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March 13, 1970 - Image 5

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Friday, March 13, 1970


Po'ge Fl've(

Friday, March 13, 1970 THE MICHIGAN DAILY

P6~e Five



Tadeusz Konwicki, A DREAM-
MIT Press, 1969, $5.95.
Leopold Buczkowski, BLACK
1069, $5.95.
Stanislaw Dygat, CLOAK OF
1969, $5.95.
BUT in 1952 with a Stalinist
"production" novel (recently
burned at the stake in China),
Konwicki proceeded after the
1956 thaw in Poland to produce
10some of the most original fic-
tion imaginable in the Com-
munist bloc. The novel under
review, now published for the
first time in English transla-
tion, is compared rather omin-
ously on the jacket to Conrad
and Camus, and has been called
"one of the most terrifying nov-
els in contemporary Polish lit-
erature" (Milosz). To make
things even worse, t h e novel
starts with a suicide attempt
from which the narrator is sav-
ed by someone pushing an arti-
ficial arm down his throat, forc-
ing him to regurgitate whatever
it was he took. But at least a
third of the novel presents some
of the most comic characters in
modern Polish fiction and a love
story that has what film-mak-
ers ould call a "tenderly poig-
nant' mood.
Konwicki has had a g o o d
deal of experience, in writing
and directing films (the Grand
Prix at Venice, 1968, f o r in-
stance), so it is hardly surpris-
ing to find certain film techni-
ques used in his fiction. Long
sections of the novel are cast
in the form of flash-backs and/
or dreams - somewhat hackn-
eyed devices to us, perhaps, but
still new and fresh in a Polish
context, where novels were for
nearly a decade written under
the stifling rule of "Socialist
These flash-backs and / or
dreams are the "terrifying"
part of which Milosz speaks.
They recount the young natrrat-
or's experiences during World
War II, in Nazi-occupied Po-
land, as he fights with the "un-
derground", army against t h e
Russians, in Soviet - occupied
Lithuania. Of course, Konwicki
never says who is fighting
whom, or where, but an occas-
ional place-name, phrase, brief
description or single word strat-
egically placed make it all clear
enough, and in any case, Kon-

wicki here is working in the
nineteenth-century Polish ;it-
erary tradition, when authors
had to carry on a ceaseless bat-
tle of wits against the Russian
censorship established in War-
saw. Polish' readers are s t il l
adept at perceivinghints or ,im-
plications in novels.
Other "terrifying" sections in-
clude the narrator's long, night-
mare-like "trial" in post-war
Warsaw, as he tries to defend
himself against charges of mur-
dering fellow-countrymen dur-

Indeed, in the course of a sen-
tence, the narrator can shift
from "I" to "he" then to "we,"
and the effect is that of fish in
an aquarium, where one doesn't
know which fish is following
which, and it doesn't matter,
because all the circling fish are
tightly enclosed.
To make things more arduous,
the narrator clearly has diffi-
culty in speaking at a l1, like
Beckett or Cayrol. This defect
(if it is one - Buczkowski no-
where implies that it is) char-
acterizes t h e entire novel, in
which chaos dominates over ev-
erything else.
All the same, a terrifying and
sometimes poignant narrative
emerges, with brief scenes, here
and there, that remain in the
mind like personal experience-
a major achievement for any
RIGHT, the original title of this
n o v el "Disneyland") was
changed, not very happily. Not
that "Disneyland" is a satisfac-
tory title either, though it pos+-
sesses more exotic allure in Po-
land than here.
The trouble with Dygat's nov-
el, is that it does not seem to
h a v e much point. Of course,
novels do not need to have a
point, especially if t h e y are
good -iovels. However, Dygat's
"day in the life of" (I have al-
ready forgotten his name) a
celebrated athlete who lives in
Cracow, is one of the least in-
teresting novels I h a v e read
this week. At least we may be
thankful this character is not
a celebrated novelist living in
Omaha. In any c a s e, Dygat
gives us some insight into his
muddled brain, as he "becomes
involved" (as they say in TV
Guide) with several women (I
have forgotten their names too'i,
providing Dygat with the op-
portunity for numerous pas-
sages of embarrassing improb-
ability. 'these are not improved
by the translator's embarrass-
ment at having to translate
There is a blandness about
the writing: Dygat himself is a
very bland person, though it
must be said in his favor that

