Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Salute to Julian Tuwim. A Guest Blog Post

Tuwim Street, Chrzanow. Source: Wikipedia 
Tuwim by Witkacy. Source: Wikipedia 

I once read Julian Tuwim's children's poem "Lokomotywa" to my creative writing class. I read it in Polish. Though they were Americans, and did not speak a word of Polish, they understood that this was a poem about a locomotive. Tuwim so expertly captured, in words, the sound of a train. You can read his poem here.

Julian Tuwim was Polish and Jewish and a poet. He lived during the twentieth century. He wrote a famous essay, "We, Polish Jews" about being both Polish and Jewish.

The text about Tuwim, below, is from an anonymous Amazon post. I know the author, who prefers to remain anonymous, but who has kindly granted permission that that text be reproduced here.

***

Julian Tuwim's essay, "We, Polish Jews" is about Tuwim's double identity as a Pole and as a Jew. In "Kwiaty Polskie," he wrote a lot about the fate of Poland. He was convinced that the new Poland would be free of the vices of the past, purged by its wartime experience:

"Cause us to bless the conflagration
That destroyed our property, if it
Proves to be a purifying fire
For our souls touched with decay.
As for Poland of any size-let her have greatness:
To the sons of her spirit or her body
Give a greatness of hearts if she's great, And a greatness of hearts if she's small . . ."

At the same time, the crimes of the Germans were so appalling that even dogs would seek revenge:

"And you, Warsaw dogs, on Judgment Day
Fulfill your canine duty-
Howl yourselves into a running pack
To wreak fierce vengeance for your victims.
For dogs torn by exploding bombs,
That perished under the shattered home,
For those that howled over their master
As they scratched his lifeless hands; and for
Dogs that exercised a hopeless charm
To curry favor with dead bodies;
For the death of puppies still at play
In their basket in the basement . . .

Let the armies of the lesser dog
Avengers fall on them when they're down,
Tear them to bits so that even their
Mothers never shall know where to look
For their parts, scattered over the earth . . . !

For ours could not find them either,
Their babies' heads, little legs and fists . . ."

Tuwim was aware of the gulf created by the war between those who experienced it first hand and those who did not. He felt great guilt at his escape and the comfortable conditions under which he experienced the war. His words also speak for us:

"And when, O Necropolis, we approach your suburbs,
Quarantined we will kneel in the field,
Full of hope and anguish:
Hope – that friends will come to meet us
From the City of the Crosses,
Bearing forgiveness in their eyes
And tears of happiness, not reproach.
Anguish – that these tears, this kindness, these greetings
Will be of no avail . . .
the silent thing will rise between us-

A dreadful phantom."

It is true that he became increasingly preoccupied with the fate of Polish Jewry, and of his beloved mother, who had a nervous breakdown under the impact of the war and withdrew to a sanatorium in Otwock near Warsaw. In 1941 he moved to New York. There he became convinced that only with the help of the Soviet Union could the Nazis be defeated. This led to a breach with another Skamander poet, Jan Lechoń, who had also made his way to New York and who wrote to him in May 1942 severing all relations because of Tuwim's "blind love for the Bolsheviks." Of the Skamander poets, only Antoni Słonimski, now in London, shared his view that without the Bolsheviks victory was impossible.

It was now he produced what was his last great work, the prose-poem My, Żydzi Polscy (We, Polish Jews, 1944). Suspecting the fate of his mother, who had already been murdered by the Germans, he dedicated it "To my Mother in Poland or to her beloved Shadow." He began by explaining why he now identified with the Jews of Poland:

And immediately I can hear the question: "What do you mean – we?' The question, I grant you, is natural enough. Jews to whom I am wont to explain that I am a Pole have asked it. So will the Poles to the overwhelming majority of whom I am and shall remain a Jew. Here is my answer to both.

