THE KING, THE COMMUNITY, THE LAW – IN SEARCH OF THE SOVEREIGN
Security has always been one of the communities' top priorities, and among the ways to ensure it is the smooth transfer of power. Yet, after a thirty-eight-years reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the question of succession remained unresolved. At sixty-three, despite earlier declarations that she would not die without clarifying the issue of succession, the unmarried, childless Queen, not only refused to recognize an heir, but also upheld the ban on any discussion of the subject. Unsurprisingly, writings addressing the sore subject were published outside Britain. This was the case with A Conference about the Next Succession to the Crowne of England, published anonymously in Amsterdam in 1594, and discussed widely in England, Scotland and also on the Continent. The English Jesuit Robert Parsons – swiftly identified as the author of the treatise – not only tackled the forbidden subject of succession and identified the Spanish Infanta as the candidate with the strongest claim to the throne of Protestant England, but also, most importantly, presented a comprehensive argumentation challenging the conventions of royal power.
TRANSCENDING THE LAW – THE POLITICAL AND LEGAL THOUGHT OF GEORGE BUCHANAN AND JAMES VI AND I
On what basis does a citizen owe obedience to state authority? How far extends the obligation to act in accordance with the dictates of those who wield this power? Are there any criteria external to the law that entitle citizens not only to refuse to obey orders, but even to actively and forcibly resist and contest the state order? The second half of the 16th century, the times of Samuel Zborowski whom Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz deems the symbol of the Polish political tradition – fundamentally hostile to any form of state despotism – is the period when answers to these questions were sought with particular intensity. Polish debates on the proper shape of the relationship between the monarch and the nobility paled in comparison with the conflicts that shook the Western Europe. This is because the post-Reformation collapse of the vision of a united Christian Europe combined with a quicker (than in Poland) process of consolidating national monarchies and a progressive technicization of state management. The problem of the relationship between the state order (which in the 16th century was increasingly keenly analysed solely from the perspective of the effectiveness of government action – as in the case of Machiavelli or Justus Lipsius) and the dictates of the divine law or the objective reason, ancient in its origins, became a more pressing issue than in the times of the relative weakness of central powers, entangled in a network of personal and territorial dependencies.
WITH RYMKIEWICZ OVER A BEND IN THE RIVER MARNE
It is neither the place of birth nor the place of residence that makes a Pole. A Slav is not a person who is one for geographical reasons, who wandered along the Vistula or the Neris with a dripping nose, but a person who understood the Word and rejoiced in the Word's presence, as Mickiewicz said. Rymkiewicz is a German and a Tartar, but a Pole and a Slav like few others; all his writing is directed against the infection of the Polish soul with the virus of bondage. I can say of myself that the longer I am French, the more I become a free Pole, the more Polish I make myself, living as I do, in the 1er arrondissement in the city of Paris in rue de La Sourdière at number 11. On the corner of my street and rue Saint Hyacinth a Chinese woman lives in a cardboard box. She assembles her house from cardboard boxes in the morning and disassembles it every evening, free and happy, cleaning the asphalt carefully of cigarette butts and other rubbish beforehand. I, too, assemble my house in the morning and disassemble it in the evening. By the bends of the Marne I go jogging. This is how we build and live our weekdays and holidays, though indeed every day is a holiday to be celebrated.
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz and his wife Ewa lived at 89, Sporna, on the same, odd-numbered, side of the street as the captain – and later major – Włodzimierz Pietrasik who spied on them – (he was at no. 81). The block of flats where the Rymkiewicz lived is a three-storey building alongside the street, separated from it by a row of tall maples and a few other trees, somewhat not as dense now. Today, in 2023, the building is still there: pale yellow, with a slightly darker shade of yellow on the ground floor. It stands closest to the junction of Sporna Street with the little Bracka Street. On the other side of Bracka there is a red brick wall obscuring the vast area of the Jewish cemetery. When going to this address – 89, Sporna – it is best to park right on Bracka Street; the pavement leads you directly to the entrance doors, with brown awnings, at the back of the building. The Rymkiewicz flat, No. 37, on the first floor, is entered through staircase C. You can call ahead of your visit the phone number in 1964 was 539-86.The block where Captain Pietrasik lived is closer to Wojska Polskiego Street, some two hundred, two hundred and fifty metres, from the building where the young couple lived. It stands perpendicular to the street. The old residents would probably know whether it was a Ministry of Public Security's block and whether the captain got an official flat there. Only three buildings separate it from Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz's house – it is impossible for them never to have passed each other. That they don't get groceries at the same shops or go to the same post office. The poet and the Security Officer co-directing his case.
