becoming undead: my portuguese story
Some people say I am the best Lusitanist in Poland; in any case, I might claim to be the only titular (i.e. officially nominated by the President of the Republic) full professor properly specialised in Portuguese literature that currently exists in the country. But I should use a past tense here. I was - I would be, if I did not emigrate. Be that as it may, with a track record of some six or seven books and more than eighty research papers dedicated to Portuguese and Lusophone matters (Portugal, Brazil, Africa...), without counting other kinds of contribution (translations, language manuals...), I would make quite an appreciable figure, at least in the national context. Nonetheless, I was removed, by means of mobbing, from my teaching duties in Portuguese language and literature nearly fifteen years ago, in 2006, to make space for a "better qualified" colleague at the moment of the creation of the Câtedra Vergílio Ferreira at the Jagiellonian University. That my colleague hardly spoke any Portuguese at all? Who cares! He was very determined to "be someone" (być kimś), namely the head of that newly created chair, and the institution was more interested in making it possible than in having a genuine scholar working in such a marginal area. In the long run, the losers are the Portuguese, since they went on spending money on the promotion of their language and culture, and what they obtained in return was little more than a phantom câtedra named after a dead writer. But they were easily contented, I suppose, since no one seriously expected any original ideas on Portuguese culture to be born in Kraków.
Since that moment, I never taught any topic connected to Portuguese culture again; on the other hand, also the admission of new students to the newly created curriculum in Portuguese studies was suspended due to lack of qualified professors. At least I gave a headache to my "better qualified" colleague, if any solace might come from that. I continued producing excellent, often publicly financed research and publications in Portuguese studies along all those years, yet without any remote possibility of teaching them. I did try to find another Lusitanist job, but in spite of such a shortage of people in the area, neither the Portuguese department in Warsaw, nor the newly created Lusophone curriculum in Poznań was interested in hearing any news of me. Now, as I am in Leiden working in the domain of Mediterranean and Oriental studies, I presume it is too late to rectify this situation. Thus, my peculiar case is to be kept as a mere historical notice in the annals of Polish academia. What remains to wonder is how great Polish universities must be, if they can afford squandering competence, instead of capitalising it! And on the other hand, how rich the Portuguese must be, if they continued supporting a chair that was created by means of getting rid of the specialists in their culture... That's a pity, because if they did not interfere with their offers of cheap international prestige, if they did not created temptations for those people who urgently needed to "be someone", I would probably continue teaching Portuguese studies quite undisturbed up to the present day.
But let's see all my story in detail. I started learning Portuguese in 1992, during my studies in Romance philology at the University Maria Curie-Skłodowska in Lublin. Soon I got several opportunities of travelling to Portugal, namely in the institutional framework of the TEMPUS and Instituto Camões programs. I participated in the summer school organised at the University of Lisbon (1993), and later on I followed the regular curriculum in Portuguese Studies (three semesters in total). That gave me a chance of learning under the best Portuguese professors of the time, such as Fernando Martinho (Pessoan studies) or Margarida Vieira Mendes (Portuguese Baroque and the work of P.e António Vieira). I also had classes of African literature with Inocência Mata, who in the late 1990s became one of the most recognisable intellectuals of Lusophone Africa.
In October 1997, after the completion of my studies at the University Maria Curie-Skłodowska, I was employed as a lecturer of Portuguese in the Institute of Romance Philology, Jagiellonian University. My further studies at the University of Lisbon, in the program of Mestrado em Literatura Comparada, were financed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (1998/1999). This is how I could build up my comparativist competences in such a sense as comparative literature was understood at that time: I was moving between different national literatures of Europe, as well as exploring intermodal connections between literature and visual arts. The topic of my research project at the time was Orient and Orientalism in Portuguese and French literature. At the same time, I worked on my doctoral dissertation L'architecture de la demeure imaginaire dans la prose narrative portugaise des années 1960-1996, defended at the Jagiellonian University in June 1999. In this work, I discussed the imaginary configurations of the domestic space in recent Portuguese literature, taking for methodological basis the poetics of Gaston Bachelard and the universalist pattern of reflection established by Mircea Eliade; the imaginary homes that I analysed acquired thus a microcosmic and sacred character. At the same time, the dissertation established a basis for my subsequent criticism of contemporary Portuguese literature that filled a considerable part of my Lusitanist outcome. The most immediate result was a book projected as a concise presentation of the recent decades of Portuguese literature that at the time was still very little known or translated in Poland. This is how Współczesna proza portugalska (1939-1999). Tematy problemy, obsesje, published by Universitas in 2000, was born.
