Foreword by Adam Zamoyski
Kaleidoscope of Poland is a highly readable volume containing short articles on major personalities, places, events, and accomplishments from the thousand-year record of Polish history and culture. Featuring hundreds of entries and illustrations, it provides a handy reference at home, a perfect supplement to guide books when traveling, an aid to language study, or it can be browsed with enjoyment by anyone with an interest in Poland.
Whether it is bagels or the Bug River, Chopin or Madame Curie, the book offers colorful and often witty snapshots of significant individuals, customs, folklore, historic events, phrases, places, geography, and much, much more. Beginning with the emergence of the Polish state in 966 under Mieszko I, to the resurrection of present-day Poland within the European Union, it’s also a sweeping account of the tumult and triumphs the nation has witnessed through much of its history.
This entertaining yet informative book is essentially a “cultural dictionary”—offering a knowledge base that can be referred to time and time again. It will be welcomed by readers of Polish descent, students of Polish, or those planning to visit Poland—anyone seeking a greater insight into this fascinating land.
A balanced, splendidly illustrated survey of Polish history and culture, Swan's encyclopedia covers the gamut from numerals, the Mazur ethnic group, and the folk dance varsovienne to Auschwitz, pigeon breeding, and the national dog. Alphabetical entries summarize the history of Radio Free Europe, Jagiellonian kings, and Deeds of the Princes of the Poles. An insightful introduction is followed by a pronunciation guide to 12 vowels sounds and 9 consonants and a rather grim chronology of events from 840 to 2010, with good coverage of the disappearance of the state of Poland in 1795.A vigorous writing style introduces the Warsaw Nike monument, post-WWII resistance, and Sarmatism, which linked Polish nobility with Russian forebears. Stress on the arts reveals the short fiction of Boleslaw Prus, the Lajkonik hobbyhorse, actor Ida Kaminska, the folk-art industry, and the primitivist painting of Nikifor. Concluding time lines of historic events, literati, monarchs, and uprisings promote the impression of perpetual conflict and struggle. A bilingual, 45-page index ensures reader connection to a variety of festivals, industries, and currency. This reasonably priced introduction of national and ethnic uniqueness belongs in most libraries, especially in areas heavily settled by Polish immigrants.
This book is full of insights into the Polish state of mind. As such, it is an absolute must for anyone meaning to visit the country, do business there, or gain some idea of what has been going on in that part of the world for centuries—in an accessible and pleasurable way.
. . . a charming and quirky reference volume with a surprising range of entries—just more than 1,000—on all and sundry aspects of modern Poland. . . . highly engaging. Unlike most reference works, this "kaleidoscope" is fluidly written and the personality of the author frequently breaks through, usually in comments on contemporary culture.
Oscar E. Swan is professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. The author of over fifteen books, Swan was the first American selected for the Thesaurus Poloniae Award from the Center of International Culture, Kraków. He is also the recipient of the Polonicum Award from the University of Warsaw for the outstanding promulgation of Polish language, literature, and culture outside of Poland, among other honors.learn more