Every historical politics – including that of Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz's writing – appeals to emotions, and emotions do not lie. It is true that they are ephemeral, mutable, yet they do not deceive us. Despair, grief, love are real under any conditions (except perhaps the stage). The writer's job is to see what everyone else saw at the time. And to tell the story in minute detail. That is why witness accounts should not be treated hierarchically. They are all good, because it is only on the basis of unselected testimonies, including those that are the least important, fragmentary and not infrequently “enhanced,” that the real world can be built: of those who sunbathed by the River Świder, of those who died later and, finally, of those who experienced the pleasant dizziness on the carousel. The thing is, however, that we, the contemporaries do not want to remember what happened at all. Over the years we have become as indifferent as those on Krasiński Square. “Perhaps it is precisely this – that is, ourselves – that we would prefer to forget?,” Rymkiewicz wonders. Barbara Engelking, who took the intriguing question over, points to the drudgery of everyday life, its routine, which weakens in the will and readiness to remember. “The world after the Holocaust,” she writes, “did not cease to exist. People have again been immersed in a daily routine in which they rarely find time to think about difficult matters, in which no one is interested in remorse.” What to do about it? How to reverse this fatal trend? Perhaps trips by young Israelis to former camps and the former ghetto areas will change the situation?
SPRYNESS AND SOPPINESS, OR AN ANNOTATION FROM ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORIOSOPHY
I have met Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz, who has always been an inspiration to me, only once. It happened in October 2012 in Milanówek, after the ceremony: a few months earlier the competition dedicated to the writer-poet took place. The jury decided to award me the prize in the university category, where the task was to write an essay on Kinderszenen, and an addition to the prize was a several-minute conversation with the author. An interesting one: both about translations from Homer, which I was working on at the time, and about the fact – recalling his allusion to my studies brings a wide smile to my face – that had the professor read Kant in his youth, he would probably have become a philosopher; a philosopher, I think, in the academic sense. Fortunately, he did not read Kant. At the same time, Rymkiewicz spoke in a style similar to the one in which he wrote, which matter as it is so rare. One could say: Rymkiewicz spoke Rymkiewicz – feistily, provocatively, but also warmly. Thus, as if in defiance of his profession, even outside his work he realised the basic task of one who loves wisdom: “he brought words back to life.”
JAROSŁAW MAREK RYMKIEWICZ, MYŚLI RÓŻNE O OGRODACH. DZIEJE JEDNEGO TOPOSU. THE HISTORY OF A LITERARY TOPOS. A REVIEW HALF A CENTURY LATER
More than half a century ago, in 1968 to be exact, a book was published by Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz, Myśli różne o ogrodach. Dzieje jednego toposu. ('Assorted Thoughts on Gardens. The History of a Literary Topos' The subtitle was dropped in the second edition). It was a doctoral thesis prepared under the supervision of Professor Stefan Żółkiewski at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1966. It was published by Czytelnik with the annotation: “From the works of the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences.” (the second edition was issued by the Warsaw-based Sic! in 2010). The fifty-fifth anniversary of the publication of this extremely important work sadly coincides with another with the first anniversary of the author's death. In March 2023 Professor Stanisław Balbus, one of the most important participants in the debate sparked by Myśli różne o ogrodach, passed away. Of the leading figures who half a century ago engaged in fierce arguments about the idea of the garden and its significance in Polish and world literature, no one is alive today (I only mean to the authors who reviewed the book at the time). It does not mean that the discussion is not still worth continuing today; virtually none of the arguments presented in it have lost their relevance. This is why I decided to re-write – even though fifty years have passed – the review of the published version of Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz's doctoral dissertation, Myśli różne o ogrodach. We now know more about the course of the author's careers: the literary one – as a poet; and the academic, which he devoted almost entirely to the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Instytut Badań Literackich PAN). Today we also know the fate of Poland and its civilisation – so we can verify whether or not the project of Polish culture inscribed in the dissertation has come to fruition.