In the wake of Adam Zagajewski's splendid poetry reading and conversations with many students last April, the Polish Studies Center has invited one of the most prominent literary figures to emerge from the "Kresy" since Czeslaw Milosz, the Lithuanian writer Tomas Venclova. He will read his poetry in English on Thursday evening, November 13, at 8:00, in Optometry 105. A reception will be held after the reading at the Polish Studies Center. On Friday, November 14, Venclova will discuss poetry and his views on Lithuania in an open session, to be held at the Polish Studies Center, 12:30 - 2:00p.m.
Now a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University, Venclova was born in Klaipeda on the Baltic seashore, and entered the University of Vilnius at age 16, the youngest person ever to enter the institution. However already by 1956 he was in trouble with the authorities, and when he protested the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution he was suspended from the university for one year. For the next two decades he pursued a successful career in Vilius as a critic and translator, frequently traveling to Poland and to Russia (where he met Pasternak and Akhmatova and became their translator), and all the while writing his own poetry in Lithuanian. However, in the mid-1970s his participation in the ill-fated Lithuanian dissident movement led to his emigration. Since 1977, Venclova has lived in the United States.
As an emigre from the Polish-Lithuanian-Russian borderlands, the "Kresy," Venclova speaks in a transnational voice about the concerns of the "other Europe"--the one which until recently was marked by unending war or unending aftermath of war, statelessness and the forced migration (or eradication) of peoples, and the difficult task of living an ethical life within a dying empire which was also an imposed utopia. His poems are lyrical and meditative. They are not obviously topical, but they definitely come from the inside of East Central Europe, and his verses call up a mood of the subjects which their titles allude to, as with the poem "Ghetto," or another titled "To felix Austria," or the title poem of his recent collection in English, "Winter Dialogue," which he notes is about the Polish Uprising of 1970.Some lines from this poem:
Tomas Venclova has also written a number of critical essays, including a book on the Polish poet Aleksander Wat (Yale University Press), and many cultural essays which have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and leading cultural journals in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. (Formerly, they were published there in samizdat.) His topics include poetic language under totalitarianism, censorship, nationalism "for good and ill" under imperial rule, and the fate of small nations and minorities. One essay, provocatively titled "I am Grateful to Orwell:' On Language, Literature and Lithuania," appeared in the Index on Censorship.
Until recently, Venclova's poetry was available in English only one poem at a time, printed in journals and magazines. Now the first collection of his poetry has appeared in English, in the translations of Diana Senechal, Winter Dialogue (Northwestern University Press, 1997). It contains thirty long poems and a marvelous introduction by the poet's friend Joseph Brodsky, whom Venclova has also translated. Brodsky finished his essay shortly before his death. Also included in the book is a long essay co-authored with Czeslaw Milosz, "A Dialogue about a City." In this extended meditation, they evoke the city Vilnius/Wilno which was so formative in their cultural lives, and from which each writer was uprooted.
Tomas Venclova is transnational figure whose work can hardly be contained within the category of a single national literature. For this reason, the Polish Studies Center has affiliated with the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Central Eurasian Studies to sponsor his talk, and additional support has come from The Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource Center, Comparative Literature, the Russian and East European Institute, and Horizons of Knowledge. Because he wants to meet and converse with creative writers, Slavists, and people who study the cultures of the Baltic region, we have scheduled a discussion session with Tomas Venclova on November 14 at the Polish Studies Center from 12:30 - 2:00p.m.. Venclova's topic will be "Culture and Politics in Lithuania," and he will also discuss his poetry and his links with Polish and Russian writing. After Venclova's opening remarks, the session will be conducted as a discussion. It will be moderated by Timothy Wiles (English, Polish Studies) and Toivo Raun (Central Eurasian Studies), whose main role will be, to insure that people from all the various fields and vocations germane to Venclova's work get a chance to pose their questions to him.
NATO enlargement is the first step toward creating a more stable future because Europe needs to change the way it defines itself, said Cameron Munter, special assistant in the U.S. State Department.
Speaking at an informal gathering at the Polish Studies Center on September 17, Munter addressed the role of the alliance in the future, the domestic hurdles to expansion and the Russian objections to an altered role for NATO.
