The deadline for the competition to design a possible cover for Tadeusz Borowski's Auschwitz memoir This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen has been extended.
In addition, the amount of the prize has been increased to $1000.
Here are the full details from the sponsors:
BOOK COVER DESIGN CONTEST No.4
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
The purpose of the contest is to foster interest in the relationship of literature to the visual arts through the design of a hypothetical book cover for Tadeusz Borowski’s remarkable collection of concentration camp stories This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is an ideas competition only: as of this writing there are no plans for the winner’s work to be featured on a forthcoming edition of Borowski’s work.
This international competition is open to anyone 18 years or older. Graphic design students and professionals are especially encouraged to enter. ONLY ONE ENTRY PER PERSON IS ALLOWED.
Entries must be received by Monday, August 30, 2010.
There is no fee to enter. All design entries must be an original artwork of the entrant's own creation. Use of copyrighted materials not owned by the entrant will result in disqualification from the contest. Submissions must include Name, Address, E-Mail Address, Country, and School Attending (if Student).
Submissions must be in digital JPEG format only and must be sent to both of the following addresses: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
5” x 8” Vertical Orientation Only
300 dpi preferred. 2MB Maximum file size.
Image file name should include the entrant’s name only (e.g.: Rudolph Nureyev.jpg; rudolph_nureyev.jpg; rudolphnureyev.jpg).
Artwork must contain the words “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” and “Tadeusz Borowski.” No other words or phrases shall be used unless they are used in a purely graphical manner.
Only submissions of the front cover will be accepted.
Submissions will be evaluated on how creatively they address the collection’s themes. Entrants are encouraged to visit the Wikipedia entry for Tadeusz Borowski and, of course, to read the book (click here for excerpts .)
There will be one winner. The designer of the winning submission will receive a cash award of $1000 US and will be featured on the Venus febriculosa website . The award will be announced on Friday, October 1, 2010 on venusfebriculosa.com.
COPYRIGHT AND USAGE
Copyrights of all entries shall remain the property of the artists. The contests sponsors retain the right to reproduce any of the designs on Venus febriculosa’s website (venusfebriculosa.com), as well as in any publications resulting from this contest.
All questions should be directed to email@example.com.
Official Press Release
Press Release – For Immediate Release
TADEUSZ BOROWSKI BOOK COVER DESIGN CONTEST - JURY ANNOUNCED
John Bertram, Administrator
LOS ANGELES, CA June 17, 2010 Venus febriculosa, a website devoted to contemporary literature and the art and design of books, announced today the jurors for its Book Cover Design Contest No. 4 – This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, a collection of short stories by Polish journalist and poet Tadeusz Borowski (1922-1951) based upon his experiences in the Auschwitz and Dachau death camps during WWII. His short story The Battle of Grunwald about his time spent in a displaced persons camp after the war was made into the film Landscape after Battle in 1970 by acclaimed Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda.
Previous Venus febriculosa book cover contests have included Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, and The Eel by Eugenio Montale.
The submission deadline for this contest is Monday, August 30, 2010. The winner will be announced on Friday, October 1, 2010. Complete details are available at www.venusfebriculosa.com.
Alicia Nitecki, Ph.D, Adjunct Professor of English, Bentley University
Translator of We Were in Auschwitz (Welcome Rain) and Postal Indiscretions: The Correspondence of Tadeusz Borowski (Northwestern University Press).
John Guzlowski, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Contemporary American Literature, Eastern Illinois University, Author of Lightning and Ashes (Steel Toe Books) a collection of poems dealing with his parents’ experiences in German slave labor camps during WWII.
Jae Jennifer Rossmann, M.L.S., Assistant Director for Special Collections, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University, Curator of 2002 Yale University Exhibit on Polish designer and publisher Anatol Girs, who published We Were in Auschwitz by Janusz Nel Siedlecki, Krystyn Olszewski and Tadeusz Borowski.
Barbara Girs, Daughter of Anatol Girs, who designed and published We Were in Auschwitz and was himself a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau.
