Chicago Review

An international journal of literature, interviews, and reviews. For academic audiences.

Articles from Vol. 46, No. 3/4, 2000

An Examination of Conscience in Times of Change
Throughout its history, Polish literature has frequently distinguished itself by its capacity to express the collective voice of the Polish people. In the nineteenth century, when Poland was stripped of its statehood, works by Polish poets were perceived...
An Interview with Clare Cavanagh
Evanston, Illinois 18 July 2000 W. MARTIN: There are rumors that you are also a poet. Is this true? And do you consider translation to be a creative practice? CLARE CAVANAGH: Yes, and I'm not a poet. I'm a former poet. I feel like translating is the...
An Interview with Piotr Sommer
South Bend, Indiana, 7 May 2000 W. MARTIN: In your two line poem "Grammar," you write: "What was, one should speak of in the past tense, / what isn't in some other tongue." The second line strikes me as somewhat utopian. I'm wondering how you became...
Another Beauty
Adam Zagajewski. Another Beauty. Translated by Clare Cavanagh. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000. This is a book of prose by a lyric poet, a collection of thoughts expressed in literary form. Or forms, since the book is in fact a mixture of anecdotes,...
An Unsuccessful Pilgrimage, Oh, to A Particular Place
Through the woods, thick mud (it rained a little while before), along the roadside, once again, the same road, turning our backs to the road sign with the name of the town (in which I was yet to spend many days more) I climbed up the hill to higher regions,...
Are Things Worse or Is This Normal? Polish Poetry in the 1990s
I can't shake my fear that there won't be enough room in this important periodical for my hasty perusals of ten years of Polish poetry. That said, it's hard to imagine that a topic this "hot," and this internally convoluted and vast, could fit into even...
Bim and Bom
BIM AND BOM Bim and Born were a pair of clowns. They always performed together, and enjoyed enormous popularity. No one could remember Bim without Born, or Born without Bim-only that Bim-and-Bom and Bom-and-Bim made them laugh. It was unclear whether...
Brulion
BRULION^sup 1^ bruLion, pismo nosem,2 a journal for the new generation, or, as the chief editor Robert Tekieli puts it, "the rough draft of our entire culture." The magazine was founded in a Krakow dormitory in 1986. The first issue was compiled by four...
Burial Mounds
BURIAL MOUNDS I come to see Maciek after several years, and already they have a calm, healthy child, who sleeps and doesn't want to show her eyes. They call her Maryska. Maryka has just turned thirteen days old, but then she's three weeks, and now she...
Czarne Sezony
Czarne sezony (The black seasons) is an exceptional book in many respects, although that should be no surprise for someone who knows the work of Michal Glowinski. Not only is he a distinguished historian and theorist of literature, but in the last twenty...
Dog
Clouds were blocking the sun, and Denise, who was strolling along with all the grace of an open wound, picked up a stick from the ground and threw it as far as her strength would allow. Vaclav Dragon, an enormous dog with a good head on its shoulders,...
Excerpt from Dusk and Dawn
from DUSK AND DAWN After closing the door behind Doctor Tarnowski, Salomea Goldman looked at the clock. The minute hand pointed straight down as if it were trying to pierce one of the lily petals cast in brass: seven-thirty was passing. Salomea walked...
Excerpts from Diary Written at Night 1993-1996
NAPLES, DECEMBER 5, 1993 Lovely Cortona, a little town located exactly on the border of Umbria and Tuscany, to which I often used to go for longer or shorter visits, was at first just trove of treasures for me. Luca da Cortona (Signorelli) mourning the...
Excerpts from in Red
Whoever has been everywhere and seen everything should be sure to travel to Sciegi. Simply sit in a sleigh and, before succumbing to sleep, speed across a plain that is empty as a sheet of white paper, boundless as life. Sooner or later this person-perhaps...
Excerpts from Oksana
[A Polish academic living in Munich is told that he is terminally ill with cancer He sets off on a final journey south through Italy, and begins an affair with a Ukrainian woman considerably younger than himself whom he meets in northern Italy and who...