After my PhD, I got a full-time position of assistant professor, which was especially important due to the creation of a new curriculum in Portuguese philology in the Institute of Romance Philology of the Jagiellonian University. It was a novel area of studies, with very little tradition in Polish academic context; no wonder that during the initial period of my academic career, I contributed with several publications related to Portuguese studies that were missing in the Polish-speaking context: namely, I wrote a practical grammar of Portuguese (Język portugalski od A do Z. Repetytorium), to which I added later on another little volume of exercises (Język portugalski od A do Z. Testy), and I translated a history of Portugal (Krótka historia Portugalii) by José Hermano Saraiva (2000). Later on, I also translated some Portuguese books for the Catholic editing house WAM, but for sure this is of minor importance.
Soon after the publication of Współczesna proza portugalska, in September and October 2000, I realised a short-term stay in Lisbon with yet another research grant offered by the Instituto Camões. I used this opportunity to initiate my preliminary studies on José Saramago, at that time recently distinguished with the Nobel Prize. The result of that research was presented during a meeting of the Modern Language Commission of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences and published in the volume of Proceedings of this Commission; it also served me as a preliminary mapping of the research problems that would be fully developed in my subsequent, extensive monograph on Saramago, Pokusa pustyni, published in 2005.
Meanwhile, in my post-doctoral dissertation (habilitation), Terytorium a świat. Wyobrażeniowe konfiguracje przestrzeni w literaturze portugalskiej od schyłku średniowiecza do współczesności published in 2003, I wandered out of the domain of the contemporary Portuguese novel. Working on this book, I developed my early-modern competences to show the evolution of Portuguese spatial imagination in a large chronological perspective. Having gained the prestigious START fellowship offered by the Foundation for Polish Science (2002-2003), I enjoyed quite propitious conditions for the realisation of such an ambitious project. As the result, in October 2003, I passed the customary habilitation colloquium.
During the period that followed, my aspiration was to transgress the limitations of Portuguese studies as a closed sub-discipline of literary studies. Initially, I fulfilled this aspiration in the context of the philological circles of the Jagiellonian University (2004-2006), fostering a comparativist research project Wyspa – wyspowość – wyspiarskość w kręgu cywilizacji romańskiej, financed by the Committee of Scientific Research (KBN). I coordinated the work of a group of 11 colleagues that analysed the literary images of island, not only in the major Romance literature, such as French, but also in their regional variants, such as Catalan and Sicilian. As the outcome of this project, I edited the volume Archipelagi wyobraźni. Z dziejów toposu wyspy w kręgu literatur romańskich (Kraków 2007). Among the texts authored by other members of the research group, the book also contains my own contribution: a chapter concerning the images of an island of women or of love in Portuguese epic texts written in the 16th and 17th c. Overall, since my habilitation, I worked more often on early-modern topics, interpreting the great Portuguese authors, Camões and António Vieira. Nonetheless, I also studied such 20th and 21st c. Portuguese authors as Fernando Pessoa, Jorge de Sena, Urbano Tavares Rodrigues, Vergílio Ferreira, David Mourão-Ferreira, Sophia de Mello Breyner, Teolinda Gersão and others.
By the time Archipelagi wyobraźni left the printing press, I was already mobbed out of the Jagiellonian University and only too keen to abandon the working environment that proved highly toxic. I hoped for a better future at the University of Warsaw, where I taught literally everything (I even gave a course on falconry and oriented a PhD dissertation on Buryat poetry) - everything except Portuguese studies.
No wonder that the year 2006/2007 introduced a relative downward trend in my activity as an academic author writing about Portugal, although I published some papers and chapters on Lusophone Africa. Yet another, parallel endeavour was the elaboration of the chapters concerning Brazilian literature for the compendium Historia literatur iberoamerykańskich, published by Ossolineum in 2010. Over some 150 pages or so, these chapters present quite extensively the development of the Brazilian literature from the European discovery of this country to the date.
