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Totalitarian Speech


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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15. Ulysses’ Day


The task of describing a single day – even if it might not always be a day in a gulag – remains an appealing one. After all, the day is our most basic unit of time, as the Spanish dramatic poets of the Baroque understood very well when they divided their plays precisely into days. For years I have been tempted by the idea of describing a day in the life of communist propaganda, though I have always understood that any such description could only be partial – if only because I could never hope to take all media into account. I would never know exactly what had been served up on television screens on a particular day. I would never be able to recall the banners that hung in the city on that ordinary day. Yet the idea remains tempting, even if I must limit the scope of its application to the press alone.

But which day should I choose? The choice is fundamentally significant here, especially since I wish in some sense to pick just any old day, undistinguished in any way and independent of the highly developed liturgical calendar of real socialism. Could I make this choice by drawing lots? No – but I stumbled upon another idea instead. I found a day devoid of any particular distinction in what then passed for reality in the People’s Republic of Poland. Nothing happened on that day. No particularly important anniversaries were celebrated. I chose a day that had...

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