I am a Pole because I want to be. It's nobody's business but my own. I certainly have not the slightest intention of rendering account, explaining, or justifying it to anyone. I do not divide Poles into pure-stock Poles and alien
stock Poles. I leave such classification to pure and alienstock advocates of racialism, to domestic and foreign Nazis. I divide Poles just as I divide Jews and all other nations into the intelligent and the fools, the honest and the dishonest, the brilliant and the dullwitted, the exploited and the exploiters, gentlemen and cads. I also divide Poles into Fascists and antiFascists . . ."

He went on:

"I am a Pole because it was in Poland that I was born and bred, that I grew up and learned; because it was in Poland that I was happy and unhappy; because from exile it is to Poland that I want to return, even though I were promised the joys of paradise elsewhere . . .

Above all a Pole-because I want to be."

He then explained his Jewish allegiance:

"All right," someone will say, `granted you are a Pole. But in that case, why "we Jews"?" To which I answer: because of blood. "Then racialism again?" No, not racialism at all. Quite the contrary.

There are two kinds of blood: that inside of veins, and that which spurts from them. The first is the sap of the body, and as such comes under the realm of physiologists. Whoever attributes to this blood any other than biological characteristics and powers will in consequence, as we have seen, turn towns into smoking ruins, will slaughter millions of people, and at last, as we shall yet see, bring carnage upon his own kin.

The other kind of blood is the same blood but spilled by this gang leader of international Fascism to testify to the triumph of his gore over mine, the blood of millions of murdered innocents, a blood not hidden in arteries but revealed to the world. Never since the dawn of mankind has there been such a flood of martyr blood, and the blood of Jews (not Jewish blood, mind you) flows in widest and deepest streams. Already its blackening rivulets are flowing together into a tempestuous river. and it is in this new jordan that i beg to receive the baptism of baptisms; the bloody, burning, martyred brotherhood of Jews."

Perhaps naively, he believed that the sufferings of Polish Jews would so arouse the sympathy of their compatriots that antisemitism would disappear.

"Upon the armbands which you wore in the ghetto the star of David was painted. I believe in a future Poland in which that star of your armbands will become the highest order bestowed upon the bravest among Polish officers and soldiers. They will wear it proudly upon their breasts next to the old Virtuti Militari. There also will be a Cross of the Ghetto-a deeply symbolic name. There will be the Order of the Yellow Patch, denoting more merit than many a present tinsel. And there shall be in Warsaw and in every other Polish city some fragment of the ghetto left standing and preserved in its present form in all its horror of ruin and destruction."

The new Poland to which Tuwim returned in June 1946 and pledged his complete support must have been a great disappointment to him, partly because of the persistence of antisemitism. Three weeks after the Kielce pogrom he received a bitter letter from a Polish Jew and long-time activist in the Communist Party of Poland, who asked him:

"Why must I emigrate from this country? Why is there no place for me here? In this country to which I devoted the whole of my youth. I want to emphasize that I bear no resentment towards the government. Unfortunately, even the appropriate stance of the Polish government towards the Jewish question does not change the nature of the problem. The nation has been poisoned with the venom of hatred and does not want us."

Not knowing how to respond to the letter, he passed it on to Adolf Berman, a leading member of the Centalny Komitet Żydow w Polsce, the main Jewish organization in post-war Poland.

Tuwim cannot have been unaware of the increasingly repressive character of the regime. At times he opposed this repression, approaching Bolesław Bierut on behalf of the poet Jerzy Kojarzewski, an officer in the AK, and five of his associates who had been sentenced to death in late 1945. In the case of Kojarzewski, the sentence was commuted to ten years' imprisonment.

At the same time, Tuwim was determined to ally himself with the new order, writing in 1950 to the poet Mieczysław Jastrun that they needed to talk about "the unimportance of lyricism in the project of the socialization of minds and in general about the exceedingly limited influence of poetry on transformations of historical significance in humanity's history." He composed a sterile "Ode to Stalin," in which he spoke of the revolution as eternal beauty, and of Stalin as an immortal hero, but his muse deserted him and he subsequently devoted himself to translation, editing, and writing children's stories. In one poem he describes the death of his mother, which gives poignant expression to his own grief and perhaps also explains his inability to write after her death:

"At the cemetery in Łódź
The Jewish cemetery, stands
The Polish grave of my mother,
My Jewish mother's tomb.