Munter the special assistant in the NATO Enlargement Ratification Office explained the enlargement is an extension of the Marshall Plan and provides stability in the transition period since the end of the Cold War in 1989. Invitations to join the alliance have been extended to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, with more countries clamoring to be in the next round of invites, scheduled for 1999.
Munter said there is a need for a new kind of military structure for NATO; not troops massed against a Russian attack, but rather a flexible army that can respond quickly to unforeseen questions.
While Munter is confident of its success, the expansion's potential cost as much as $200 million a year, according to a White House paper on the subject is the largest domestic hurdle to the plan's ratification.
Munter said the traditional role of the State Department is changing, with a new focus on domestic issues. Ultimately, the success of NATO enlargement will depend on public support at home and political will in the Senate. Munter's role is focused on keeping together the coalition of Senators supporting NATO enlargement, Senators who offer support for vastly differing reasons. Finding the uniting focus of this coalition is crucial to maintaining its support.
U.S. Armed Forces Foreign Area Officer Kendall Parks, an R.E.E.I. graduate student, raised the issue of Bosnia at the gathering and the credibility problem it has created with the American public. "It's hard to sell one thing when credibility in another area is bad," Parks said. Munter agreed that Bosnia is the big issue. The ever-inflating cost of maintaining troops there has cast doubt on all NATO budget estimations, and convincing Americans that enlargement is worth the cost is already a major hurdle. Enthusiasm is also likely to drop off if Americans start coming home in body bags, Munter said.
While Russia has objected strongly to the plan, Munter downplayed it as an obstacle. The potential Russian benefits from a more stable Europe are many, and Munter said he feels much of the country's rhetoric is due more to the psychological blow of losing an empire than a concern about some kind of real threat. Ultimately, it is each individual country's decision to join NATO or not. Russia has very little to say about it.
Edward Rakhimkulov, a graduate student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said he was pleased with the talk overall, although he said Munter was forced to diplomatically evade questions.
A former employee of the Ukrainian parliament, Rakhimkulov said he had wanted Munter to speak on the issue of the possible future entry of the Baltic states into the alliance.
"He was right about one thing," Rakhimkulov said, "1999: the next step is the hard one."
(Story reprinted with permission of the IDS)
Greg Keller, MA student, Russian and East European Institute, is preparing to return to Bloomington to defend his MA essay, which is an interdisciplinary examination of the development of Polish business culture. During the academic year 1996/97, Greg studied at Warsaw University as the recipient of the IU/WU Student Fellowship award. In addition to his MA thesis research, over the past several months he has written an investors' guide to the 25 biggest cities in Poland. This book was commissioned by a leading business publishing company in Warsaw. The guide covers each city's demographics, finances, local business environment, and business contacts. After completing his degree Greg plans to seek employment in Poland in regional development or aid organizations.
Piotr Banski, member of the Institute of English Studies at Warsaw University, will spend this semester at IUB as a visiting research fellow. Piotr will use his time here to work on his doctoral dissertation. He is particularly interested in the syntax-phonology interface. Piotr will present a talk on October 3 on auxiliary clitics in the Polish language. Agnieszka Banska, Piotr's wife, will also be in Bloomington for the semester. She is a student at Warsaw University, where she studies Geology with a specialization in environmental protection.
Art Sherwood, doctoral candidate in the School of Business, IUB, recently returned from Warsaw University where he taught advanced entrepreneurship to students in the business track of the American Studies Center last year. He became interested in Poland while studying transitional economies with IU School of Business professor Paul Marer. The exchange was part of the Young Professionals Abroad program, administered by IU. Art praised the abilities of his Polish students and he feels that Poland's future economic prospects seem bright. He noticed during his stay in Warsaw that the presence of foreign firms rose steadily and the business environment improved. Art was joined in Poland by his wife, Tamy, and their son, Rett.
In a related development, we're pleased to announce that Ralph Lindeman of Kent State University will be teaching entrepreneurship and related business subjects at the American Studies Center at Warsaw University this year. Lindeman is as Associate Professor of Business Technology at Kent State, which has maintained an exchange relationship with Warsaw University for over two decades. Before departing for Poland, he gathered information from Art Sherwood about the workings of the entrepreneurship program. While the Polish Studies Center was not able to fund instruction in this program this year, we are very happy that it will continue thanks to the presence of Ralph Lindeman, and we've asked him to send news of the program to the PSC. We welcome Ralph and his wife to our circle and wish them an excellent year in Warsaw.