Marco Sonzogni, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer in Italian, School of Languages and Cultures, Victoria University of Wellington, Widely published academic and an award-winning editor, poet and literary translator currently working on a new and experimental area of research: the study of the book cover as a form of inter-semiotic translation.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Janusz Zalewski has long been interested in the beats and especially in Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Zalewski has edited a special issue of Nowa Okolica Poetow devoted to the Beat writers and one devoted specifically to Ferlinghetti. The Ferlinghetti issue contains a number of Zalewski's translations of Ferlinghetti's poems into Polish.
Recently, I asked Janusz to tell me something about his interest in the Beats and Ferlinghetti, and he sent me the following note:
I am interested in the Beats because they were all against the traditional culture, in multiple ways, like Burroughs, whom you know well. He was against traditional cultural values, in a way that created new values opposed to those not accepted before: explicit writing, use of drugs, gender issues, etc., etc.
Ferlinghetti, although he does not admit being a Beat in a strict sense, actually helped in creating the movement by publishing "Howl" and defending its publication by winning a law suit against it in court, and thus became a part of the culture himself, and continues to be a part of this culture.
It is interesting how I found out about the Beats. When I was in a high school (lyceum), there was a magazine published in Poland named Forum, which included translations of articles from other languages. Of course, it
was mainly created to publish Polish translations of articles published in western magazines (Le Monde, Figaro, Financial Times, Stern, Newsweek, etc.), and to keep the authorities happy, it also included translations from Russian, East Germany, and other magazines. From Forum I have learned, as a very young man, about all the literary and revolutionary movements in the West. It was interesting, how the booksellers laughed at me, when I was asking them about poetry books by writers like Ginsberg, Kerouac, and also Gombrowicz, Henry Miller, etc., who were either unpublished or banned in Poland.
Three Ferlinghetti Translations by Janusz Zalewski
Pound in Spoleto
Pound w Spoleto
(latem 1965 r.)
W południe wszedłem do Teatro Melisso, wspaniałej renesansowej sali, gdzie codziennie odbywały się odczyty poezji i koncerty kameralne Festiwalu w Spoleto, i nagle zobaczyłem go pierwszy raz w życiu, Ezra Pound, siedział sztywno jak statua mandaryna, w loży z tyłu teatru, na pierwszym balkonie. Doznałem szoku. W pierszej chwili nie rozpoznałem go, dostrzegając tylko uderzająco starego, ale to starego człowieka w dziwnej pozie, chudego i długowłosego, o orlim wyglądzie, około osiemdziesiątki, z głową dziwnie przechyloną na jedną strone, pogrążonego w permanentnej medytacji. W ten sposób przesiedział południowy koncert, nigdy nie zmianiając pozycji, ani nie poruszając wzroku.
O piątej po południu przeszedłem się w kierunku loży, gdzie mogłem zobaczyć Pounda ponownie, naprzeciwko siebie. Po trzech młodszych poetach recytujących na scenie, przychodziła na niego kolej, aby czytać wprost z kabiny, gdzie siedział w towarzystwie starej przyjaciółki (która trzymała jego papiery), oczekując w tej samej pozie co przedtem, jakby tak spędził całe popołudnie. Głowę miał teraz opuszczoną, oglądał knykcie swoich palców, ruszając nimi nieco, bez wyrazu. Poza tym, pozostawał nieruchomy. Tylko raz, gdy wszyscy widzowie w wypełnionym teatrze zaczęli oklaskiwać kogoś na scenie, on też ożywił się, aby złożyć ręce, nawet nie przyglądając się, mechanicznie, jakby reagował na dźwięk w pustce. Pawłow. Jego kolej nadeszła po prawie godzinie. Albo po wieczności.