The grave of my Mother, the Pole,
Of my Mother the Jewess;
I brought her from the land by the Vistula
To the banks of industrial Łódź . . .

A fascist shot my mother
When she was thinking of me;
A fascist shot my mother
When she was longing for me . . ."

Yet it remains a mystery whether his inability to write was because he was numbed by the scale of the Jewish tragedy, whether he soon saw through the illusions of communism but could not or would not articulate his feelings, or whether it was because he needed the stimulus of being hated to spur his literary creativity. He died in December 1953 aged 59. His last words are reported to have been "For the sake of economy, please turn out the eternal light: I may need it someday to shine for me . . ."


Tuwim's Bench in Lodz, Poland. Artist: Wojciech Gryniewicz. Source: Wikipedia
Tuwim's grave, Warsaw. Source: Wikipedia

Source

21 comments:

  1. Since no one has posted on this blogspot so far, I thought that I would mention my review of Tuwim's classic WE POLISH JEWS for those who may find it of interest. It can be read by clicking on my name in this specific posting.

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  2. Interesting, I had never heard of him. His poetry is very powerful if not exactly cheerful... but fair enough, the horrors of the 20th Century don't inspire much lyricism - and Poland has been in the hot seat for a lot of the time.

    I find his revenge poem so frightening I had to stop reading it. And if we - the human race - were capable of learning from our past - then perhaps the horrible revenge taken in the wake of WW2 might have taught us how wise our Creator is when he says that vengeance belongs to Him alone.

    We can trust Him to sort things out perfectly, and mercifully, and that knowledge is something that can help us get control of our feelings. If I had seen and experienced what was going on in occupied Poland I would have needed to trust in God with all my heart not to end up taking revenge. I couldn't trust in myself.

    But do we learn? Because it does seem that one of the things that fuelled the rise of Hitler was the cruel way in which Germany was treated in the wake of its defeat during WW1. And, of course, Germany could have learnt that while it is very successful in peace, it is not so successful in war - but it didn't. And us Poles could have learnt how much better off we would be if we could find a way to stay neutral and stay out of it - as even when we support the winning side, we don't actually win. But we didn't. And we still haven't as Poland is supporting the current Crusades in the Middle East.

    Oh dear. If only I could put all that into a poem. Though it would be rather a gloomy one.

    Perhaps I can give you my own war poem instead?

    The German Housewife in the Thirties
    by me

    "Guns Before Butter!"
    The Fuhrer said
    But I find guns
    very hard to spread.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, thank you for sharing your poem.

      About Tuwim ... you can't judge his oeuvre based on the samples here. Please read "Lokomotywa," linked above, and his other poems.

      :-)

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    2. Quot: His last words are reported to have been "For the sake of economy, please turn out the eternal light: I may need it someday to shine for me . . ."

      Tuwim was a man of a bubbly character and full of humour, even on his deathbed. As a properly educated gentlemen he was aware, that Goethe's last words were:"Mehr Licht!" (meaning "More light!") Until today some scholars argue, if he had on his mind approaching eternal darkness or just pledged for more enlightenment for the world. Nevertheless, Goethe was a very serious man, his writings are as grave as a mortal sin, while Tuwim was born to joke. And his last words were also his last joke.

      T.L.

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    3. Mention of Goethe brings to mind one of my fav poems, which has Polish content:

      http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179058

      Delete
  3. Tuwim's "Lokomotywa" had countless editions over the years, the most popular and recognizable front graphics, however, is not the one you show in your blog. This one is very much styled after a character from an English film "Thomas the Tank Engine". A few generations of children would rather instantly recognize this one:
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/avd9rvz

    Btw, Tuwim was himself quite a piece of a heavy-weight fighter when stepped upon his toe. Just read this:
    http://poema.pl/publikacja/2637-rodowod
    T. Linetzky, posting as Anonymous cause I do not have any of the IDs nor profiles required here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Guns Before Butter!"
    The Fuhrer said
    But I find guns
    very hard to spread."

