Reduta Ordona by Adam MickiewiczTo a Pole, the name Adam Mickiewicz is emblematic of Polishness and greatness. What Homer is to the Greeks, or Shakespeare to the British, Mickiewicz is to the Poles. He is a cultural icon, a name inextricably connected with Polish literature and history, and one mentioned with pride. Mickiewicz stands out in the consciousness of Poles both as a man of letters and a political leader.
Despite his unquestionable status and fame, however, much of Mickiewiczs biography is shrouded in mystery. Even the generally accepted date of his birth, December 24. 1798, is uncertain, since it hasnt been determined whether it refers to the Gregorian or the Julian calendar. Nor has it been established conclusively whether Mickiewicz was born in Nowogrodek or at Zaosie, a mile or so apart. Many biographical facts, particularly those pertaining to his relationships with women, were deliberately obscured to preserve a flawless public image of the poet. Likewise, his interest in mysticism and involvement in mystical cults tended to be minimized, especially during the years of Communist rule in Poland when the official line was to shun spirituality of any kind, not to expose the poet to ridicule.
Mickiewiczs son. Wladyslaw, can be held partially responsible for this state of affairs, but he is not the only one. Having gained control of his fathers papers after the poets death, Wladyslaw Mickiewicz destroyed various documents which might have potentially tarnished his fathers public image. Likewise, many critics and scholars tended to overlook significant facts in the poets biography, as well as significant themes and issues in his writing, to sustain the idealized view of Mickiewicz as a Polish national bard. This tendency to carefully whitewash Mickiewicz is hardly surprising. Born three years after the final partition of Poland, Mickiewicz became a spiritual leader of the Polish nation. An ardent patriot, he animated the Polish national spirit through his poetic, dramatic and political writings, providing hope and spiritual sustenance to Poles under the Russian, Prussian and Austrian rule, as well as to the many exiles, particularly the emigre circles in Paris, where he settled in 1832. Given the history of Poland and the long streak of political oppression and subjugation, the need for heroes and the idealization of Mickiewicz as a leader are perfectly understandable.
Yet already in the 1930s, there were critical voices against the bowdlerization of Mickiewiczs work (since some editions of his works eliminated the more racy passages) and objections were raised against the cover-up in renditions of his biography. The prominent critic, Tadeusz Boy-Zielenski, for instance, in his work Brazownicy objected to the distortions of facts and the sins of omission in critical writings on Mickiewicz. In recent years, a much more vast and thorough re-examination of Mickiewicz life and oeuvre has occurred. This is partially due to the overall re-examination of Polish history and Polish literary tradition after the collapse of Communism and, generally. a much greater openness in discussions of various issues previously relegated to the sphere of national taboos. Thus, much has been written lately about the white spots in Mickiewiczs biography. particularly about his mystical leanings and the Jewish origin of his mother. The evidence of Mickiewiczs fascination with mysticism is overwhelming, and there is some basis for the allegation of his mothers Jewishness.
(quoted from Regina Grols piece posted on InfoPolan, University of Buffalos website; for continuation see link below)
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In his work Limit Experiences, Jacek Leociak addresses questions that are fundamental to the twentieth-century experience: How can we represent such traumatic events as the Holocaust? Was Lyotard correct when he claimed that reality had succumbed to the gas chambers? There are events that break the life of an individual in a single moment. An understanding of the depth of the crisis comes with time, early for some, later for others. An awareness grows that things will never again be like they were.
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