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New Left Review I/13-14, January-April 1962

Kasimierz Brandys

Reminiscences from Our Times

On the road through Poznan a notice saying ‘Driver, Greater Poland welcomes you’ sets off a train of thought. Here, only two hours’ journey from the dried-up township of Sochaczew, is an economically sounder, more solidly built and more civilised Poland. We cross a wide-spread lowland landscape, over it an aura of well-being and organisation. Here there is none of that wistful Mazovian sadness. It is man’s use of a landscape which seems to determine its mood. This is something about which I have already written in my letters from Italy, but one need only travel 200 kilometres north-west from Warsaw for confirmation of this fact. Rows of small, red-roofed houses are a sovereign remedy against the melancholy of the plains. It is enough to compare Siedlce with Kolo—the shape of the terrain may be similar, but how striking is the disparity in development. A flat unending landscape gives an impression of aimless emptiness, whereas a landscape with a built-up horizon seems to express some kind of internal logic and purpose. In order to have optimistic associations a piece of land should be separated from the sky by the works of man, the fruits of collective endeavour. The poetry of the steppes or of the desert is menacing, for in it man loses significance.

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Kasimierz Brandys, ‘Reminiscences from Our Times’, NLR I/13-14: £3

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