    For her contribution to poetry, I nominate Mrs. Sue Knight for the Nobel Prize in Literature. :):):)

    Here's the English translation of this powerful poem. Even in translation, it beats "The Little Engine That Could" hands down:


    Locomotive

    The locomotive’s standing at the station,
    Huge, heavy, it drips perspiration –
    Oily lubrication.

    It stands and wheezes, it groans and gnashes
    Its boiling belly stuffed with hot ashes:
    Arrrgh, what torture!
    Phew, what a scorcher!
    Panting and puffing!
    Hissing and huffing!
    It’s barely gasping, it’s barely breathing,
    And still its fireman more coal keeps on heaping.

    To it were coupled wagons of iron and steel
    Massive and heavy, they weighed a great deal
    And crowds of people in each one of these,
    And one’s full of cows, another of – horsies,
    A third one with passengers, every one fat,
    Sitting and eating sausagey snacks.
    The fourth was packed with crates of bananas.
    The fifth one contained – six large grand pianos.
    In the sixth a large cannon, cor! what a whopper!
    Each of its wheels chocked up right proper!
    The seventh, oaken wardrobes and chairs.
    The eighth an elephant, giraffe and two bears.
    The ninth, fattened pigs – no spare spaces,
    The tenth full of trunks, baggage and cases,
    Wagons like these – another forty remain,
    Not even I could tell you what they contain.
    But if a thousand strongmen gathered right here,
    And each one would eat a thousand burgers a year,
    And each one of them strained with all of his might,
    They couldn’t shift this colossal weight.

    Suddenly – WHISTLE!
    Suddenly – bustle!
    Steam – eruption!
    Wheels – in motion!

    Slowly at first, like a tortoise just waking
    Strains the engine, every single joint aching.
    But it jerks at the wagons and pulls with great zeal,
    It turns, and it turns, wheel after wheel.
    It gathers momentum and takes up the chase
    As it thunders and hammers and speeds up the pace.

    And where to? And where to? And where to? Straight on!
    By rail, by rail, by bridge, now it’s gone –
    Through mountains and tunnels, through meadows and woods
    It’s rushing, it’s rushing to bring on the goods,
    It’s knocking out rhythms like banging a drum
    DUM-buDUM, DUM-buDUM DUM-buDUM-DUM!

    It’s gliding so smoothly – no effort at all,
    No engine of steel, just a little toy ball,
    No massive machine, all panting and puffing
    But a plaything of tin, that weighs next to nothing.

    From where does it, how does it, why does it rush?
    And what is it, who is it, gives it a push?
    That makes it go faster, all thrashing and hissing?
    It’s steam’s scalding power that keeps the train moving.
    It’s steam, piped from boiler to a piston that glides
    Back and forth pushing rods that turn wheels on both sides,
    They’re striving and driving, the train keeps on bumping,
    ‘Cause steam keeps the pistons a-pumping and pumping,
    Producing a rhythm so pleasing to some:
    DUM-buDUM, DUM-buDUM DUM-buDUM-DUM!

    Danusha,

    Many thanks for everything you said in the last thread. I hope 2013 will be good to you.

    Liron Rubin










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  5. I'm speechless...

    Tomas Linetzky

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  6. Thank you for the award Liron! My first. I am just off to buy the designer frock for the award ceremony.

    And thanks very much for the translation of the Train poem. Its wonderful. Now that really is a poem. And it takes me back to my childhood - when that is just how trains were.

