The Distant Voyages of Polish Writers (20th-21st centuries)


1. Le récit de voyage polonais : entre anthropologie et reportage

Anne-Marie Monluçon.
L’ouverture sur le vaste monde ne vient pas immédiatement à l’esprit lorsqu’on pense à la Pologne. Est‑ce parce qu’en France on associe volontiers l’intérêt pour les Ailleurs lointains à l’expérience coloniale ? Les continents non européens seraient ainsi partie intégrante de l’Histoire et des imaginaires britanniques, français, belges ou portugais, mais resteraient étrangers aux pays d’Europe centrale. Pourtant la littérature du voyage lointain peut se prévaloir, en Pologne, d’une tradition riche et ancienne et d’un succès jamais démenti auprès des lecteurs. Les articles réunis dans ce volume portent sur des auteurs illustres et consacrés (Bronisław Malinowski), mais aussi sur nombre d’auteurs ultra‑contemporains, récemment – ou pas encore – traduits (Andrzej Stasiuk, Joanna Bator). Ces travaux abordent les textes – récits, journaux, reportages, essais – dans leurs spécificités historiques et idéologiques : regard porté sur l’étranger par un pays qui n’a pas eu d’empire colonial lointain, qui a lui même longtemps subi le joug de puissances étrangères et qui a connu quarante‑cinq ans de totalitarisme. Les transferts culturels et les différentes formes de médiation sont au cœur des interrogations, puisque les écrivains voyageurs sont des médiateurs par excellence.

2. A Pole in the Far East: Trials and Tribulations of a Text between New York, Paris, and Warsaw (Ferdynand Ossendowski, Beasts, Men, and Gods)

Elżbieta Koziołkiewicz.
After the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ferdynand Ossendowski, a Polish scientist, adventurer and writer living in the Russian Empire, managed to flee the country and tell his story to the world. This account of a dangerous journey through Central Asia, titled Beasts, Men, and Gods, was published in New York thanks to the help of an American, Lewis Stanton Palen. The universally admired book was translated from English into many languages, and Ossendowski himself soon prepared a Polish version of the narrative. Although Palen was credited only as a collaborator, hisimplication in the project seems to be larger than has been so far assumed. This paper discusses hitherto unexamined letters from Palen to Ossendowski as well as details of their later cooperation to form a theory on the genesis of Ossendowski’s most famous book. It also traces the uncommon literary career of Palen who since the publication of Beasts, Men, and Gods embarked on the collaboration with several other Central and Eastern European “source-authors” whose autobiographical accounts he edited and/ or translated. While none of them seems to have later retold the events in their own language, Ossendowski did, and the most important differences between the two texts are analyzed in the context of the necessity to adjust one’s personal experiences to the foreign literary market and the implied readers’ vision of the traversed lands.

3. : A Pole in the “Far East”: Man and Mystery in Asia. Through Wild Siberia (1898‑1905) by Ferdynand Ossendowski (1923)

Anne-Marie Monluçon.
The travelogue by Antoni Ferdynand Ossendowski, Man and Mystery in Asia. Through Wild Siberia (1898‑1905), written in 1923 and translated from English into French in 1925, results from a complex editorial history and still awaits a translation from the Polish original. The aim here is to shed some light on the reasons for its success at its first reception and its rediscovery since 1989 and the rise of censorship in Poland: Why (re)read Man and Mystery in Asia? This book, which goes beyond the scientific writings of the Polish geologist, can be read at least at three additional levels: as the literary narrative of a scientist, it articulates science with economics and ecology; as a text inspired by Anglo‑Saxon or Polish adventure novels, it stands out as an anticolonial western in the Far East; as the text of an author who had escaped a manhunt by Russian and Mongolian revolutionaries in 1920‑1921, a story narrated in Beasts, Men and Gods, he depicts a whole shadow world, where the narrator experiences proximity with death and the dead.

4. Russia as a Life and Writing Experience: The Journals Of A White Sea Wolf by Mariusz Wilk

Isabelle Després.
Mariusz Wilk is a Polish prose‑writer, who travels to the remote north of Russia. His first book, The journals of a White Sea wolf reveals his originality. He tries to delve into the mysteries of the ‘Russian soul’ and history, for that he chooses to blend in with local life. That is why he settled in a faraway, but representative place, the Solovetsky Islands. He writes of the ordinary folk he meets on a daily basis. He discovers a world marked by the ruins of the Soviet prison system, but also by the secular presence of the monastery. In his notes, Wilk stops on some details with strong metaphorical potential. Finally, he writes of himself as a writer and a traveler. For in his writing and his travels, Wilk’s main aim is to find himself, to understand who he is, to think about writing that allows self‑transcendence, about the language and about the specificity of each word, with its emotional and symbolic charge. The journals of a White Sea wolf is a testimony on past and today’s Russia, a reflection on practice and literary genre of travel prose.