Wszyscy na sali podnieśli się, odwrócili i patrzyli w górę na Pounda w swojej kabinie, klaskając. Oklaski trwały nadal i Pound starał podnieść się ze swego fotela. Mikrofon był w drodze. On ujął poręcze fotela swymi kościstymi dłońmi i spróbował wstać. Nie udało mu się, ale spróbował ponownie, bez skutku. Jego stara przyjaciółka nie starała się mu pomóc. Wreszcie, podała mu wiersz do ręki i conajmniej po minucie dało się słyszeć jego głos. Najpierw poruszył szczęką, po czym wydawał głos, niesłyszalny. Młody Włoch przysunął mu stojący mikrofon trochę bliżej twarzy i głos zaczął docierać, wątły ale stanowczy, wyższy niż się spodziewałem, cienki, cichy i monotonny. Sala zamilkła jak porażona. Ten głos zwalił mnie z nóg, taki cichy, taki cienki, taki wątły, a przy tym taki stanowczy. Oparłem głowę o ramiona na welwetowym parapecie loży. Ze zdziwieniem spostrzegłem jak łza kapnęła mi na kolano. Cienki, nieposkromiony głos brzmiał dalej. Oprzytomnieć! Wyszedłem z loży oślepiony, przez tylne wyjście, na pusty korytarz na piętrze teatru, gdzie oni wciąż siedzieli wpatrzeni w niego, zszedłem na dół i wytoczyłem na światło dzienne, łzawiąc... W górze, ponad miastem, przy starożytnym akwedukcie, nadal kwitły kasztany. Bezgłośne ptaki fruwały poniżej w dolinie, dużo dalej, słońce padało na kasztany i liście mieniły się w promieniach, i mieniły się, i mieniły się, mieniły, i wciąż się mieniły. Jego głos brzmiał dalej, i dalej, przez liście...
(to read the English version, please click here.)
The Old Italians Dying
Starzy Włosi umierają
Przez lata starzy Włosi umierali
w całej Ameryce
Przez lata starzy Włosi w wypłowiałych filcowych kapeluszach
wystawiali się na słońce i umierali
Widzieliście ich na ławkach
w parku na placu Waszyngtona
starzy Włosi w swoich czarnych butach na zatrzaski
starzy mężczyźni w swoich starych filcowych kapeluszach fedora
z poplamionymi wstążkami
umierali i umierali
dzień po dniu
co dzień na placu Waszyngtona w San Francisco
gdzie powolny dzwon
w kościele Piotra i Pawła
w marcepanowym kościele na placu
o dziesiątej rano powolny dzwon bije
z wieży u Piotra i Pawła
a starzy mężczyźni, którzy jeszcze żyją
siedzą rzędem opalając się
na drewnianych ławkach w parku
i obserwują pochody w tę i z powrotem
śluby po południu
powolny dzwono rano Szybki dzwon w południe
Wejście jednymi drzwiami, wyjście drugimi
starzy mężczyźni siedzą tam w swoich kapeluszach
i obserwuja wchodzących i wychodzących
tych, którzy karmia gołębie
łamiąc twardy chleb
swymi kciukami i składanymi nożykami
tych ze starymi zegarkami kieszonkowymi
tych z sękatymi dłońmi
i dzikimi brwiami
tych z powypychanymi spodniami
zarówno na paskach jak i na szelkach
pijących grappa z zębami w kolorze kukurydzy
Piemontczyków, Genueńczyków, Sycylijczyków
których czuć czosnkiem i pepperoni
tych którzy kochali Mussoliniego
tych którzy kochali Garibaldiego
starych anarchistów czytających L’Umanita Nuova
tych którzy kochali Sacco i Vanzettiego
Oni prawie wszyscy już odeszli
Siedzą i czekają na swoja kolej
i opalają się przed kościołem
nad wrotami którego znajduje się inskrypcja
wyglądająca jak niedokończone zdanie
z Raju Dantego
o wielkości Jedynego
który utrzymuje wszystko w ruchu
Starzy mężczyźni oczekują
aż to się skończy
aż ich chwalebny wyrok na ziemi
powolny dzwon bije i bije
gołębie paradują wokoło
nawet nie myśląc o lataniu
powietrze jest za ciężkie przy takim biciu dzwonów
Czarne wynajęte karawany zajeżdżają
czarne limuzyny z zaciemionymi na czarno oknami
wdowy w długich czarnych welonach
które przeżyją ich wszystkich
madre di terra, nadre di mare...
