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

Knut Andreas Grimstad, University of Oslo

Revisiting the Other Side: Mnemonic Strategies in Piotr Paziński’s The Boarding House

A voice from Poland’s third generation of Jewish Holocaust survivors, Piotr Paziński has written a semi-autobiographical novel about a man who journeys back to a guesthouse where as a child he used to spend summers with his grandmother. The Boarding House (Pensjonat, 2009) is a philosophical tale about the passing of all things; an awareness that the past cannot be summoned underlies the narrator’s “feeling of life on an island, inadequacy and incongruity.” Hence the book is also a literary rite for the revival of memory, wherein the narrator’s identity is shaped by echoes, shadows and memories of memories.
            But unlike many postcommunist Polish-Jewish writers before him, the author does not focus on nostalgic idyllization or uncompromising critique. Rather, he crosses over to the other side, that is reconjures the long-lost world of Jewish life, by means of good-natured humour, subtle irony and elements of magic realism. In so far as he avoids excessive pathos and victimization, he betrays a kinship with American-Jewish writers who seek to recreate the prewar past in more optimistic and reconciliatory terms (Jonathan Safran Foer and Daniel Mendelssohn). Significantly, he also emulates Polish Holocaust survivors whose narratives are told from the perspective of a child or set in an old guesthouse owned by the remnants of the Jewish community (Michal Głowinski and Bogdan Wojdowski).
            And yet there appears to be a wistfully ambivalent dimension to Paziński’s memory project which sets him apart from all of the above. Here I will examine The Boarding House with the aim of assessing the balance between melancholy and wit. How do these the strategies help reconstruct the dead world? Keep pessimism at bay?