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  7. It needs explanation that the translation Liron kindly posted is by Michael Dembiński. I find it fully congenial, translating into English both the meaning and the rhythm and form of the original poem.
    There are a few other translations available, consider this one by Walter Whipple:
    A big locomotive has pulled into town,
    Heavy, humungus, with sweat rolling down,
    A plump jumbo olive.
    Huffing and puffing and panting and smelly,
    Fire belches forth from her fat cast iron belly.

    Poof, how she's burning,
    Oof, how she's boiling,
    Puff, how she's churning,
    Huff, how she's toiling.
    She's fully exhausted and all out of breath,
    Yet the coalman continues to stoke her to death.

    Numerous wagons she tugs down the track:
    Iron and steel monsters hitched up to her back,
    All filled with people and other things too:
    The first carries cattle, then horses not few;
    The third car with corpulent people is filled,
    Eating fat frankfurters all freshly grilled.
    The fourth car is packed to the hilt with bananas,
    The fifth has a cargo of six grand pi-an-as.
    The sixth wagon carries a cannon of steel,
    With heavy iron girders beneath every wheel.
    The seventh has tables, oak cupboards with plates,
    While an elephant, bear, two giraffes fill the eighth.
    The ninth contains nothing but well-fattened swine,
    In the tenth: bags and boxes, now isn't that fine?

    There must be at least forty cars in a row,
    And what they all carry -- I simply don't know:

    But if one thousand athletes, with muscles of steel,
    Each ate one thousand cutlets in one giant meal,
    And each one exerted as much as he could,
    They'd never quite manage to lift such a load. First a toot!
    Then a hoot!
    Steam is churning,
    Wheels are turning!

    More slowly - than turtles - with freight - on their - backs,
    The drowsy - steam engine - sets off - down the tracks.
    She chugs and she tugs at her wagons with strain,
    As wheel after wheel slowly turns on the train.
    She doubles her effort and quickens her pace,
    And rambles and scrambles to keep up the race.
    Oh whither, oh whither? go forward at will,
    And chug along over the bridge, up the hill,
    Through mountains and tunnels and meadows and woods,
    Now hurry, now hurry, deliver your goods.
    Keep up your tempo, now push along, push along,
    Chug along, tug along, tug along, chug along
    Lightly and sprightly she carries her freight
    Like a ping-pong ball bouncing without any weight,
    Not heavy equipment exhausted to death,
    But a little tin toy, just a light puff of breath.
    Oh whither, oh whither, you'll tell me, I trust,
    What is it, what is it that gives you your thrust?
    What gives you momentum to roll down the track?
    It's hot steam that gives me my clickety-clack.
    Hot steam from the boiler through tubes to the pistons,
    The pistons then push at the wheels from short distance,
    They drive and they push, and the train starts a-swooshin'
    'Cuz steam on the pistons keeps pushin' and pushin';
    The wheels start a rattlin', clatterin', chatterin'
    Chug along, tug along, chug along, tug along! . . . . .


    T Linetzky

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    Replies
    1. Tomas Linetzky, thanks so much for that.

      Want to contribute a guest blog post about being ... did you say you are part Polish, part Jewish, and now living in Ireland? Forgive me if I have not remembered correctly.

      Delete
    2. I live in Ireland for twelve years now. Regarding my ethnic background, suppose you realize that being Jewish is a bit akin to being a virgin - either you are or you are not, there's nothing like being part Jewish or half-virgin :-) At least, that's the way the "real" Jews see it.
      Therefore I would rather say that I am of a mixed, Polish-Jewish or Jewish-Polish family background, without putting to much emphasis on either part of it. As time goes by, I tend to see the world without any specific national bias.
      T. L.

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    3. Tomas, no, no, no!

      Identity is fluid and a human creation.

      I have a friend who is a rabbi and an atheist. I have another acquaintance who identifies herself as "Jewish by insertion," because she has had Jewish lovers. People have insisted that I'm Jewish (I'm not -- not religiously, no Jewish ancestry.) Other identify as half Jewish half Irish Catholic ...