Excerpts from Recycling
"Was ist Recycling? Die Wiederverwendung bereits einmal oder mehrfach benutzter Rohstoffe zur Gewinnung neuer Produkte" I Fashion (1944-1994) his clothes comprised a woolen cap a nightshirt with no buttons a small woman's cardigan trousers daubed red...
For Jan Polkowski
It's time to shut the little cardboard doors and open a window, to open a window and get some air in this room. Before, there was always luck to fall back on, now the luck's run out. With one exception: when poems go and leave their stench behind them....
Fragments from the Ghetto
FRAGMENTS FROM THE GHETTO A WORD I remember when I heard it for the first time. It was at the very beginning of the war, right after the defeat. The word drifted into my ears as people around me deliberated: will they lock us in the ghetto or not? I...
Heart in Mouth
It is with my heart in my mouth that I set about an unceremonious description of those close to me: with my heart in my mouth and panic in my mind, for there's not much that I know. Truth to tell, I know only one thing: that before I finish this scandalizing...
Introduction
In 1989-90, Poland experienced a sea-change in every area of public life: in the reorganization of political power, in economic reform, and in the liberation of media and public discourse from politically-- determined constraints. The immediate consequences...
Italian Chronicle
Yesterday NATO air forces attacked Serb positions in Srebrenica. They bombed two Serb tanks... All participants in the attack returned safely to the NATO base in Aviano, Italy. -news agency brief Exhausted by the sun and the boredom of the beach we sat...
Koehlerism
KOEHLERISM* Krzysztof Koehler's piece "O'Harism," in bruLion 14-15, was written in deadly earnest. And since the charges to be found in it concern my immodest person, it behooves me to respond to it. Which I will do. 1. The object of contention is a...
Lapidaria
On the one hand we have the realm of belles-lettres, which concentrates to an ever greater degree on the internal life of its protagonists, the psychology of the individual... On the opposite pole stands news-writing, which reaches us through the media-accounts...
Madame
Antoni Libera. Madame. Translated by Agnieszka Kotakowska. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2000. The unnamed narrator of Antoni Libera's much-lauded novel Madame has a problem. A precocious high-school student in Soviet-controlled Warsaw in the...
My Grandfather Sigismund Kunat
In the photograph of my grandfather Kunat when he was six is contained, in my opinion, the secret of his personality. A happy little boy, youthfully sprightful, the bright and serene soul visible through his skin. The photograph comes from the eighteen...
Objects
People talked about the Hanemann affair at the Long Market, in Hersen's offices, on Granary Island, at Kauffmann's on the Grand Embankment, but as a matter of fact the city did not want to hear about it, was preoccupied with other work, with a different...
O'Harism
If O'Harism is to be the fate of poetry in this new decade, then Marcin gwietlicki stands a chance of becoming the poet of our era's end. And yet, before that happens, I would like to take a moment to talk about one poem, "To Jan Polkowski," and in particular...
Place
PLACE* from GALICIAN TALES It didn't take them long. Two months. A rectangle of gray, clayey earth was all that was left. That bareness looked like a strip of torn skin in the wooded and desolate landscape. Grass would grow here next year, for the first...
Polish Nobel Prize Winners in Literature: Are They Really Polish?
In October of 1996, after she had received the Nobel Prize in Literature, Wislawa Szymborska was hailed by certain Swedish newspapers as the fifth Polish winner of this Prize. This was a surprise for many Polish readers, since Szymborska was supposed...
Professor Andrews Goes to Warsaw: December 1980
Professor Andrews represented one of the very important, very profound schools of psychology that had a real future ahead of it. Like almost all such schools, it had grown out of psychoanalysis, but had torn away from its roots and now practiced according...
Russia
Old fathers. Rebel children. Lost estates. Pawned silver. At the Kursk Station, a beggar flashes a small mirror of coin. A surprise. Russian herbs smell bitter. A shock. Here June blooms bitter. Smells too strong and the moon in its sign Is like a well-baked,...