Wdowy wyłaniają sie z limuzyn
Krewni wychodzą w sztywnych garniturach
Wdowy idą wolniusieńko
po schodach katedry
z opuszczonymi siatkami welonów
opierając się ciężko na ramionach w ciemnej odzieży
Ich twarze nie są rozbite
Są zaledwie roztrzęsione
One są wciąż matriarchami
które przeżywają wszystkich
starych italiańców umierających
w Małych Italiach po całej Ameryce
starych martwych italiańców
odholowywanych w porannym słońcu
które nie opłakuje nikogo
Jeden za drugim, rok za rokiem
nigdy nie przestaje bić
Starzy Włosi o pomarszczonych twarzach
są odholowywani w karawanch
przez opłaconych grabarzy
w płaszczach jak mafioso i w ciemnych okularach
Starzy martwi mężczyźni są odholowywani
w swoich ciemnych trumnach jak małe łódki
Wchodzą do prawdziwego kościoła
po raz pierwszy od wielu lat
w tych ociosanych czarnych łodziach
gotowi do przeprawy
Księża drepczą wokół
jakby mieli odrzucić linki holownicze
Inni starzy mężczyźni
wciąż żywi na ławkach
obserwują to spod swoich kapeluszy
Widzieliście ich siedzących tu
czekających aż koło fortuny przestanie sie toczyć
czekających aż dzwon
przestanie bić i bić
aż powolny dzwon
opowiadając niedokończoną historię z Raju
odzwierciedloną w niedokończonym zdaniu
u wrót kościoła
odzwierciedloną na twarzy rybaka
w czarnej łodzi bez żagli
odbywającego swój ostatni połów
(to read the English version of The Old Italians Dying, click here.)
Come Lie with Me and Be My Love
Chodź połóż się i kochaj mnie
Chodź połóż się i kochaj mnie
Chodź ze mną śpij
Złóż siebie mi
U cyprysowych pni
Na słodkich trawach
Tu gdzie wiatr dmie
Tu gdzie wiatr łże
Gdy noc przemija
Chodź połóż się
W tę noc przy mnie
I nasyć się całując mnie
I nasyć się kochając grzech
I niech mój jaszczur zagra ci
I niech nam jedno serce brzmi
Przez noc u cyprysowych pni
Bez krzty miłości
A special issue of Nowa Okolica Poetow, on Ferlinghetti, was published as No. 13 in 2003, with lots of my translations and brief conversations with him. Link to the Table of Contents by clicking here.
Nowy Dziennik's cultural weekly, Przeglad Polski, has just published Zalewski's review of Janusz Szuber's They Carry a Promise. The Polish title is Janusz Szuber: Laboratorium Slowa - Janusz Szuber: A Word Laboratory.
The photography above is of Ferlinghetti and Janusz Zalewski taken this summer, in Caffe Trieste, on North Beach, in S.F.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Tony Judt's article originally appeared in the New York Review Blog:
Some years ago I visited Krasnogruda, the restored manor house of Czeslaw Milosz, close by the Polish–Lithuanian frontier. I was the guest of Krzysztof Czyzewski, director of the Borderland Foundation, dedicated to acknowledging the conflicted memory of this region and reconciling the local populations. It was deep midwinter and there were snow-covered fields as far as the eye could see, with just the occasional clump of ice-bound trees and posts marking the national frontiers.
My host waxed lyrical over the cultural exchanges planned for Milosz’s ancestral home. I was absorbed in my own thoughts: some seventy miles north, in Pilviskiai (Lithuania), the Avigail side of my father’s family had lived and died (some at the hands of the Nazis). Our cousin Meyer London had emigrated in 1891 to New York from a nearby village; there he was elected in 1914 as the second Socialist congressman before being ousted by an ignominious alliance of wealthy New York Jews disturbed by his socialism and American Zionists aghast at his well-publicized suspicion of their project.
