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Amazon wishlist. My Century by Aleksander Wat. Our Assessment: B : interesting, but all over the place. Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole.
We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure. The complete review 's Review :. The translator's Introduction to Aleksander Wat's unusual autobiographical work Riverdale High - Liquor Giants - Riverdale High with the admission that: Editing this book Bad Reputation - Al Stewart - Last Days Of The Century more exacting a task than translating it.
My Century 's original two volumes had to be reduced by something like half. Why such a brutal abridgement might be thought to be a necessity or even considered justifiable is, unfortunately, Introduction To The Century - Various - Black Sunz Compilation explained. The drastic cuts, were, however apparently made, and so English-speaking readers are left with half Introduction To The Century - Various - Black Sunz Compilation story.
It's baffling, and disappointing. If we had reason to believe we should have faith in the careful editorial hand we might, just might, be willing to accept the loss -- but the early indications are not good.
So, for example, we find in Czeslaw Milosz's Foreword some discussion about the apparent obscurity of some of the people that are discussed in the book: One may well doubt The debatable point aside, the author in question is 'Friedrich Wolf'; alas, his name is misspelt here, a few pages later in Richard Lourie's Introduction "Friedrich Wolff, a German playwright"the extensive list of 'Names Mentioned in the Text', and the Index. At least there's some consistency -- though the edition in which we find all this is the paperback reprint, no one having taken the trouble to correct a fairly obvious error -- ; unfortunately, Introduction To The Century - Various - Black Sunz Compilation Index only refers to Milosz's mention, ignoring Lourie's.
More baffling, finally, is the fact that, while both Milosz and Lourie mention Wolf in their introductions -- leading one to believe he might have played a role of some interest in Wat's life -- we did not come across a mention of him in the text proper. Not a great start. As Milosz notes in his Foreword: My Century differs from those books that usually bear the name "Recollections" or "Memoirs. Arguably -- but inarguably this conversation form especially when it is then further cut in half, as the English translation was also poses some difficulties which might explain why this genre has never really taken off Admittedly, it also adds a sense of drama and immediacy: confronted with the tape Introduction To The Century - Various - Black Sunz Compilation machine, Wat says that Cant Help Falling In Love With You - The Grassmasters - Elvis Grass feels Milosz is: "performing an act of exorcism on me".
My Century consists of the transcripts of conversations Milosz had with Wat starting inspecifically for the purpose of creating such a 'memoir' because of illness Wat was unable to write as he would have liked. It follows more or less Wat's life chronologically, centered on the time between the mids and just after the end of World War II, but the more free-flowing conversation style does make for tangents and name-dropping that in a written memoir would surely have been presented more accessibly.
Indeed, the book comes with an almost page appendix of 'Names Mentioned in the Text', some of them, with the briefest of descriptions to help readers place them; however, readers not familiar with Polish and Soviet intellectual life in Introduction To The Century - Various - Black Sunz Compilation first half of the 20th century will likely find the parade of characters overwhelming.
The main strands the book follows are: Wat the editor and writer he founded the important periodical, The Literary MonthlyWat the family man, and, above all else, Wat the prisoner. Indeed, most of the book describes his time incarcerated in a wide variety of jails, in Poland Alguen.
- Xocaloma - Soio Un Sono. the Soviet Union. He has any number of interesting encounters, and nicely describes some of his fellow inmates or the conditions which varied from extremely overcrowded to surprisingly civilised.
Books were also important during that time; surprisingly he often had access to them -- though, as he notes: "We had no communist literature the entire time, no Marxist literature at all. More interesting than the jail-time is his personal literary and philosophical evolution, though the focus isn't very strongly on that.
Early on, Wat was convinced of the new system -- and accepted what that meant: I truly though that there would be no literature in a happy communist society, just as there would be no philosophy. I could see the ugliness of socialist realism, and I thought there could be no communist literature but social realism, meaning no literature. I chose what Shklovsky and the LEF group had chosen: not literature but facts, propaganda.
Wat throws out many interesting opinions along the way, too -- arguing from a completely different perspective though still embracing a similarly reactionary position by the time of the interviews: Enlightened young people in the Soviet Union know the miseries and monstrosities of communism incomparably better than Western Sovietologists do, but every word of authentic religion, idealistic thought, disinterested beauty in poetry or ethics falls on fertile ground there.
And though I personally esteem Beckett, Gombrowicz, Genet, Sartre, all that literary strip-tease Im Still Waiting - The Haywains - A37 Revisited only blight the young shoots sprouting there. His apparently consistent belief that only a certain sort of literature will do and his certainty that he knows what's good for readers and writers -- despite his own wide-ranging consumption of all and sundry unfortunately isn't something Milosz challenges him on, or explores in adequate detail.
Despite this, Wat comes across as very sympathetic, in large part because of how he describes his time in prison. He doesn't rage, and conveys the many small but remarkable prison experiences nicely, taking the best out of a horrible time in his life.
His descriptions of his time as a prisoner are dizzying too, as he is moved from one cell and city to the next eventually winding up in Kazakhstan My Century is an interesting document of how the intellectual was treated in Stalinist times, specifically the Polish experience, which was slightly different than and not quite as comprehensively horrible as the Soviet one despite Wat also spending time in Soviet jails.
Still, it's the occasional asides that offer some of the most intriguing thoughts and insights into Wat's mind: Many of our intellectual civilization's problems, our intellectual problems, arise because people do not read aloud. An enormous percentage of literature would simply vanish if the authors had to read their works aloud, only aloud. They would be ashamed; the falsehood would be obvious. When people read only with their eyes all the falsehood can enter imperceptibly even the most critical eye.
The mouth is for speaking truth or lies, whereas the eyes are really esthetic. The loose conversation -- with Wat even complaining that every night there are new bits he remembers and wants to return to -- make for an often bumpy read and if the names and events aren't familiar it is likely often Shebeg An She Mor - David Bromberg / Richard Leiberson / Central Park Sheiks* / Michael Aumen / Dick. Pared down as the English edition is the book is certainly manageable, and there's enough that's worthwhile, but My Century really only offers a rough impression of a man with some interesting accomplishments, opinions, and experiences.
At least it does leave one thirsting for more. Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. Contents: Main. My Century - US. My Century - UK. Introduction To The Century - Various - Black Sunz Compilation Century - Canada. The NY Times.
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