      Delete
    4. "Identity is fluid and a human creation." Is it? So please, become an Eskimo... If you can... Than I will believe you. :-)

      I meant it a joke. But seriously I think identity is a much more complex phenomenon and arises in a lengthy process and greatly beyond one's consciousness so if your girl likes Jewish lovers, she may eventually become some Jewish, but only in part... Here I stop.

      Your friend atheist rabbi took me by surprise. O tempora! O mores!! I happen to know one bishop, who is atheist, but by requirements of his office he cannot admit it publicly. He is, however, a good and honest card player and a nice chap in general, so I can forgive him being somewhat crooked in other departments.
      Does your Rabbi friend inform his followers, that he does not believe in God he invokes at the ceremonies? Do they like it? Is he openly an atheist-Rabbi? I am myself atheist and do not care about God, but I have a bit of respect for other people's convictions. I may not like them, but they have a good right to be the way they are and not be cheated, pretty much the same way as you would expect beef in hamburger and not a horse meat. So is the Rabbi true to them?
      If he does not believe in what he does, that's a one life awfully wasted. If he does not tell them, he becomes a horse meat burger. (For further reference to horse meat please refer to main European papers from last week)

      BTW, Pope Benedict has just resigned his job. Wonder, if he believes in God?
      T. L.

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    5. TL -- there's actually a ... what to call it ... tribe? Of atheist rabbis. If you google it you will find many members.

      One of the arguments of Bieganski the book is that increasing secularism among Jews requires the Bieganski stereotype ... religious and observant Jews are less likely to need it.

      Yes, my friend lets his congregants know about his doubts. And, again, he is not alone. There are other atheist rabbis out there.

      TL -- you are an atheist? Don't let Sue Knight know. She will attempt to bring you around. I hope she is successful.

      Delete
    6. > there's actually a ... what to call it ... tribe? Of atheist rabbis. If you google it you will find many members.
      That suits the broader picture of arising hollowness. Nicotine-free cigarettes, sugar-free sweets, alcohol-free beer, fat-free cheeses, calories-free food etc. Only names (etiquettes? "acquired identities?") remain in place, and could be replaced with something else at will. Beef replaced with horse meat for that instance, who cares. Everything can be named anything. Soon to explain who is a rabbi or a cheese instead of one word you will need perhaps ten, to describe that however guy calls himself rabbi he is not/or he is religious, he believes or not etc. Total deconstruct. Poor language deprived of meaning.
      If your rabbi friend's followers know he is not religious, what actually the expect from him ? What they do together? Just observe hollow rites? He may, of course, dispense some moral/social advise without relation to religion, but then why call him self rabbi? Or priest, or mullah. In Europe he would call himself Mr. Suchandsuch, advisor and everybody would be perfectly happy, while using a term "rabbi" or "priest" could potentially have unpleasant consequences for him as we are here somewhat more attached to the meaning of things.

      >One of the arguments of Bieganski the book is that increasing secularism among Jews requires the Bieganski stereotype ... religious and observant Jews are less likely to need it.

      As they cannot congregate in name of God, or around some other positive idea, they perhaps define themselves in negative terms - not who is with us, but who (is perceived) against us. Thus "Biegański" becomes indispensable as a reference point for their identity. That does not bother me much. English believe Scottish are stupid, French think more or less the same about Belgians, if you go to the south of Europe you will realize that almost everybody down there hates his neighbours and describes himself by whom he hates. Feature of human nature.

      >you are an atheist? Don't let Sue Knight know. She will attempt to bring you around. I hope she is successful.

      Yes, I am, and normally I do not discuss the matters of religion considering it a totally hollow, leading to nowhere waste of time. The concept is entirely alien to me.

      T.L.

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  8. The nation has been poisoned with the venom of hatred and does not want us."