For Milosz, Krasnogruda—”red soil”—was his “native realm” (Rodzinna Europa in the original Polish, better translated as European Fatherland or European Family). But for me, staring over this stark white landscape, it stood for Jedwabne, Katyn, and Babi Yar—all within easy reach—not to mention dark memories closer to home. My host certainly knew all this: indeed, he was personally responsible for the controversial Polish publication of Jan Gross’s account of the massacre at Jedwabne. But the presence of Poland’s greatest twentieth-century poet transcended the tragedy that stalks the region.
Milosz was born in 1911 in what was then Russian Lithuania. Indeed, like many great Polish literary figures, he was not strictly “Polish” by geographical measure. Adam Zagajewski, one of the country’s most important living poets, was born in Ukraine; Jerzy Giedroyc—a major figure in the twentieth-century literary exile—was born in Belarus, like Adam Mickiewicz, the nineteenth-century icon of the Polish literary revival. Lithuanian Vilna in particular was a cosmopolitan blend of Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, Russians, and Jews, among others (Isaiah Berlin, like the Harvard political philosopher Judith Shklar, was born in nearby Riga).
Raised in the interwar Polish republic, Milosz survived the occupation and was already a poet of some standing when he was sent to Paris as the cultural attaché of the new People’s Republic. But in 1951 he defected to the West and two years later he published his most influential work, The Captive Mind. Never out of print, it is by far the most insightful and enduring account of the attraction of intellectuals to Stalinism and, more generally, of the appeal of authority and authoritarianism to the intelligentsia.
Milosz studies four of his contemporaries and the self-delusions to which they fell prey on their journey from autonomy to obedience, emphasizing what he calls the intellectuals’ need for “a feeling of belonging.” Two of his subjects—Jerzy Andrzejewski and Tadeusz Borowski—may be familiar to English readers, Andrzejewski as the author of Ashes and Diamonds (adapted for the cinema by Andrzej Wajda) and Borowski as the author of a searing memoir of Auschwitz, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.
But the book is most memorable for two images. One is the “Pill of Murti-Bing.” Milosz came across this in an obscure novel by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Insatiability (1927). In this story, Central Europeans facing the prospect of being overrun by unidentified Asiatic hordes pop a little pill, which relieves them of fear and anxiety; buoyed by its effects, they not only accept their new rulers but are positively happy to receive them.
The second image is that of “Ketman,” borrowed from Arthur de Gobineau’s Religions and Philosophies of Central Asia, in which the French traveler reports the Persian phenomenon of elective identities. Those who have internalized the way of being called “Ketman” can live with the contradictions of saying one thing and believing another, adapting freely to each new requirement of their rulers while believing that they have preserved somewhere within themselves the autonomy of a free thinker—or at any rate a thinker who has freely chosen to subordinate himself to the ideas and dictates of others.
Ketman, in Milosz’s words, “brings comfort, fostering dreams of what might be, and even the enclosing fence affords the solace of reverie.” Writing for the desk drawer becomes a sign of inner liberty. At least his audience would take him seriously if only they could read him:
Fear of the indifference with which the economic system of the West treats its artists and scholars is widespread among Eastern intellectuals. They say it is better to deal with an intelligent devil than with a good-natured idiot.
Between Ketman and the Pill of Murti-Bing, Milosz brilliantly dissects the state of mind of the fellow traveler, the deluded idealist, and the cynical time server. His essay is more subtle than Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and less relentlessly logical than Raymond Aron’s Opium of the Intellectuals. I used to teach it in what was for many years my favorite course, a survey of essays and novels from Central and Eastern Europe that included the writings of Milan Kundera, Vaclav Havel, Ivo Andric’, Heda Kovaly, Paul Goma, and others.
But I began to notice that whereas the novels of Kundera and Andric’, or the memoirs of Kovaly or Yevgenia Ginsburg, remain accessible to American students notwithstanding the alien material, The Captive Mind often encountered incomprehension. Milosz takes for granted his readers’ intuitive grasp of the believer’s state of mind: the man or woman who has identified with History and enthusiastically aligned themselves with a system that denies them freedom of expression. In 1951 he could reasonably assume that this phenomenon—whether associated with communism, fascism, or indeed any other form of political repression—would be familiar.
