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Dialog and the Socialist World: The Spectrum of Influence Edward J. Czerwinski Dialog, the Polish monthly devoted to the dramatic arts, edited by Adam Tarn, was first published in May, 1956, several months before the Polish October. During the past twelve years of publication, Dialog has influenced not only drama and theater in Poland but in other Socialist countries as well, including Czechoslovakia, where until October, 1967, (when several writers were chastised and literary journals were placed under government control, only to be given complete freedom in March, 1968, to say and publish what they wish) the Theater of the Absurd had a belated but fruitful renascence. Before discussing Dialog’s influence in other Slavic countries and evalu­ ating the types of foreign plays in translation Tarn and his staff have chosen to publish, it is useful to discuss Poland’s traditional role among the Eastern European countries, especially those countries where Slavic languages are spoken. It is commonly known that Poland depends on intellectual stimu­ lation from the West. The assimilation of new ideas from abroad is often accomplished simultaneously with the introduction of these new trends in the various literary capitals of the world, Paris in particular. The question arises, however, concerning Poland’s role in this exchange: do Poland’s writers and critics merely feed upon and thrive on the literary riches of others, or do they also contribute their share to contemporary creative thought? The answer, perhaps, is best stated by Martin Esslin in his introduction to Jan Kott’s book, Shakespeare Our Contemporary, when he comments upon Poland’s position as a buffer between West and East: “ There may be, that is, for each epoch an optimum place from which to view the great autonomous work of art— a place, in fact, from which the experience of an epoch is most intensely felt and epitomized, a place from the experience of which the significance of the great work of art may emerge most clearly for an entire age. . . . It might be argued that this point of vantage might well be situated in Eastern Europe, and in Poland in particular.” 1 Esslin’s selection of Poland as the “vantage point” is not simply based on political or otherwise arbitrary consider­ ations. Rather, it is founded on easily documented facts: Esslin goes on to say that Poland, more than any other nation, has been the 55 56 Comparative Drama scene of a “ whole Dantesque inferno of concentration camps, gas chambers, genocide— and the world of ghettoes and their systematic destruction; if it is furthermore true that the debate with totalitar­ ianism in all its forms, whether fascist or Stalinist, is the crucial political and ideological issue of our age, then indeed Poland could well be regarded as a focal point of the mid-twentieth century. Poland has been through the whole gamut of that experience.” But what is more significant, according to Esslin, is that Poland is endowed with a rich cultural-literary tradition, less of the purely fanatic nationalism that other small nations have: Poland, moreover, not only suffered this experience, it also possesses the sensibility and the tradition to express it. Poland has a population that, among all the people of Eastern Europe, is truly Western in its culture as well as deeply rooted in ancient Slavonic tradition; having been a great power in its day in both the political and the cultural sense, Poland has the breadth of feeling, the self-assurance that makes it possible to evaluate all this experience without the resentments and inferiority complexes of nations still struggling for their own identity. Hence Poland could be relied on to produce outstanding individuals with the intelligence and power of perception to record the impact of these archetypal events with the highest degree of sophistication. Perhaps Esslin overstates the case, perhaps his arguments are valid only to Kott’s interpretation of the works of Shakespeare, but, nonetheless, the explanation is highly pertinent for our purpose in discussing Dialog’s role and, consequently, the contemporary Polish theater’s role in its literary relations with other Slavic countries, particularly Soviet Russia, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria— countries where Slavic langauges are spoken. Traditionally, throughout the centuries...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 55-68
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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