Two Essays on Sarmatism and Utopia in Polish Contemporary Literature
Conclusion: An Uncertain Whole
In this book, I have offered readers two stories. The first concerned changes in the approach to tradition; the second, the disappearance and return of utopia. These two narratives were linked by the notion of remnants. The introduction of this concept to the interpretation of literature in recent decades has allowed us to see the way that literary play with remnants – considered by Baudrillard a non-productive circulation – has led to the emergence of new concepts of freedom, human identity and literature. Freedom and identity are now defined more modestly, and literature – more boldly.
Modern man was immodest in his desire for freedom. He strived for nothing less than full autonomy, and this included freeing himself from tradition. A certain type of protagonist I have discovered in literature, meanwhile, seeks a means of re-rooting himself in the past, but does not want to be determined by it. Though seemingly at odds with his aspirations, he turns to Sarmatism: archaism incarnate, a mix of state and national megalomania, an interweaving of patriotic xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny. Little of Sarmatism should remain today given the continuing two-hundred-year war that modernity has been waging against tradition. If, however, Gombrowicz was correct when he wrote that Sienkiewicz’s Trylogia has allowed Poles to once again love themselves, to see their own beauty, to narcissistically settle for the national body and immerse themselves in erotic autarchy, then the real struggle between modernization and tradition has taken place not in relation to progress, but...
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