Bate and

the shadow of

Walter Jackson Bate, THE
University Press, 1970, $5.95.
In this set of four lectures de-
livered at the University of Tor-
onto last November, Mr. Bate
tries to engage his general aud-
ience with the relevance of this
self-questioning study in the his-
tory of 18th century ideas. Mr.
Bate, whose previous work on
Johnson, Keats and Coleridge
are outgrowths of a deep-rooted
concern with the interrelation
of the classic-and-romance tem-
peraments, here reorganizes fa-
miliar material. The point of
focus, "tradition and the in-
dividual talent," to use T. S.
Eliot's formulation, provides a
center of discussion for that ser-
ies of dichotomies which reflect
the inherent division in the
"18th century mind," and which
generated the psychological in-
tensity of 19th century roman-
ticism: the struggle between neo-
classic taste and romantic vis-
ion. stylistic refinement and pri-
mitivistic ideas, deorum and or-
ganicism, skill and genius, imi-
tation and originality, formal-
ism and sincerity, fancy and
imagination, ideas of order and
the impulse towards revolution.
The angle of vision in this
series of lectures places the
speaker in the observable centre
of *his subject. One feels that
Mr. Bate; is committed to his
function as scholar by virtue of
the common human element he
finds in investigating the minds
of great men. The conclusion of
this study, the maxim that "you
[ are ] enjoined to admire and at
the same time to try, at all
costs, not to follow closely what
you admire ... ," is intended to
serve as the statement of a

general, and for Mr. Bate, per-
sonal dilemma.
The author, who has lived with
the subject of this book in
various forms since his essay
in 1939 on Keats' negative cap-
ability, has attempted to make
relevant to the current revolt
against academism and formal-
ism his constant concern with
what he calls the "eighteenth
century debate with itself." The
struggle for identity, he sug-
gests, is a process by which rad-
ical and conservative forces in
history become the warp and
woof of human metaphysics, a
point of view that frames the
past as a subject for continual
contemplation. "The burden of
the past," less a point of fact
than a matter of mind, sup-
poses that the genius of revolu-
tionary periods, such as the lat-
ter half of the 18th and 20th
centuries, must have its roots in
the past, and first struggles with
its own consciousness of that
past before it can recast the
image of man.
The art and literature of ro-,
manticism fulfills itself in the
person of the artist who out-
grows the intimidiation of his
tory. And the Age of Aquarius,
presumably, has come to over-
throw that period of "dry,
hard" classicism that T. E.
Hulme posthumously declared
was due to counter the aesthe-
tic and moral spiritualism of
the 19th century. The present
age, surfeited with such self-
refining verities as imagism,
new criticism, and logical postiv-
ism has before it the precedent,
of romantic release, originating
in the Age of Enlightment with
the now established shibboleth
of a return to the intrinsic "na-
ture" of things,
The novelty of Mr. Bate's ar-
gument is its attempt to, cor-
rect some current conceptions
about the origin of neoclassicism
and the function of romantic re-

volt. The period of classical li-
terature in 18th century Eng-
land, he maintains, did not ori-
ginate in contempt of crude
monuments of impassioned art,
but rather attempted to culti-
vate with due humility w h a t
titans like Shakespeare a n d
Milton left posterity, the polish-
ing of imposing models of hu-
man genius. Terms like "grace"
and "propriety" became watch-.
words of a faithful contingent
refining the cultural accomplish-
ments of the past.
As a result, the gradual en-
trenchment of neoclassical val-
ues resulted in a simultaneous
revolt from within the rational
structure of neoclassical think-
ing. It was the pre-romantic ad-
justment of advocates in the
front ranks (Pope, Johnson,
Hume, e.g.) that proved to be
primarily responsible for t h e
full unleashing of romantic
principles. Polarization was an
internal not external phenomen-
on, Bate contends. Indeed it
was the impact of forces ex-
ternal to the artistic process, al-
vances "in knowledge, communi-
cation and general civilization,"
that gave rise to the recurrent
stoical notion that culture was
devolving, a notion which pre-
pared the psychological ground
for a grass-roots overhauling of
existing forms of expression.
The attractiveness of these
arguments, however, does not
assure ther of general accept-
ance. As an audience we are in-
vited within the periphery -of
Mr. Bate's purview of a parti-
cular dilemma in the realm of
ideas, and in the course of the
lectures we seem to be follow-
ing a not unfamiliar pattern of
argument, relieved to come fin-
ally into the open air of roman-
tic ideas. We are glad to learn
once again that the classical
past is not alien to our repeat-
ed search for revaluation, and