    The soviets (written with small letters on purpose) knew, what they were doing-the NKVD was very keen in recruting the scum from all minorities they could find in order to divide whole populations. Ironically, after they had no use for them any more, they dropped them. This happened to the Jewish community as well :-( Had there been no eastern empire of evil, I am sure of one thing-That we Poles would not only have rebuild (powered by German restitution money, as there would have been no Cold War afterwards) our country, but also Polish Judaism to full glory, powered by the shared experience of fight and suffering. But thanks to the soviet union, all was lost. Its sheer irony, that the nephews of those, who survived the Nazi German camps, often are living in Israel as atheists, or as little Jewish as possible-whenas Poland really had the potential to become the Holy Land of Jewish theology :-(

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    Replies
    1. Hannah,

      I just wanted to let you know that I saw the comment you posted towards the end of the comments section to the Coren thread. Although I do not agree with most of what you wrote there, I certainly appreciate the effort to "clear things up" and to elevate the discussion to a more civilized level.

      Danusha,

      "Jewish by insertion" is wonderful. Please tell your friend that she can consider that line stolen. I won't be able to use it, as I was Jewish before insertion, but . . . oh, never mind.

      You wrote that, "Identity is fluid and a human creation." Yes! Brian Porter wrote an insightful article, which you no doubt have read, on Catholic identities in Poland. It is called "Why Do Polish Catholics Hate the Jews? Making Sense of a Stupid Question" and can be read here:

      http://www.academia.edu/2306193/Why_Do_Polish_Catholics_Hate_the_Jews_Making_Sense_of_a_Stupid_Question


      Liron Rubin

      Delete
    2. Liron, glad you like that line. :-)

      Yes, I like Hannah. Glad you appreciated her efforts.

      About identity being fluid -- oh, heck yes. In the US we think of white / black as the ultimate difference. But you have blacks who live as whites -- Anatole Broyard, for example, and whites who live as blacks -- Johnny Otis.

      Here's a story about people with white skins who insist that they are black:

      http://stateofthereunion.com/pike-county-ohio

      And, of course, you have the men who live as women and women who live as men.

      these are extreme examples.

      One of my favorite moments in the research I did for "Bieganski"

      I asked one of my informants, after I'd been interviewing him for over and hour, "Have you ever looked across a crowded room, seen someone, and said to yourself, 'That person is Jewish'?"

      He said, "Oh, yes. You, for example. As soon as I met you, I knew you were Jewish."

      This has happened to me all my life. People think I'm Jewish. People think my sister is Native American. People think my father is Italian.

      But, no. We're Polish Catholic. That's it.

      I said to my informant, "I'm not Jewish."

      he was thunderstruck. Amazed.

      "but, but, surely you are Jewish!"

      "Nope. Not at all. I'm Catholic."

      i asked him why he was so convinced I was Jewish. he said it was my sarcasm and political banter.

      This interview was conducted in the Midwest. I noticed that a lot of Jews there associated sarcastic humor with Jewishness. Midwesterners tend not to be sarcastic.

      To me, sarcasm is a Polish trait.

      Liron, about the Brian Porter article ... I think I heard him present that. I looked at the link you posted and it looked familiar to a talk he gave at IU years ago.

      Delete
  9. That's a lovely picture, a tad naive however. What, if... Go one step further back, imagine Germans have not invaded Poland in September, and you get an even more attractive landscape. Move further down the road, imagine Germans have never had delivered Lenin to Petersburg in 1916... Even more rosy picture arises. And what's the conclusion of all that? The conclusion is that anachronistic thinking along the lines "What if?" leads to nowhere, just dreams... Dream on.

    T Linetzky

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  10. Those interested in Julian Tuwim and his relation to Polishness may be interested to know that I have recently reviewed three additional items related to this poet. To see these reviews, please click on my name in this specific posting, and then click on the additional items in the first comment under my review.

    ReplyDelete

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You comment is less likely to be posted if:
You do not include a first and last name.
Your comment is not in Standard English, with enough errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar to make the comment's meaning difficult to discern.
Your comment includes ad hominem statements, or You-statements.
You have previously posted, or attempted to post, in an inappropriate manner.
You keep repeating the same things over and over and over again.