The title of this monograph, ‘Polish Jewish Re-Remembering’, refers to the post-1989, thirty-year-long process of reviving attention to Polish-Jewish relations in historical, cultural, and literary studies, including the impact of Jews on the development of Polish culture, their presence in Polish social life, and the relationships between Jews and non-Jews in Poland. The book consists of four parts: the first focuses on Polish, Jewish and Polish-Jewish Literature (dealing mainly with pre-1939 literary works); the second, on the post-war literary output of the Polish-Jewish writer Arnold Słucki (1920–1972); the third, on Polish-Israeli literary images in the works of writers who were active in Israel (1948–2018); and the fourth, on recent (after 2000) Polish Holocaust literature.
Introduction: Why “Re-Remembering?”
BETWEEN ARIA AND GOLUS: POLISH, JEWISH, AND POLISH JEWISH LITERATURE
1. Magen Lublin (לובלין מגן): Arnsztajnowa and Czechowicz
2. Shadows of Jewish Lublin in Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Polish Poetry
3. Polish Jews in the Army of the Second Republic: Adolf Rudnicki’s Profile i drobiazgi żołnierskie
4. Christian-Jewish Relationships: Shalom Acsh’s “The Witch from Castile”
5. The Languages of Polish Jews: Linguistic Dilemmas of Polish Jewish Poets
6. The Mythical Phenomenon of the Borderlands in Polish Jewish Poetry
7. Polish Jewish Poetry and the Child
FOUR SIDES OF TIME: THE LITERARY TRAVELS OF ARNOLD SŁUCKI
8. Polish Jewish Warsaw: Lyrical Notes
9. Two Faces of Russia: Biography and Poetry
10. “Idols” and “Idol”: Interpretations
11. A Polish Publicist in Israel
TWO LANDS AND TWO SKIES: POLISH ISRAELI LITERARY IMAGES
12. Poland and Poles in the Poetry of Authors Writing in Polish in Israel
13. The Double Messiah: Leo Lipski’s Piotruś
14. Poetry and Judaism: Anna Frajlich’s “Wiersze izraelskie”
15. Literary Criticism in the Israeli Daily Newspaper Nowiny-Kurier after 1968: A Reconnaissance
THE TEXTUAL WORLD OF THE HOLOCAUST: THE SHOAH IN RECENT POLISH LITERATURE
16. The Shoah and Topoi
Conclusion: Comparative Study of Memory
Index of Persons
Author of numerous academic articles and books, Sławomir Jacek Żurek is Professor of Polish Literature and Language at John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, member of the Polish Society for Jewish Studies, and leader of the International Research Team “21st-Century Literature and the Holocaust. A Comparative and Multilingual Perspective.”
“In this sweeping and heart-wrenching book, Slawomir Żurek takes us on a fascinating voyage from the prewar Polish-Jewish poets to Polish writers in Israel who are struggling to contend—in the shadow of the Shoah and in their mother tongue—with the shattering of their once-flourishing world. Packed with deftly sketched portraits, the result is an impassioned and poignant history of a bifurcated Polish-Jewish culture.”
— Vivian Liska, author of German-Jewish Thought and its Afterlife: A Tenuous Legacy
“This wide-ranging and path-breaking collection of essays is a comprehensive account of the way the impact of Polish Jews on the development of Polish culture, their presence in Polish social life, and relations between Jewish and non-Jewish Poles has been reflected in literature and literary criticism. These complex and controversial topics are handled in a manner that is both sensitive and dispassionate, and the book seeks to find a path to a common Polish Jewish remembering. It is essential reading for all those interested in the complex interaction of Poles and Jews.”
— Antony Polonsky, Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University, Chief Historian, Global Education Outreach Project, Museum of Polish Jews in Warsaw
“The relation between the Polish and Jewish literary fields constitutes a major area of Sławomir Jacek Żurek’s scholarly research. His dedication to ‘The Polish-Jewish Borderland’ has lasted decades, and his contributions to the field of Christian-Jewish relations and the origin of antisemitism contains important studies on historical, sociological, literary, and spiritual topics.
In Polish-Jewish Re-Remembering,Żurek aspires to a commendable goal of reevaluating a topic that’s in ‘the processes of transformation, transmutation, and transfiguration,’ to identify the crucial sources of his conclusions. The reader observespeople of different identities, including different identities among Jews themselves.
This well informed and fascinating narration provides a roadmap to dealing with one of the most difficult areas in history and literature as well as the reality we still experience around us.”
— Anna Frajlich, Senior Lecturer Emerita, Columbia University, and Polish writer.
“Zurek's book is an extensive study of Polish-Jewish relations. The area where everything is played out here is memory, and the title category of re-remembering means extracting content from the deep layers of forgetting and repression. The author's interpretive work can be called burying in memory, which has a double sense: it is about digging through memory and burying in it what has been dug up, about extracting from oblivion and entrusting the social memory with the extracted content. Even more explicitly: it's about revival and burial at the same time.
In this archaeological-philological work, the author seeks above all that which is connective, bilateral, and therefore neither exclusively Jewish nor exclusively Polish, but Jewish-Polish or even JewishPolish. He discusses literary depictions of Polish-Jewish cities (Lublin) and regions (the Borderlands), presents a common warfare (Polish Jews in the army of the Second Polish Republic), analyzes the linguistic consciousness of Polish-Jewish poets, extensively presents the work of the important poet Arnold Slutsky, and interprets the writings of Polish Jews creating in Israel.
All these studies bring us closer to the last part of the book, in which the author presents Polish literature written after 2000 as a rogue method of assimilating and processing Jewish culture. Younger writers introduce traces of the presence of Jewish culture into Polish literature but use the Holocaust as a kind of bible of the third millennium—as the broadest common language, as a system of cultural references, as a set of topoi. In addition, they introduce the Holocaust using pop culture, collective psychoanalysis, or pornography. They consider no literary tricks forbidden, no register of language inaccessible. And they shatter the system of correctness. Not because they want to use the Holocaust for scandal, but because they want to understand the Polish present—full of social aggression, transferred hatred, crafted memories and real content of displacement.
Zurek thus leads us to the conclusion that one cannot understand oneself in today's Polish society without understanding Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust. Actually, a reader could start reading the whole book from this last part. And then retreat into the depths of memory. Re-memorizing corpses of texts and corpses of bodies.”
— Professor Przemysław Czapliński, Director of Center for Open Humanities, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland