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Title: Eurosarmata : o postawach i wyborach Henryka Sienkiewicza
Authors: Kosowska, Ewa
Keywords: Henryk Sienkiewicz; krytyka i interpretacja; sarmatyzm
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Katowice : Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Abstract: Traditional Polish culture identified the “spiritual” above all with the sphere of religion and morality. It considered artists as “pretentious aesthetes.” Intellectuals, on the other hand, were admired, but their messages were rarely understood. The aesthetic needs, sometimes very refined, were more often met in the process of consumerism than production. It derived largely from the approach to the handcraft in general, and particularly to the native one. However, despite clear inclinations to individualism, they took into account the public opinion. Locally, the neighbours’ opinion was highly valued, and sometimes treated as manifestation of old-boyism, small-town mentality, later on, provincialism on a beyond-local scale, though, citizenship attitudes were also attempted to be shaped based on the public opinion. Social relations giving the sense of familiarity, tribal in their provenance, translated into a certain form of conservatism metaphorically called Sarmatism with time. It seems that Sienkiewicz relatively quickly recognized a fundamental axiological structure of our culture. He could appreciate the power and value of basic community attitudes, and referred to them often in his novels, speeches and feature writing. In order to reveal the mechanisms hidden in them, Sienkiewicz had to work out an appropriate distance that allowed him to avoid an over-excessive personal engagement, and, at the same time, maintain a natural attachment with a native tradition. There is no evidence to claim that he did it fully aware. One should rather think that he skillfully made use of experiences he had. The fate dealt him a life in a journey. One of the most outstanding Polish writers was de facto a globetrotter that became a citizen of Europe with time. Sienkiewicz wrote on trains, in hotels and boarding houses, when visiting family and friends. He met hundreds of people, visited museums, went to theatres and concerts, followed and commented on political events, and lived an eventful social life. He left thousands of letters he wrote to his family, friends and colleagues. He was fascinated with Europe at that time that did not only experienced trauma after the French Revolution and Napoleonic battles, but also flourished civilizationally entering the era of an abrupt industrialization. At the same time, Sienkiewicz was aware of a peculiar “end of our world,” a slow death of a system of value built on a traditional agrarism. Yet, he belonged to a big community of gentry “knocked off their perch.” But it is those “knocked off,” like the peasants, that were “taken fetters off their legs with shoes” after granting property, that seemed most strongly attached to a tradition ethos, rarely managed to adapt to new civilization conditions, and needed a psychological support in constant battles for their daily bread. What an ambitious writer could offer them under such circumstances was a story gracing the past, values coming from national uprisings having a discreet charm of Sarmatian tradition to which he was strongly attached. But Sienkiewicz was also a European by choice and necessity. He looked at Poland from the perspective of a person travelling across the whole continent, and Europe from the perspective of an inhabitant of a periphery country devoid of its own statehood at one time, and through the prism of his own experienced gained on other continents at some other. He used to build his own writing personality on various bases. He did not resign from the tradition inherited after his predecessors, and did not criticize what was different for being different. He was trying to harmoniously combine the developments of technical civilization with the oldnobleman ethos. If any of the Polish writers can be called Euro-Sarmatian, it is Sienkiewicz. Perhaps such a situation is the result of not only multiple choices, but a fortunately played game where the stake was not only maintaining a cultural identity and memory about the role of Poland and Europe, but also presenting a native potential. The writer who has become a one-man-institution, a national symbol of success, and, at the same time, an authority on political issues since he published the Trilogy, rarely avoided occasions to support initiatives consolidating the community of Poles in “historically difficult times” in practice. He was a member and an honourable member of numerous associations, gave lectures and took part in meetings, as well as engaged in various social actions. The traces of his activity can be found above all in feature writing and correspondence. He did not escape from ideological declarations, but, being in favour of particular solutions, never ended up moralizing, and avoided intrusive didacticism. Perceived as a conservative gracing a Sarmatian past of the nation devoid of its own statehood, he was, at the same time, modern and extremely mobile, as well as one of the most outstanding citizens of Europe at that time, and a rationalist engaged in the political discourse. The popularity of his vision of history in which he accentuated honesty and bravery of the old Poles made him a moral authority, even more, due to the fact that he reacted to present-day events with dignity. A unique model of Euro-Sarmatism worked out by Sienkiewicz has become in this book the subject of the series of analyses and interpretations made from the perspective of a historian and theoretician of culture.
ISBN: 9788322622285
Appears in Collections:Książki/rozdziały (W.Fil.)

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