And indeed, when I first taught the book in the 1970s, I spent most of my time explaining to would-be radical students just why a “captive mind” was not a good thing. Thirty years on, my young audience is simply mystified: why would someone sell his soul to any idea, much less a repressive one? By the turn of the twenty-first century, few of my North American students had ever met a Marxist. A self-abnegating commitment to a secular faith was beyond their imaginative reach. When I started out my challenge was to explain why people became disillusioned with Marxism; today, the insuperable hurdle one faces is explaining the illusion itself.
Contemporary students do not see the point of the book: the whole exercise seems futile. Repression, suffering, irony, and even religious belief: these they can grasp. But ideological self-delusion? Milosz’s posthumous readers thus resemble the Westerners and emigres whose incomprehension he describes so well: “They do not know how one pays—those abroad do not know. They do not know what one buys, and at what price.”
Perhaps so. But there is more than one kind of captivity. Recall the Ketman-like trance of those intellectuals swept up in George W. Bush’s hysterical drive to war just a few years ago. Few of them would have admitted to admiring the President, much less sharing his worldview. So they typically aligned themselves behind him while doubtless maintaining private reservations. Later, when it was clear they had made a mistake, they blamed it upon the administration’s incompetence. With Ketman-like qualifications they proudly assert, in effect, “we were right to be wrong”—a revealing if unconscious echo of the plaidoyer of the French fellow travelers, “better to have been wrong with Sartre than right with Aron.”
Today, we can still hear sputtering echoes of the attempt to reignite the cold war around a crusade against “Islamo-fascism.” But the true mental captivity of our time lies elsewhere. Our contemporary faith in “the market” rigorously tracks its radical nineteenth-century doppelgaenger—the unquestioning belief in necessity, progress, and History. Just as the hapless British Labour chancellor in 1929–1931, Philip Snowden, threw up his hands in the face of the Depression and declared that there was no point opposing the ineluctable laws of capitalism, so Europe’s leaders today scuttle into budgetary austerity to appease “the markets.”
But “the market”—like “dialectical materialism”—is just an abstraction: at once ultra-rational (its argument trumps all) and the acme of unreason (it is not open to question). It has its true believers—mediocre thinkers by contrast with the founding fathers, but influential withal; its fellow travelers—who may privately doubt the claims of the dogma but see no alternative to preaching it; and its victims, many of whom in the US especially have dutifully swallowed their pill and proudly proclaim the virtues of a doctrine whose benefits they will never see.
Above all, the thrall in which an ideology holds a people is best measured by their collective inability to imagine alternatives. We know perfectly well that untrammeled faith in unregulated markets kills: the rigid application of what was until recently the “Washington consensus” in vulnerable developing countries—with its emphasis on tight fiscal policy, privatization, low tariffs, and deregulation—has destroyed millions of livelihoods. Meanwhile, the stringent “commercial terms” on which vital pharmaceuticals are made available has drastically reduced life expectancy in many places. But in Margaret Thatcher’s deathless phrase, “there is no alternative.”
It was in just such terms that communism was presented to its beneficiaries following World War II; and it was because History afforded no apparent alternative to a Communist future that so many of Stalin’s foreign admirers were swept into intellectual captivity. But when Milosz published The Captive Mind, Western intellectuals were still debating among genuinely competitive social models—whether social democratic, social market, or regulated market variants of liberal capitalism. Today, despite the odd Keynesian protest from below the salt, a consensus reigns.