that respect for monuments of
the past does not preclude the
natural striving for personal ex-'
pression. M. H. Abrams, in The
Mirror and the Lamp, Emerson
Marks, in The Poetics of Reason,
and Mr. Bate himself, in From
Classic to Romantic, have by
parallel paths pointed the way
out of an abiding problem. If
we wonder whether our close
attention to the argument is
amply enough rewarded by its
general import, we need
only consult Mr. Bate's respect
for Johnsonian common sense:
that to maintain balance in our
response to experience we have
to seek out not what seems
continually new, but rather what
will "fill to mind" as we "wear
out the day."
What is so rare in academic
writing is the willingness of the
writer to bend to the burden of
the problem his pwn presence


int ensifies. We wonder if Mr.
Bate doesn't purposely confuse
the referent of the Johnsonian
,we" or "one" used throughout
his study. "We are thrown
back," he claims, "upon o u r -
selves and the realization that
it is we who are collectively
creating the circumstances we
deplore . " . (p. 8>. And in a
similar vein: "There is already
more than enough from the
past to occupy a longer life than
any of us is given. No, one did
not make one's entry into some-
thing so important-- or jtry to
maintain oneself in one's dif-
ficult middle years - by open-
ly advertising one's inadequacies
and dread of impotence, espec-
ially in a calling that one was
by no means beit g forced to
choose" (p. 96). The argument
thus stated reveals finally a por-
trait of the man wholly engaged
in his subject.

, : '


ing the w a r (by implication,
they were Communists), preced-
ed by a gruesome street acci-
dent xhich adds to the general
feeling of horror and oppres-
sion. These sections are, per-
haps, all the more horrifying by
being juxtaposed with th e
scenes of comedy which make
up the narrator's life "now."
There are characters like the
sexy Regina, her ferocious lov-
er the partisan (with an arti-
ficial .arm), Miss Malvina and
her dotty b r o t h e r, creepy
"Count" Pac, who insists he is
merely a downtrodden "prole,"
and Glowko. the most incom-
petent policeman in fiction.
Stranded in an isolated com-
munity, d ue to be evacuated
when their valley is flooded to
make a resevoir, these individ-
uals squabble, make love, eat
a rid drink (to0o much, some-
times) in a series of scenes cre-
ated by the hand of a present-
day Gogol.
DINARY NOVEL has won crit-
ical acclaim in Warsaw's liter-
ary circles ever since it w a s
published in 1954. In transla-
tion, it was also highly esteemed
in Japan. No reason for this
has ever been put forward.
Since 1954, the question has
been asked "Why has not Black
Torrent been translated into
English?" Atlast one has ap-
peared, and the only question
that remains is "Who is going
to read it?"
To be sure, there are similar-
ities in theme and setting be-
tween it and Jerzy Kosinski's
The Painted Bird, e.g. the ag-
ony of children under the Nazi
occupation of Poland in World
War II. But there similarities
end: in terms of fictional tech-
nique, Buczkowski's novel is
something entirely different.
For a long time, the reader
stumbles through strange, ap-
parently disjointed incidents,
often without being at all sure
w h o these strange personages
are, or ,who is speaking. Long
conversations are reported ver-
batim, inside other conversa-
tions, and the quotation marks
have to be watched carefully.
Also .
One of the nicer aspects of
the eagerness of publishers to
cash in on the Black Power
movement is the publication of
many novels by black authors
who otherwise might have been
passed over. Collier Books has
just relased three1 nteresting
new paperbacks in their Afri-
can/American Library series.
George Lamming's Two Worlds
C olli d e, an autobiographical
novel which ievokes the coming-
of-age of a Barbadian boy in
his dying primitive culture, has
elicited from V. S, Pritchett:"
"One is back again in the pages
of Huckleberry Finn." A novel
by Richard Rive, a native of
Cape Town, South Africa, cen-
ters around the Sharpesville
Massacre of 1960 and delves
into the racist tactics of the
South African police; the title of
the novel is Emergency. A
lighter tale is told by Ferdinand
Oyono in Boy!, a novel concern-
ed with "what it means to be a
black houseboy in a white Afri-
can household."
Ballantine Books,, in coordi-
nation with an organization
called Friends of the Earth, has
published The Environmental
Handbook; it is both an antho-
logy on the ecological situation
today and a compendium of pro-
posed tactics aimed at amelio-
rating that situation. A useful
biblography, including a list of
films, may be found here.
The incredible, tragi - comic
trial of the Chicago 7 is pre-
sented by Bantam Books in an

abbreviated form as The Tales
of Hoffman.

