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Totalitarian Speech

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Michal Glowinski

Totalitarian Speech brings together a range of texts on totalitarian manipulations of language. The author analyzes various phenomena, from the hateful rhetoric of Nazi Germany to the obfuscating newspeak of communist Poland, finding certain common characteristics. Above all, totalitarian speech in its diverse manifestations imposes an all-embracing worldview and an associated set of dichotomous divisions from an omniscient and authoritative perspective. This volume collects the work of over three decades, including essays written during the communist era and more recent pieces assessing the legacy of totalitarian ways of thinking in contemporary Poland.
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4. Polish Literature on the Holocaust

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(Preliminary Reflections)

1

We may say without fear of exaggeration that the Holocaust is one of those problems and events to which Polish literature has returned constantly and in various ways over the last several decades.54 In fact, Polish writers addressed this event from the very beginning – when their writings formed a spontaneous reaction to what had seemed impossible only a few years earlier, its enormity stretching beyond the realms of probability and the borders of the imagination, inexpressible within the limitations of language. Polish literature did this at first hand, through works both by writers who were to become victims and by others whom fate assigned the role of witnesses and observers – writers who did not experience the Holocaust themselves, but who were able to empathize and to comprehend what was taking place. Polish literature continued to address the Holocaust in later years, though the perspective inevitably shifted – at first not significantly, then more dramatically as time passed. The diversity of perspectives that had characterized the early moments did not vanish overnight. A distinction continued to exist between writers telling their stories in order to understand what they had survived and other authors whose works were not based on any personal experience. Naturally, the number of people who could speak about their own fates steadily dwindled with time. Any new texts of this kind emerged only from various archives, while the inevitable eventually occurred. Subsequently, the whole ← 63 | 64 → situation of Holocaust literature...

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