East German"" or ""West German,"" are okay). The censored material shows a talent for making things say the opposite of what was intended. For example, the italicized sentence in the following passage was cut: ""The health service finds itself on the threshold of an increasingly crucial and welcome reform. A first step toward reform has already been taken. This was the creation of the National Health Service Fund. Unfortunately, as a matter of fact, no one knows what the next step should be. The needs are tremendous."" Newspeak personified, if hardly as creative: even in excess, some may find this illuminating.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1984
Publisher: Random House