ALEKSANDER WAT I DOSTOJEWSKI: ETNOGRAFIA LITERACKIEJ FASCYNACJI
Aleksander Wat as a reader of Dostoevsky: An ethnography of literary fascination
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The early poetry of Aleksander Wat, a Polish poet of Jewish descent, is usually interpreted as an example of avant-garde changes in Polish and European literature. This paper suggests a different perspective, an ethnic and cultural one, which views Wat’s early work as a testimony to the phenomena that the discourse on the Jewish assimilation in the first quarter of the 20th century defines as the “marginal Jew” and “Jewish self-hatred”. It is thus in this context, and on the basis of literature read and favoured by Polish-Jewish members of the poetic avant-garde, that I analyse Wat’s fascination with Dostoyevsky’s prose, so characteristic of the former. Wat’s membership in the numerous group of intellectuals of Jewish origin, participating in the process of the cultural canonisation of that prose, makes me seek the source of their enthusiasm for the author of Demons and of their ability to reconcile it with their awareness of the Russian novelist’s anti-Semitism. My findings, taking into consideration sociological, psychological and specifically literary mechanisms, result in the hypothesis that Wat’s fascination with Dostoyevsky, as well as that of other Jewish enthusiasts, could have had its major source also in the novelist’s “psychology”, which could be interpreted as a literary model of a personality crisis, analogous to the Grenzjude’s experiences.
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