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The Sacred Cause

The Europe that was Lost – Thoughts on Central and Eastern European Modernism

Tom Sandqvist

«This book is about Modernism and Avant-Garde movements in Central and Eastern European art around the last turn of the century. It sketches a surrealistic, bewildering, irrational arena. At the same time, we are offered a differentiated view on the complex whole of the avantgarde scene in Eastern Europe. The author takes us to dark soirées, scandalous dada theatrical performances, drunken bouts with loudmouthed reformers. Subjectivity stands against rationality, ethnonationalism against internationalism. Yugoslavian zenitism, Czech poetism, Hungarian activism, and other less-known isms, are proposed in exstatic outbursts in shortlived magazines. The pace is hectic, the commitment enormous, and the sheer force of strongminded individuals overwhelming. All in all, the inversed perspective seems alluringly fresh, with Eastern Europe as the co-producer of ideological content, instead as the receiver, or, even worse, the passive reflection of Western thought. I am impressed by the tolerance of much of the audience before and after the First World War: To be a genius seems to be just a matter of course. Karel Teige in Prague, Ljubomir Micić in Zagreb, Lajos Kassák in Budapest, and Jacek Malczewski in Krakow were tireless propagators of avant-garde art – but also of nostalgic messianism. How did they get away with this, at times, monomaniac egoism, one wonders. Sandqvist finds the answer in that subjectivity was the remedy for avantgarde artists as a defence mechanism against the repressive society and destructive socioeconomical forces.» (Jan von Bonsdorff, Professor, Uppsala University)


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7. In Galicia and Elsewhere. “Halb-Asien”, Sociological Circumstances, Conditions of Life, and a Remarkable Exhibition in Lemberg


243 7. In Galicia and Elsewhere “Halb-Asien”, Sociological Circumstances, Conditions of Life, and a Re- markable Exhibition in Lemberg In 1903, good old Baedeker699 was able to inform his potential travelers that the fast train from Hauptbahnof in Krakau (Kraków) took seven hours to go to Lem- berg, Poland s´ Teresienburg, the capital of the Habsburg crown-land Galicia, with its population of 160,000 residents the biggest city in the province next to Krakau. The train departed at 1.10 AM and passed the cities or towns of Bochnia, Tarnów, Przemysl, and Gródek before it puffed into the Glowny dworzec station in the dis- trict of Krakówskie, from which one of the city s´ biggest streets – Ulica Gródecka – took the traveler to the city s´ historical center about two kilometers Eastwards. Ten years later the traveling time was only one hour shorter,700 a fact that may be interpreted as a metaphor of the miserable economical and industrial state of the province in comparison with neighboring Bohemia as well as both the Russian and the Prussian zones of Poland. Although the process of modernization was painfully slow, even here the urbanization was reflected in a growing population. In 1908, the population of Lemberg or Lwów, as the city was called officially in the new state established after the Great War, was almost 190,000 701 and just before the outbreak of the war about 210,000 residents, of which 85 percent were Polish-speaking even though...

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