5. Jacek Hugo-Bader in the footsteps of Ryszard Kapuściński and Svetlana Alexievitch in the former USSR (White Fever. From Moscow to Vladisvostok, 2009)

Katia Vandenborre.
Of the four books which were written by Jacek Hugo‑Bader, three are held in Russia and in the territories of the former Soviet Union: In the Paradise Valley, Among the Weeds herbes [W rajskiej dolinie, wśród zielska, 2002], White Fever [Biała gorączka, 2009] and Kolyma Diaries [Dzienniki kołymskie, 2010]. This Russianness is the starting point of the present article which aims to place Hugo‑Bader’s literary personality in the Polish galaxy of travel writers. His interest for post‑Soviet space connects Hugo‑Bader with two writers who have distinguished themselves in this field: Svetlana Aleksievič and Ryszard Kapuściński. Considering the method, the collection of material, the relationship to witnesses, the vision of Russian power, the storytelling and the use of literature, the comparison will help to identify some of Hugo‑Bader’s most important specificities.

6. East of Andrzej Stasiuk (2014)

Agnieszka Kaczmarek.
In his book East Andrzej Stasiuk claims that he was still traveling east. Just like traveling, Stasiuk’s writings are a form of documentation and exploration of nuances, colors and differences that can be recognized in the world. In the presented text I focus on the geography of texts by Stasiuk, on the representation of Eastern Europe considered as the margin of the Old Continent. The purpose of my article is to explain what the East according to Andrzej Stasiuk is from a cultural, mental and even political point of view. Literary and travel experience encourages reflection on the new European geography after 1989 and reflection on its identity.

7. Polish writer in Asia: The Japanese Fan by Joanna Bator

Marzena Karwowska.
Joanna Bator is a contemporary writer, who has in recent years become increasingly popular not only among readers but also with critics. As an expert of culture and a scholarship winner of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Japan Foundation, she visited Tokyo three times. Published in 2004 (reprint 2011), Japoński wachlarz [The Japanese Fan] is the result of Bator’s Asian travels. The Japanese Fan is a personal and subjective recording of the experience of cultural otherness that feels an European, Polish, writer while working as a lecturer at the University of Tokyo. In this book, Joanna Bator use an original creative technique she calls: zuihitsu, “as the brush guides.” The book constituted a sort of collection or set of travel pictures from which emerges an image of Japan.

8. À Suwałki en Pologne et au Canada. Tziganes, Indiens, métis et êtres hybrides. Du cliché de l’étranger à l’hybridité exilique constitutive de la condition humaine

Piotr Bilos.
Arkady Fiedler’s Canada Smels like resin ( first edition in 1935) mixes reporting with a personal quest. The 14 stories of I doubt that you will be able to follow us (the volume was published in 2013) by Jacek Milewski exploit fiction in order to tell truths about the Polish Gypsy community. The two works reveal a common perspective that justifies studying them side by side. Arkady Fiedler and Jacek Milewski move outside their home group to communities, certainly firmly rooted in their culture, but also, in many respects, dominated and marginalized: Indians and Gypsies. The discovery of the other and its transposition into a narrative is part of a double exilic perspective, because exile affects both the subject-writer and his object of study. We think of the Edward Said’s figure of the intellectual, both outsider and exile. Born of crossing of borders, exile invites to destabilize the frameworks that belong to the native, domestic and familiar realm, to experience “foreigner” about whom we did not know much except that he is opposed to “we.” Here and there, the literary project presupposes a quasi‑scientific preparation; the establishment of quasi‑experimental conditions capable of breaking down obstacles which, in normal times, obscure or even make access to foreign countries impossible. Fiedler has extensively researched Canada and its history; his excursion, far from the main urban centers, becomes the vector of a discovery of “deep Canada.” Jacek Milewski […]

9. L’anti‑journal de voyage en Amérique de Miron Białoszewski (AAmérique, 1988 et Journal secret, 2012)

Alexander Fiut.
Miron Białoszewski was a Polish poet, novelist and playwright. He left two narratives of his trip to the United States in the fall of 1982: the first one is a travel log entitled AAmeryka [Aamerica] published in 1988, five years after Białoszewski’s death: the second one is a part of his Tajny Dziennik [Secret diary], published in 2012. One could say about America, that it is an “anti‑diary.” We can better appreciate the uniqueness of this book, if we compare his depiction of the New World, with what we can find in America [Amérique], antoher “anti‑diary,” written by Jean Baudrillard and published in 1986. Białoszewski contemplates America, maybe with some preconceived ideas, but he is shaped by his own historical experience and worldview. In his American trip, Baudrillard finds, above all, a confirmation of his catastrophist predictions.