For Milosz, “the man of the East cannot take Americans seriously because they have never undergone the experiences that teach men how relative their judgments and thinking habits are.” This is doubtless so and explains the continuing skepticism of the East European in the face of Western innocence. But there is nothing innocent about Western (and Eastern) commentators’ voluntary servitude before the new pan-orthodoxy. Many of them, Ketman-like, know better but prefer not to raise their heads above the parapet. In this sense at least, they have something truly in common with the intellectuals of the Communist age. One hundred years after his birth, fifty-seven years after the publication of his seminal essay, Milosz’s indictment of the servile intellectual rings truer than ever: “his chief characteristic is his fear of thinking for himself.”
Monday, July 5, 2010
One of the outstanding poems in Elisabeth Murawski's recent book Zorba's Daughter is "Lullaby of the Train," about the transport of Gypsy children to the Nazi death camps. Ms. Murawski has allowed me to post the poem here.
Lullaby of the Train
With eyes like empty
the orphan gypsy girls
have stopped complaining
of shoes that pinch
their toes, of dresses
with holes. The town
a knight on horseback,
announces the hour.
The children can’t tell
time yet. Numbers
on paper, they shuffle
forward, too weary
and hungry to cry
or look back.
The German nun waves
to her charges, obedient
as shadows. Click clack
go the wheels
kissing the railroad track,
lullaby of the train.
Click clack, click clack
to the smoky town in Poland.
To read more about the fate of the gypsies during the Holocaust, please visit the Jewish Virtual Library.
Ms. Murawski's book, winner of the 2010 May Swenson Prize, is available at Amazon.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
If you are a Pole or Polish-American living in this country, you have probably been called a dumb Polak. You have also probably been told that Poles are stupid, lazy, anti-semitic, and brutal.
You have heard this from your friends and the people around you. When I was a four-year old refugee from Germany, I heard it from a boy my own age who lived next door to me. Later, I heard it where I worked and lived. And always, of course, I heard it from the media, from TV shows, movies, books, and music.
I never understood it. I saw Poles who were smart, caring, helpful, and idealistic, and I wondered where the stereotype of the brute Polak came from.
Danusha Goska's new book answers this question.
Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture is a daring and far-reaching study that examines the sources and prevalence of stereotyped images of Poles as brutal, subhuman creatures. Drawing on her extensive research in history, popular culture, and folklore, and also on interviews of Poles and Jews in America today, interviews of both stereotypers and victims of stereotyping, she teaches us all something profound about how the image of the Polak originated and why it continues to flourish.
Two decades in the works, and written and researched without institutional support, her study has been called "groundbreaking" and "brilliant."
Here are two more recent responses to this "groundbreaking" and "brilliant" book:
From John J. Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago
"Bieganski is a truly important book because it challenges and demolishes the widely held belief that Poles are nothing more than ignorant and brutish anti-Semites who played a central role in causing the Holocaust. Goska does a first-rate job of describing how Jews and Poles really interacted with each other over their rich history together. Let's hope that this book is widely read and helps change the conventional wisdom about Polish-Jewish relations."
From John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Ph.D., professor of Social Ethics, Director, Catholic-Jewish Studies Program Catholic Theological Union, Chicago
"Stereotypes of Poles have been commonplace in Western society. Danusha V. Goska presents a comprehensive overview of such images in a balanced fashion. She offers no apologetic for genuine instance of Polish anti-Semitism. But she also exposes those rooted in outright prejudice with no foundation in fact. An important contribution to improved Polish-Jewish understanding."
From Dr. Michael Herzbrun, Rabbi Temple Emanu-El, Rochester, NY:
"In this most important work, Dr. Goska's style incorporates those necessary ingredients that justify writing as an art form: her grammar is impeccable, even while the pathways of her sentences can be unpredictable. Her imagery is robust, but yet it never gets in the way of the underlying premises of her arguments. Moreover, her thinking is crisp, and her knowledge of this very sensitive topic is thoroughly evident. Indeed, the reader cannot help but be persuaded by the logical unfolding of the positions she brings to this necessary work. Above all, she establishes that all-important trust in her readers: that while she may jostle their previously-held constructs, she will also protect them on a literary journey that could be harrowing and dangerous in lesser hands."
Dr. Goska has started a blog devoted to her work on Bieganski and other issues. You can see her blog by clicking here.