Segal's love for the millions

Erich Segal, LOVE STORY,
Harper & Row, 1970, $4.95.
A sense of skepticism invades
the literary-minded when he dis-
covers that portions of the book
he is reading "first appeared in
The Ladies' Home Journal. This
fear seems justified when, novel
completed, he can envision sub-
urban housewives wiping doleful
eyes with their gravy-stained
aprons. Yet some degree of es-
thetics is involved here, if for
no other reason than the fact
that a movie based on this book
will star Ali MacGraw.
Love Story deals with two
parallel love themes: the amor-
ous adventures of a poor Rad-
cliffe girl and her rich Harvard
male, and the relationships
these two have with their par-
Oliver Barrett IV has a run-
ning feud with his All-American,
upper-class father who "runs a
lot of banks." Oliver loathes "be-
ing programmed for the Bar-
rett tradition," resents his fa-
ther's intervention ("would you
like me to make a call . . ."), and
possesses an ambivalent attitude
toward Position In Life versus

individual discretion. The sha-
dow of his overbearing father
haunts every decision Oliver
makes and only after meeting
Jenny does he become his own
boss, giving up the hand feed-
ing of his subservient state in
favor of personal pride.
Jennifer Cavilleri is a good
Catholic girl who overcomes the
loss ofiher mother by being a
success at Radcliffe. She shares
with her father the epitomy of
parental rule. Theirs is a com-
panionship, on a first n a m e
basis that displays the moral
intimacy of a family brought
closer together by the loss of one
of its members.
Oliver' and Jenny hit it off
immediately: he overwhelmed
with her intelligence and phy-
sical beauty, the by his back-
ground and t e prospect of a
societally esteemed future.
Through the laws of magnetics t
they are drawn together. Al-
though Jenny is a bit of a bitch
(with a sense of humor), Oliver
sees in her another side of life
-the sensitivity inherent in
those who have had to struggle
to get where they're at. He mar-
ries her, despite his father's
cutting him off, and they begin
a life of "scrounging" until
Oliver graduates from law school

and once again gets "in the
The story moves in leaps and
bounds and we are forced to de-
termine the characters' e m o -
tions only by identification with
our own lives. What we have
here are "types" acting as we
would suspect with results as
predictable as the hockey game
between Harvard and Dart-
mouth with Oliver the captain
of the Harvard six.
Love Story is incredibly easy
to read, which may be in con-
sequence of its shallowness and
its inability to involve the read-
er any further than as an in-
nocent bystander. It does pro-
vide some facile, amusing dia-
logue and second-rate poetic in-
sights, such as one attributable
to familiarity with the world of
the super-rich: the Barrett's live
in an area where "the houses
are behind the trees."
One can understand how this
book - into its 3rd printing
before publication - would be
excellent material fop a movie,
and it will be interesting to see
whether more is done with the
substance of the story or whe-
ther it will remain a tear-jerker
for Wednesday afternoon bridge
clubs (and college coeds).

Your kind of mus.i.........
I Every one of the songs from her9 albums in one book.
Here it is, words and music to all of your Judy Collins favorites,
complete with comments, playing instructions, reminiscences
and photographs. More than a songbook, this is a very personal
I look at one of today's most popular folk singers. A perfect
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he ceased publishing during the
worst Stalinist period in Po-
land (1948-1955). Perhaps these
two elements (sentimentality
and blandness) help explain the
phen omenal popularity of Dy-
gat's novels, including this one,
in Poland and the Soviet Union.
At least seven printings (over
100,000, copies) of t h is novel
alone have been completely sold
out, and his earlier work is fre-
quently reprinted.
As usual, the MIT Press have
d o n e an excellent production
job. The peculiar-looking object
on the jacket is, of course, the
celebrated Kopciuszek Mound
outside Cracow, which is not
nearly as phallic as the design
Today's writers . .
DAVID WELSH is a Professor
of Slavic Languages and Litera-
ture at the University of Mich-
igan; he translated the three
novels which he reviews above.
on Yeats, The Dissolving Im-
age, is scheduled for April pub-
lication by the Wayne State
University Press; Mr. Levine is
an Assistant Professor of Eng-
lish at Wayne. DONALD KU-
BIT, a senior LS&A student
majoring in English, hopes to
attend the creative writing pro-
gram at the Universitybof Iowa.
Comments on all book re-
views are welcome and should
be addressed to the B o o k s

Encyclopedia 1
by Lillian Roxon 1
. nformatioin that is available I
Iowhere else-facts on over 1
600 groups AND THEN
complete listings of their
r records, singles, flip sides 1
JEDIA and LPa bumtracks.Equally 1
Wmportant, the commentary 1
is alive and exciting, "an A to
Zombies pleasure trip."
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