Volume 17, Issue 5/6, 2007
The European Spirit of Polish Culture in the Perspective of Universalism
My Essence Intensified—Georg Brandes’ Polish Impressions
The Danish critic Georg Brandes (1842–1927) visited Warsaw in 1885 and 1886, with the pretext of lecturing—in French—on modern literature, making thereby the Polish cause for freedom his own. It was his endeavor not to take sides in the smoldering strife between radical and catholic circles, freedom from the brutal Russian regime being the chief common issue. During his second visit he lectured on Polish literature, though only knowing it through translations. This demonstration of solidarity was received with enthusiasm.
In his book Impressions from Poland—Danish 1888, in English, German and Polish 1898—he gives a vivid description of the Polish passion for freedom, not hiding more negative sides of the national character as he found them, such as improvidence and bohemianism. The book was understood as an act of solidarity, and during a visit to Krakow in 1898 he was hailed as the spokesman of freedom and one of the few West-European supporters of the Polish cause.
When, by November 1914, Brandes learned about Polish religious pogroms he did not hesitate to condemn them in two articles born by indignation. The articles, immediately published in many languages, aroused much attention worldwide, at the same time costing him most of his Polish popularity.