Closure of Conference project. Post-Conference Plans

Many many thanks to everyone who participated in the conference, to all those who presented papers, read their poetry or translations, contributed to discussions or just came to listen.

This blog will remain open as a record of the conference proceedings and will continue to include the programme, the abstracts of the presentations and the short biographies of the participants.

We have removed the conference papers from this site because we intend to include revised versions in a post-conference book. This book will not be a representation of the conference proceedings as such, however, but a volume of articles roughly reflecting the structure of the conference. The book will be edited by Ursula Philips, supported by a team of advisers (Urszula Chowaniec, Knut Andreas Grimstad, Kris Van Heuckelom and Elwira Grossman). It is expected that the volume will appear in 2013.

Should anyone wish to contact the authors of papers or read the original papers, please contact the conference organizer.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

George Gömöri

The Captive Mind examined today

This is a summary of my paper on Czesław Miłosz’s The Captive Mind seen from a vantage-point of the 21st century.
At the time of its publication The Captive Mind was an important contribution not so much to cold-war literature as to the literature dealing with the “conversion” or tactical collaboration with Marxism-Leninism by Polish writers and intellectuals. Miłosz invented the term (taken over from Gobineau) of “Ketman” and described various applications of this approach. The common denominator behind the various “Ketmans” was the recognition of “historical necessity” and a perception of “the weakness of the West”.
This argument may have had relevance in 1951 but was already undermined in 1956 by Marxist revisionist philosophers such as Leszek Kołakowski. In 1956 (Hungary) and in 1968 (Czechoslovakia) even the myth of “Socialist brotherhood” was utterly destroyed. In 1980 Solidarity arose, the Polish workers turning against the regime. The implosion of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall under Gorbachev showed that “historical necessity” is a fallacy.
            In my paper I would also like to examine the individual cases of Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, all discussed in The Captive Mind. It is interesting to see what happened to them later, how they reacted to the changes of 1956 and 1970, and whether they attacked or challenged Miłosz afterwards. Also, what Czesław Miłosz himself thought later about his important book of 1951.