Academic journal article Chicago Review

My Grandfather Sigismund Kunat

Academic journal article Chicago Review

My Grandfather Sigismund Kunat

Article excerpt

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 sixties, and now I, in my old age, join that child at his play.

By a familiar lake into which he is now throwing pebbles, under ash trees that were to find their way into my poems.

The Kunats were ranked with the Calvinist gentry, which I snobbishly note down, since in our Lithuania Calvinists were counted among the most enlightened.

The family changed their denomination to Roman Catholic late, around 1800, yet I have not preserved any image of my grandfather in a pew at Swientobrosc.

He never spoke evil of priests though, nor departed in anything from accepted norms of behavior.

A student at the Main School in Warsaw, he danced at balls and studied the books of the epoch of positivism.

He took seriously calls for "organic work" and for that reason established in Szetejnie a workshop for the manufacture of cloth, which is why I used to play in rooms full of presses for fulling.

He was exquisitely polite to everyone, great and small, rich and poor, and had the gift of listening with attention to everyone.

Oscar Milosz, who met him in Kaunas in 1922, called him "un gentilhomme franfais du dixhuitieme siecle," a French gentleman of the eighteenth century. …

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