The Totalitarian Urge vs. Literature: The Origins and Achievements of the Polish Independent Publishing Movement

By Bolecki, Wlodzimierz | Canadian Slavonic Papers, March-June 1997 | Go to article overview

The Totalitarian Urge vs. Literature: The Origins and Achievements of the Polish Independent Publishing Movement


Bolecki, Wlodzimierz, Canadian Slavonic Papers


I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS:

The fall of communism in Central Europe was brought about-we can see today-not only by the economic and technological advantages of the West, but also by forms of media uncontrolled by the state censorship, for example, Radio Free Europe, the BBC and Voice of America and other kinds of independent writings played a role too.

Before I turn to the origins and achievements of the Polish independent publishing movement and its contribution to the victory over communism, I would like to put forward some general remarks on the subject, "Literature as Political Force."I

Literature as a political force is, in many ways, connected to the role of the word in culture and history. We can analyze the differences which arise here as historical and cultural ones, or as typological differences. One cannot understand the history of the Jewish people without analyzing the role of the Torah. The social history of the other great religions, such as Christianity or Islam, is to a greater extent the history of the interpretations of their Holy Books: the New Testament and the Koran. In general, we can affirm that words and texts have a great impact upon social and political phenomena, and this impact is even bigger than we may surmise.

In the history of European culture the idea of "literature" originates from two different words. On the one hand, it comes from the Latin word littera (a letter); on the other hand, in every national culture its synonym is the word book. There are some characteristic proverbs devoted to the word litera, two of which may serve as interesting introductions to the general subject. Littera docet, littera nocet: literature (any text or any word) can teach us, or can cause damage. The second proverb says littera scripta manet: written words will last for ever. As we can see, these words, letter and book, have both a general and not only a particular meaning. One could even say that there is something immaterial in the concept of a "letter" and of a "book." The latter has many symbolic meanings in the European tradition. "Book" (as a symbol of literature) is the symbol of the Universe, of Truth, Wisdom, Law, Morality, Destiny, Memory, Tuition, Knowledge and Eternity (Horace, Odes III, wrote thus about his poetry: Exegi monumentum are perenius-a monument of words is more solid and more firm than a monument of bronze). Without mentioning any more examples, let me say that the idea of imaginative literature has never implied a meaning of force in terms of violence. There is a paradox here, because it seems obvious that such notions as Truth, Wisdom, Law, Morality, and so on, possess at the same time a meaning of force. What kind of force? It is this point which must be considered. Besides its symbolic meanings, there is another meaning of "book" which is strictly connected with literature; more precisely, there is a literary motif which can be called "literature as a force." What is meant here is not yet another symbol, but the impact upon literary characters which are presented as subject-matter within a single literary work. Generally speaking, in the history of literature there are many works which present how the reading of books influenced fictional characters. Of the most famous examples of that motif, the first is Don Quixote by Cervantes and the second, Madame Bovary by Flaubert. These novels show us how the life of a character, how his or her feeling and his or her vision of the world are shaped by books that the character had previously read and how literature read by the character became a controlling force.

Two Polish books are interesting examples of this type. The first is Syzyfowe prace (Sisyphean Labours) by Stefan Zeromski, published in 1898. Its action takes place in a school, in a small Polish town under Russian occupation, at the very end of the nineteenth century. The Polish pupils are under the strictest control of their Russian teachers; they know nothing about Polish history or literature, and seem completely resigned to their fate. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Totalitarian Urge vs. Literature: The Origins and Achievements of the Polish Independent Publishing Movement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.