Krzysztof Pomian on Jerzy Giedroyc, "Kontrapunkt", 28 July 1996.
"Kontrapunkt" Cultural Magazine of "Tygodnik Powszechny", No 7"EDITOR - A WAY OF BEING"
Krakow, 28 July 1996
Krzysztof Pomian on Jerzy Giedroyc
Left of the main entrance to the "Kultura" house, in a small room with an always open door ("Cave hominem" inscribed on its frame), behind a desk, bowed over a manuscript or a proof, or at his typewriter - this is how I see Jerzy Giedroyc
, though I have, of course, seen him in other environments. He identifies with his work to the extent that it is impossible to imagine him without it. It is something more than work, for to Giedroyc, being an editor is a way of being and doing, a stance toward Poland and the world.
He not only edits texts submitted to "Kultura"; he also tries to edit Poles in general, and especially Polish intellectuals, who irritate him most. His list of objections to them is so long I can't possibly exhaust it here.
Selfless, lacking egocentrism to a rare degree, he cannot stand conceit, pursuit of personal interests, care exclusively for one's own gain, claims of imagined merits, touchiness, pomp. Yet he hardly preaches or practices Franciscan virtues. His high self-esteem derives from his dynastic tradition and native history. He has no complexes, and certainly feels in no way inferior. Thus, he is naturally a European and is angered by the Poles' frequent blend of groveling before the "West" and incessantly complaining about it. Anyway, he abhors the Polish, and especially intellectual, tendency of getting sentimental about oneself and always finding excuses. He does not accept slovenliness, lack of style and lack of class.
Steady people with strong wills and leadership qualities, firm in their quest to achieve goals they set themselves impress him. He does not yield to them because he is like them and it is against his nature to submit to anyone except those who he himself names authorities. His collaborators and subordinates do not have an easy time. His superiors are sure to have had it just as hard. He was very loyal to them and remained so after their death. Yet when he concluded that something needed doing, he did it without asking anyone's permission. He essentially acknowledges the superiority of only two figures: Marshall Pilsudski and General de Gaulle, partly because both have passed on. If they were alive, he would also acknowledge their superiority, but he probably would have fallen out with them.
His cult of will causes him sometimes to see persistence as a sign of strong character and dashing rhetoric as a program of action. Yet he is capable of realizing and correcting his own mistakes. Though he generally does not openly acknowledge when his opponents are right, he listens to substantive arguments and - contrary to what some say - changes his mind based on them.
He calls himself a political animal, but sees politics as secondary to higher values. He advocates a strong state, but never treats this as a self-contained goal. He equates international and social relations with a clash of forces, yet simultaneously believes in the power of the word. Though he senses history's inertia, he believes deeply that individual will can change the course of events, provided it is channeled correctly and has sufficient force.
He does not know how to be passive. He strives to edit Polish public life, render it more cohesive, more transparent, closer to the high standards he sets for it. All manner of shallowness disgusts him. He would like to be surrounded by great individuals he could acknowledge as partners in his struggle for Poland. He would surely dispute them, but the disputes would be about fundamental matters, matters worth fighting for. Yet he is a realist in politics and operates under reigning circumstances. He has no great illusions about the efficacy of his efforts. At times he even announces that he will "quit this nation", yet he doesn't. He thinks that occasionally one needs to hit one's head against the wall. So he tries to play the same role toward politicians that he played, often successfully, toward writers: to cause them to give it their best. He wants Poland to be a masterpiece, the delight of Poles and the envy of others. He wants it to radiate by example onto Central-Eastern Europe if not all of Europe. That is his romanticism.
Sheep reflexes are more common among us than among others, perhaps because the flock's warmth was for long our only defense against Siberian frosts. All the more precious are those few who knew how to oppose their own milieu and the views preached by allies and friends. As before him Slowacki
and Brzozowski, coincidentally his favorite writers, Giedroyc personifies nonconformity.
Poland needs this more today than ever before.
© by"Tygodnik Powszechny"
"Tygodnik Powszechny" (TP) published this text in commemoration of Jerzy Giedroyc's 90th birthday in "Kontrapunkt" [Counterpoint], the TP cultural magazine, on 28 July 1996. It appears on www.culture.pl - courtesy of the editors and publishers of "Tygodnik Powszechny" - in connection with "The Year of Jerzy Giedroyc," celebrated in 2006".