It's time to drop a note on my last travel to Poland, from which I returned just a couple of days ago. It was an important travel, after all I went to submit my resignation from a tenure at the University of Warsaw. Certainly, a heroic move in these days. No wonder that I gathered a series of anecdotes and had to present a couple of explanations, varying in tone and circumstance.
But let's start by the beginning.
I cough an economic flight from Paris to Warsaw, and as soon as I landed, my step turned to caution, like in West Africa, when you never know when a cobra cuspideira spits her venom right into your eyes. At the airport, I entered a kiosk to buy two bus tickets to get to the city centre. Cautiously, because when you approach a kiosk in Poland, you never know what kind of news will be spitted right into your eyes from the Gazeta Wyborcza's front page. And indeed the blow came, disguised in a specific kind of black humour. What the news on the front page were? Oh, excellent ones, very optimistic ones. The neo-Nazis from Poland and Germany made a pick-nick at the frontier to celebrate together the birthday of Adolf Hitler.
But I was prepared for the expedition as I always am. In my handbag I had several blisters of Tranxene, the best remedy against anxiety and fear that exists. I'd taken the precaution of obtaining a generous lot, contre une ordonnance médicale, from the French health care system. Because I knew I would be afraid.
Nonetheless, I found the atmosphere much less tense than expected. As the prices of basic alimentary products raised, the loyalties began to shift. Unbelievable how much of the European history still depends on such factors as the availability of food to eat. Women's protestation intensified.
It was a glorious morning when I went to the Faculty "Artes Liberales" with my resignation, that I had already printed and signed in France to avoid any kind of surprise. And I simply left it on the secretary's desk. As simple as that.
But I was still half going, half staying. The very same day of my resignation I also received the copies of my Humanistyka, która nadchodzi, and I started distributing them among some key scholars of the country. I also wrote to many people with some personal words of farewell. I was slightly surprised to see that nearly all of them congratulated me on my resignation, as if they understood I was moving into something incomparably bigger and greater. I wonder how they did not realise the actual difficulties I'm facing. The sheer risk most of them would be in no conditions to accept. Well, they have families, husbands, kids, habits of status I have not. This is why I can step so lightly into the craziest of adventures.
And yes, I also have competence and work habits, and a track of publications, and, crucially, no pretension.
By the way, who knows where the real risk lies. Perhaps I'm on the safe side, moved by infallible instinct of intellectual self-preservation. In half a year from now, I may be cosily huddled in a reindeer skin somewhere in Finland, or even more realistically, solidly put to work in a German university, while my colleagues remain on a sinking ship, cultivating their self-satisfaction against the darkness falling upon them.
I had to explain myself to the ex-President of the Foundation for Polish Science. He asked me a bit harshly what was the precise reason for my leaving the University of Warsaw. I tried to explain I had no real choice. There was nothing in Warsaw for me to return to. In ten years of my employment there, the Faculty never managed to find a place for me, to let me do things for which I had been trained at considerable expense (endorsed, among other, by the Foundation for Polish Science in question). At the University of Warsaw, I was doing all kinds of odd jobs. The last one that had been proposed to me before I left (escaped) to Portugal was that of a manager of Human/Animal Studies. Mainly administrative manager, with very little influence on the hyper-ideological, intellectually castrating turn the whole affair was taking. I'm not sure, perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this, but I think a deliberate policy had been developed to create the general persuasion that I was a kind of non-specialised, mediocre person whose job was precisely to assist other, more prominent scholars and to sit listening in the hope I might eventually learn any deeper wisdom from them. And truly, there was very little to learn from these interminable, sterile, dilettantish debates (at some point they came quite seriously to consider building a bridge in the Maasai Mara to let the gnu antelopes cross the river avoiding those awful crocodiles; and that is without mentioning the brainpower lost in the theological debate on the resurrection and salvation of non-human primates).
Both the current and the ex-dean of the Faculty "Artes Liberales" tried to persuade me to stay. For what does it mean, a low-ranking female just leaving like this? The historical founder of this excellent academic institution honestly tried to make me see what a nonsense it was, all those ideas of mine to make research projects having for the sole objective to publish some sort of books.
After five thousand years of civilisation, it is to this that we came. No more book burning; we are just to stop writing them. Honestly, in a country where neo-Nazis make pick-nicks and celebrate birthdays on the flowery banks of the Oder, the true harbinger of the doom is my ex-dean.