Nonetheless, my most important work produced after the habilitation remained Pokusa pustyni. Nomadyzm jako wyjście z kryzysu współczesności w pisarstwie José Saramago, an extensive monograph published by Universitas in 2005. In contrast with my former works, the aim of this book was not to remain in the context of the Portuguese problems, but to inscribe the literary discourse of the Nobel Prize winner in the broader context of the reflection in humanities, as it is required not only due to his criticism of the Judeo-Christian tradition (visible in the scandalizing novel The Gospel according to Jesus Christ), but also of the tradition of historical materialism, with which the writer, a late communist, identified. Nonetheless, I treated it as a case of disturbed, ambiguous, ironic identification, hiding a deep criticism of the Marxism as an alternative to Judeo-Christianism. As a consequence, the book presents the vision of an agonistic clash between the “post-Christian” man and God who is jealous of the human creative potential. Its outcome is the loss of the sensation of inhabiting the world, a nomadic condition, man's failure in his desperate search for order.
This book presented all Saramago's novels published till the date of its elaboration. Nonetheless in the following years the writer still produced several more; this fact justified the continuation of the research on his work. Such was the aim of the project financed by the National Science Center, „Styl późny” w twórczości José Saramago (“Late style” in the writings of José Saramago) that I realised in 2013-2015. In its framework, I got an opportunity of two 3-week research stays in the National Library in Lisbon (in 2014 and 2015). The outcome is the book Imperium i nostalgia. „Styl późny” w kulturze portugalskiej (Warszawa 2015). Its most important aim was to trace the full extent of Saramago's criticism in Cain, the last novel published by the writer in his lifetime. I read this novel as a form of rupture with the project of global hegemony initiated by the Portuguese at the beginning of the modern era, originating in the biblical exhortation to “subdue the earth”. It justifies the necessity of returning to the beginnings of the mankind in the Book of Genesis; without such a return the utmost deconstruction of the colonizing narrations is impossible. I argued that the deconstructive potential of the post-colonial school proved to be insufficient in Portuguese case; this is why I used yet another analytical tool proposed by Edward Said, namely his concept of “late style” associated with the old age. The individual old age of the writer, but also the eclipse of the cultural formation bring a chance of an final adjustment of the accounts in the project of global hegemony that finds its expression in the Portuguese dream of the universal state, the Fifth Empire, that was supposed to unite all humanity. In the book, I also employed my own concept of transcultural condition. The long history of the Portuguese search for a universalism that ended in a fiasco, as I claimed, provoked the critical intervention of Saramago.
As the outcome of my extensive research on Saramago, I should also mention several papers and chapters. Two most important ones are included in the only collective volume dedicated to this writer in Poland (Świat powieści José Saramago, Wojciech Charchalis ed., Poznań 2013); other were disseminated in various journals. I also presented my outcomes in various national and international conferences. But who was I trying to convince with all that? My "better qualified" colleague, by the time a self-made Presidente da Associação Polaca de Lusitanistas, continued producing diverse "histories of Portuguese studies in Poland", that in themselves made the substantial part of his overall research outcome in the area. In his insightful article Estudos Portugueses na Universidade Jaguelónica, published in Studia Iberystyczne, no 10 (2011), I was mentioned as an obscure person who, quite inexplicably, "had left"; in an actualised version, Estudos Portugueses na Polónia, included in the 2015 issue of HispanismeS, the bulletin of the French Société des Hispanistes, neither me as a person nor any of my publications were mentioned at all. Apparently, as I continued my research, I was becoming progressively even more absent in Polish academic landscape. Portuguese studies in Poland were made by my "better qualified" colleague himself, as he explained with due pathos and in due historical perspective (although in a rather lame syntactic sequence): Foi precisamente neste ano 2002 que se estreou com o apoio do Instituto Camões e graças à obtenção pelo signatário do título de professor catedrático, a Lusitanística na Universidade de Cracóvia, a mais antiga do país, fundada em 1364. Which is unfortunately false, since neste ano 2002 he did not obtain the title of catedraticus, which would be profesor zwyczajny in Polish; he merely got his habilitation (by a single vote that prevailed) after a disastrous colloquium at the Faculty of Philology of the Jagiellonian University. Just a few months later, I obtained a much better score at my own habilitation, that the University's administration postponed on purpose, in order to grant the precedence to my colleague. The only difference is that I failed to reach his level of effrontery.
