This Just In: Books Dangerous to Poland

...Or so the Polish Minister or Education, Roman Giertych (of the significantly disturbing League of Polish Families party), would have you believe. So Giertych is taking the liberty of banning some of the greatest works of literature from the Polish school curriculum. One would say this act is reminiscent of the novel 1984, but soon Polish students won't know that one either.

Polish writers Witold Gombrowicz, Joseph Conrad, and Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) are among those on the list, along with Franz Kafka, Goethe, and Frydor Dostoyevsky. Who's not on the list? Jan Dobraczynski, a conservative writer (and we use the term loosely) whose books include eulogies to former Pope John Paul II. Perhaps because of misplaced patriotism, Polish Nobel-prizewinner Henryk Sienkiewicz has not been banned either; however, descendants of the writer have actually written to Giertych, demanding that his books be removed on the grounds that their rightful place is among the cancelled books, not with Dobraczynski.

Of course, Giertych's move has not gone unnoticed or uncriticized by the Polish and European literary communities. Foreign journalists have been likening the government's plans to crackdowns under the Nazis and Communists. A renowned contemporary Polish writer, Andrzej Stasiuk, remarked that the Education Minister would be better off on a farm, as he's trying to turn Polish youth into herds of unthinking sheep. Protests have also come from Nobel-prizewinning poet Wislawa Szymborska, as well as several European leaders.

In an almost literary ironic twist, Gombrowicz's famous novel Ferdydurke (now banned) mirrors this absurd situation. The novel witnesses a 30 year old man who is kidnapped by a teacher and forced to undergo grade school again, complete with full indoctrination in national identity through the literature of the Polish greats. A characteristic moment occurs when the students ask the teacher why they need to read (nationalist poet) Cyprian Norwid; "Because he's great! And he's a writer!" is the teacher's response. Such seems to be Giertych's reasoning, except in this instance the word "great" is replaced with the words "nationalistic, conservative, and doesn't encourage free thinking".


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