Shore conveys something of the tragedy of Poland and much of Europe during the 20th century. Just as Poland would suffer the worst depredations of both Nazi and Soviet socialism so to would most of the European continent. And the nightmare has by no means ended as the same failed policies are attempted today under the guise of Christian socialism – or, since all things Christian are being done away with, as pan Europeanism or whatever title they want to give it this week.
The fundamental flaw in Shore’s work is in her assumption that Grydzewski and those like him were intellectuals. They were credentialed to be sure but for the most part they were educated fools. Like the characters in Dr. Johnson’s The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, the were long on improvement and short on practical. There were true Polish intellectuals in the 20th century and we think especially of Stefan Wyszynski who passed his mantel to Karol Józef Wojtyła the first of whom stood up to Stalinism and the second of whom broke the grip of the Soviets in Eastern Europe. These are the men to study!
Caviar and ashes : a Warsaw generation’s life and death in Marxism, 1918-1968 New Haven : Yale University Press, c 2006 Marci Shore Communism Poland History 20th century Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxii, 457 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 379-446) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
“In the elegant capital city of Warsaw, the editor Mieczyslaw Grydzewski would come with his two dachshunds to a cafe; called Ziemianska.” Thus begins the history of a generation of Polish literati born at the fin de siècle. They sat in Cafe Ziemianska and believed that the world moved on what they said there. Caviar and Ashes tells the story of the young avant-gardists of the early 1920s who became the radical Marxists of the late 1920s. They made the choice for Marxism before Stalinism, before socialist realism, before Marxism meant the imposition of Soviet communism in Poland. It ended tragically.
Marci Shore begins with this generation’s coming of age after the First World War and narrates a half-century-long journey through futurist manifestos and proletarian poetry, Stalinist terror and Nazi genocide, a journey from the literary cafes to the cells of prisons and the corridors of power. Using newly available archival materials from Poland and Russia, as well as from Ukraine and Israel, Shore explores what it meant to live Marxism as a European, an East European, and an intellectual in the twentieth century.