10. Bronisław Malinowski and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz: Journey to the Polish Sources of Modern Anthropology

Anna SAIGNES ; Stanisław Jasionowicz.
In 1967, Bronisław Malinowski’s daughter published part of the journal that he kept from 1908 to 1918, as A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term. Malinowski had never intended these personal reflections, recorded during his expeditions to Mailu and the Trobriand Islands between 1914 and 1918. They became the subject of discussions and polemics. The “triviality” of the issues addressed in the Diary astonished many readers and led some critics, such as anthropologist Clifford Geertz, to conclude that the author was a “hypochondriacal narcissist.” This paper takes up several themes that arise in the debate surrounding Malinowski’s Diary in confrontation with Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s autobiographic novel 622 Downfalls of Bungo written in 1910‑1911. Witkiewicz, the Polish novelist, playwright, and artist, was a very close friend of Malinowski’s and took part in one of the anthropologist’s field expeditions. This article reconsiders Malinowski’s journal and explores the impact of Polish culture on modern anthropology. It also proposes a new perspective on the resonance of the Diary and attempts to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding its interpretation.

11. Impartial or Involved, European or Polish? In Search of the Identity of the Reporter (Today We’re Going to Draw Death by Wojciech Tochman)

Małgorzata Sokołowicz.
The present paper discusses Today We’re Going to Draw Death, a Polish reportage by Wojciech Tochman, dealing with Tutsi genocide of 1994. The analyses show that the narrator‑reporter becomes an independent protagonist of the text. His approach towards what he describes, his commitment or his impartiality as well as his European spirit dominating the Polish one seem to constitute the features of the contemporary reportage where nothing is given to the reader obliged to look for the meaning altogether with the reporter.

12. Le rôle des virtuoses dans la valorisation de la musique soviétique. Examen de la presse communiste française

Thomas Thisselin.
La valorisation en France entre 1945 et 1956 de la musique soviétique s'opère à travers les événements ou les articles de presse consacrés aux virtuoses soviétiques. La musique est valorisée par des arts ou des pratiques connexes, néanmoins parties intégrantes de la musique : l'enseignement soviétique, la danse, le cinéma… La période stalinienne d'après-guerre élargie à l'immédiat après Staline représente l'acmé de la dictature stalinienne et reste encore aujourd'hui la plus mystérieuse de l'histoire soviétique. Cette période correspond par ailleurs, en URSS, à un moment d'exacerbation de la politique culturelle dite du « réalisme socialiste » dans le domaine des arts, et spécialement de la musique. Cela exigeait de l'artiste une représentation véridique, historiquement concrète de la réalité dans son développement révolutionnaire, son devoir étant de participer à la lutte idéologique et à l'éducation des masses dans l'esprit du socialisme. Limiter la question de la réception de la musique soviétique aux réactions et aux discussions que cette musique suscitait dans les revues savantes serait ne pas prendre en compte la manière dont elle a interrogé, en tant que modèle, la sphère de la consommation musicale française en général. Il s'agit ici de ne pas interpréter la réception de la musique soviétique en France à travers celle d'un compositeur ou d'une oeuvre. Les virtuoses sont ainsi valorisés comme des intermédiaires. La force d'un tel travail réside en la […]

13. Subculture Movements and the Multi-faceted Nature of Resistance: when Dissidence Starts by Wearing Green Socks

Milàn Czerny.
International audience

14. Les Joueurs de Nikolaï Gogol, vertige des masques

Pierre-Etienne Royer.
Ixarev, un tricheur professionnel qui a fabriqué son propre jeu de cartes, rencontre un jour une bande organisée d'homologues qui lui offrent de collaborer avec eux, sous la direction de leur mentor, le Consolateur ; au moyen de la flatterie, ils obtiennent du tricheur l'abandon de toute méfiance, et en lui proposant de plumer une victime, ils l'entraînent en fait à participer à sa propre déconfiture. Voici en quelques mots le propos des Joueurs, pièce dont l'écriture commence entre 1832 et 1837, achevée en 1842, puis publiée la même année dans la première édition des oeuvres complètes de Nikolaï Gogol, préparée sous sa direction. Ce texte constitue un exemple remarquable d'imposture. Il mêle en effet d'une part le discours du mensonge, qui consiste à tromper autrui, et le discours de l'illusion, qui consiste à se tromper soi-même, et met en scène un jeu de masques vertigineux : le masque de sincérité arboré par le Consolateur, conjugué à l'aveuglement d'Ixarev, le passionné du jeu, parvient à se faire passer pour un visage, et la pièce nous amène au point d'indistinction entre ces deux phénomènes.

15. Vaissié Cécile, Le Clan Mikhalkov. Culture et pouvoirs en Russie (1917‑2017), Presses universitaires de Rennes, Rennes, 2019, 398 p.

Catherine Géry.

16. Victoroff Tatiana (dir.), 2020, Антология русской литературы начала xxi‑го века/Anthologie de la poésie russe du début du xxie siècle, YMCA‑Press, Paris, 329 p.

Galina Subbotina.

17. Anne Applebaum, 2019, Famine rouge, Grasset, Paris, 512 pages

Iryna DMYTRYCHYN.