Gregor Koso writes that he will be working this year as a junior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Warsaw University. Greg Koso, whose doctorate is in Sociology and Labor Relations at Purdue University, spend a year at IUB as a doctoral exchange student--to take advantage of IU's Polish Studies and Russian & East European Studies programs-- and continued his doctoral research in Poland, affiliated with several universities and labor organizations. Greg writes that he will participate in the Social Science Curriculum Development Program to teach Industrial Relations.
Steven Franks, Slavic Languages and Linguistics Departments, took part in the Faculty Exchange with Warsaw University in May-June 1997. He was affiliated with the English Institute, particularly with the program in English linguistics which is directed by Jerzy Rubach. Steve gave four two-hour lectures and covered topics including "Minimalist speculations about the morphology and syntax of Slavic numerals," "Minimalist speculations about the null case and secondary predication in Slavic," and "Speculations about Slavic clitics." He also worked with Piotr Banski and Adam Szczegelniak at the English Institute, and in Krakow, he contacted the linguist Ewa Willim. Steve reports that the opportunity to consult in depth with Polish linguists who work on English/Slavic comparative topics was very valuable. In addition to speaking on professional matters, he was able to visit and speak at the American Studies Center, where he took part in a conference held there on the topic "Is Poland Being Americanized?"--under the co-direction of ASC Director Krzysztof Michalek the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission.
Brian Winchester, Director of the Indiana Center on Global Change and World Peace, traveled to several cities in Europe in August, including Warsaw, while looking for possible sites for the summer high school insitute on international studies, which will travel to Europe in 1999. He received excellent hospitality at Warsaw University, where he worked extensively with the Acting Dean of International Programs Grazyna Wieczorkowska. Brian is convinced that Warsaw should be one of the sites for the high school program.
A misstatement was made in the May 1997 issue of the Polish Studies Newsletter in a story which I wrote, and I would like to correct it and apologize for the misimpression it caused. In a story on page 11 about Jeffrey Wolin's photography exhibition. I stated that a number of the Holocaust survivors whom Professor Wolin photographed were native to Poland, and that many of them survived Polish concentration camps, or survived in hiding. I should have written that the camps were German concentration camps located in occupied Poland, and it was certainly my intention to convey this point. I thank the careful readers of our Newsletter, including the editor of the Polish Heritage Club Newsletter, for pointing this out to me. --Timothy Wiles, editor.
Robert F. Byrnes, Distinguished Professor of History and a specialist in Russian and East European affairs, died at age 79 in June, 1997. A number of memorial speeches have been made about Bob Byrnes as a teacher, scholar, head of his family, and a founding administrator of significant programs in our field, including the Russian and East European Institute. At a recent memorial service at the IU Foundation, speakers included his son Shawn Byrnes, a foreign service officer who has held several key posts in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the historian Charles Jelevich, who remembered that Professor Byrnes frequently proclaimed the importance of considering Eastern Europe, something he particularly proclaimed to the Russianists in the History Department. Brynes was the chair of the IU History Department from 1958-65, Director of the REEI from 1959-62 and 1971-75, and Director of the International Affairs Center (now the Office of International Services) from 1965-67. In recent years, he was instrumental in establishing the Robert F. Byrnes fellowship fund for support of a graduate student at the Russian and East European Institute, and this year the first Byrnes Fellow, Stephen Nedell, has begun work in the program. He was introduced at Professor Byrnes' Memorial Service by REEI Director David Ransel, who is in charge of the memorial fund campaign. Bob Byrnes was a great supporter of Poland and of the Polish Studies Center, and he gave several talks in our lecture series over the years. Making a contribution to REEI's Robert F. Byrnes Memorial Fellowship Fund would be a fitting remembrance of Bob's pioneering work to advance the knowledge of our region. For information, contact the Russian and East European Institute, Ballantine 565, Indiana University, Bloomington IN 47405.