FRYDERYK SKARBEK'S INDEBTEDNESS TO LAURENCE STERNE (Dwa sternizmy Fryderyka Skarbka)
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Fryderyk Skarbek's (1792-1866) two books 'Pan Antoni' (1824) and 'Journey without Aim' (1824-1825) are the most intriguing instances of the influence of Laurence Sterne's model of fiction in Polish literature of the Enlightenment. The two narratives are remarkably similar to one another, and yet whereas 'Pan Antoni' follows in the footsteps of Sterne the humorist, the 'Journey without Aim' later shows the imprint of Sterne the sentimentalist. There is plenty of parody and ironic twists in 'Pan Antoni', a kind of novel that relishes the idea of playing around with literary conventions, especially those that mark out sentimental fiction. In fact, Skarbek sends up anything that he can find in the toolbox of sentimentalism, ie. the assumption of the narrator's authority, its techniques of characterization and plot construction. What, in the end, provides a some kind of centre in his idiosyncratic prose is a thread of the narratorial, autothematic digressions. Little of that playfulness can be found in the 'Journey without Aim', which is basically a realistic account of the author's travels in Silesia and Saxony. Reports from the successive stages of the tour are punctuated with comments which range from more general reflections of the type one might find in Sterne to bitter meditations on Poland's ill fortune (characteristic, no doubt, of the Polish mindset in the 19th century).
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