Sejny, 1997
As we cross into the hilly countryside of this region, memory pushes up scattered fragments of those lines of the poet which, though read long ago and in entirely different circumstances, seem now to complete the view spreading out before us. "The lines...
Stairway to Heaven-Up and Down
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN-UP AND DOWN In 1956 Zbigniew Herbert wrote the poem "From the Top of the Stairs," which he would publish only much later in Report From the Besieged City. This volume appeared in 1983 with an emigre publisher, and was immediately reprinted...
Tacheometry
for E. One day a wind will run through these houses the panes brim with rainbow like a waterfall we'll awake to chilly rooms photos will flutter down from the walls and matters won't admit to mattering while voice will break up as numbers on the dials...
The Decade in Prose
Prose writing is always a bit slow to respond to events of historical magnitude. Thus it is not surprising that there was no sudden explosion of new authors or new artistic trends onto the Polish literary scene in 1989 or directly afterwards, despite...
The Dictatorship
The Dictator's rule lasted for a long time, until finally enough was enough. At the head of the discontented populace stood a young and ambitious General, commander of a provincial garrison. Together with his subdivisions, he entered the capital in a...
The Fire
From the bedroom window I watch the cars passing. In the kitchen the fire smolders. The hum of tires sliding on wet asphalt. The teapot hisses puffs of smoke. Across the way houses blur in the drizzle. The first golden-red flame effloresces. A huge puddle...
The Hole in the Bridge
There was a river and on each of its banks, a little town. These two towns were joined by a road which ran across a bridge. One day, a hole appeared in the bridge. The bridge needed repair: on this much, public opinion in both towns was in agreement....
The Irish Pub
That afternoon we met as we did every week, at the Irish Pub on the corner of Wrzeszcz's two main streets: a doctor of psychiatry, two philosophers, a schoolteacher, a painter, and me-the secretary of a nonexistent brotherhood; that afternoon we desired,...
The "Mythic Homeland" in Contemporary Polish Prose
The 1990s were witness to significant changes on the literary map of Poland: new regions and new trends emerged as the old ones evolved. Undoubtedly, a central place in this changing topography was occupied by works that represented both a continuation...
The One from Hamburg
They lived in a faraway place. They were very sociable, enjoyed going to parties, and could dance for hours on end. They loved going to the races and placing bets on horses; in moderation, naturally. They were resourceful and thrifty. He was a master...
The Prince's Feet, Not to Mention Other Body Parts
Georges Vigarello, Cleanliness and Dirt. Translated from the French (sometimes badly). Warsaw: W.A.B. Publishers, 1996 A surprise lies hidden in this feuilleton. I won't say where, because then, Gentle Readers, you would go looking for it straight away....
The Return of the Forester: On Reading Tymoteusz Karpowicz
THE RETURN OF THE FORESTER On Reading Tymoteusz Karpowicz* * The author would like to thank Karen Underhill and Frank Kujawinski for their help in adapting the revised version of this essay (originally published in Gazeta Wyborcza) for American audiences....
Tri-Lateral Lullaby (Cosmogony)
in a yet unsettled sky a gleam vacillates its mother fully for herself in a maternal star spreads the fringe of a lullaby fully for herself sucks her breast fully for herself flares her tongue fully for herself induces labor fully for herself takes on...
Whose Turn Is It Anyway?
My brother-in-law at one point this summer asked me what I was working on and when I told him that I was translating contemporary poetry for an upcoming issue of an American journal, he asked, "Szymborska?" I told him that Szymborska was something on...
Wild Geese
from LIDA In memory of my father Tomorrow, you must leave this place... Tomorrow, zavtra -you repeat these words, and they fade away for a moment, only to return again with intensified pain and regret, uncertainty and fear, like an unwanted echo. You...
Zen and the Art of Carpet-Beating
Best of all were the ones from China, with the short fuse, in silver foil colorful as a dragon in a New Year's Day parade: no flash, but a huge bang. For those little wonders we used to drive specially to Chinatown, put them gingerly in the briefcase,...