It may thus be regarded as a considerable surprise that my exhaustive interpretation of Saramago's work was recognised as the achievement leading to my title of full professor, officially conferred by the President of Poland in June 2018. Apparently, it popped out of nothing. My favourite anecdote illustrating my place in Polish academia is about a student of Portuguese studies who once approached me after my Andalusian class (I was teaching at the time in the curriculum of Mediterranean studies at the Faculty "Artes Liberales", University of Warsaw). She asked me if by chance I was somehow related to Ewa Łukaszyk the author of all those books about Portugal; she assumed I might be her daughter. In her home Lusophone department located right at the opposite end of the street, she only got hearsay or allusive information about that mythical professor Łukaszyk who "had left" or in any case, "was no more". Not quite such an idiot as she might seem, the student deduced that professor Łukaszyk must have passed away. This is how I became the only undead Lusitanist of Europe.
Meanwhile, I came back to Portugal in 2016/2017 with another Calouste Gulbenian Foundation's fellowship, this time with a project aiming at the elaboration of an innovative formula of presenting Portuguese literary history to a foreign public. The result is an extensive monograph, Mgławica Pessoa. Literatura portugalska od romantyzmu do współczesności, published by Ossolineum in 2019. It is a hybrid literary history presented as a travel memoir in which I resumed my Portuguese experience and adventures across nearly a quarter of a century. The chapters called Lectures, filled with more systematic scholarly discourse, are intertwined with personally sounding, essayist Interludes, where I offer an insight in a choice of topics that I considered as particularly relevant and fostering in-depth understanding of Portuguese culture. No need to say that the first readers of my book enjoyed those sections much more than the Lectures.
In many ways, this thick volume of nearly 500 pages is a culmination and a close of my studies on the 19th, 20th and 21st century Portuguese literature. My recent and forthcoming publications deal much more often with African Lusophone literature than exactly the metropolitan one. Nonetheless, I'm still thinking - although with constantly decreasing enthusiasm - about a vintage English-speaking edition, Seductor's Old Age. José Saramago at the end of life and other essays, resuming and presenting to the international public some of my dispersed research outcomes.
Certainly, all those bibliographical items that I produced along the years are only a shadow of what a proper Lusitanist career might have been, were I given full institutional acknowledgement and support in Polish academic context. Texts on Portuguese topics are only a fraction, although not inconsiderable, of my overall academic outcome, and I often wrote them and gave them to print as if unwillingly, not entirely convinced that it was the right thing I actually wanted to do. Certainly, as I am abroad right now, I might think about a full scale international career in this area. But perhaps there are too many bad memories connected to it.
During the summer 2018, at the end of my Marie-Curie fellowship, I thought about relaunching my Lusitanist career in Germany. I made a survey of the universities where Portuguese and Lusophone studies used to be taught, tried to contact some colleagues, even travelled to talk to one of them. But what I saw were, as a rule, not quite excellent scholars, rather insecure about their positions, unwilling to usher a strong competitor, that I would become in the predictable future, into their own departments. This is how I ended up in Leiden, determined to consolidate at all costs my not fully professional Orientalist competence, rather than risk the repetition of the Cracovian scenario in any shrinking department of Portuguese studies.
The part of my Lusitanist expertise that remains in the focus of my current research is the early-modern one. In 2017-2018, Portuguese reflection on universal language, legacy of such authors as João de Barros, appeared in the framework of my Marie-Curie project dedicated to the medieval and early-modern search for Adamic language. (João de Barros believed that the words of the perfect language spoken before the fall of the tower of Babel were still remembered, although dispersed among various peoples of the world; Portuguese maritime expansion, as the humanist believed, might thus permit to bring them together, in such a way that man could speak the language of angels once again).
Chances are that the same strand of reflection will resurface again in the margin of my current project dedicated to mysticism and cultural transgression. Its title, Poetics of the Void: Mystical insight and transultural transgression in the Mediterranean, may sound both cryptic and distant from my Portuguese experience. But it is not entirely so, since the pivotal figures that I plan to study belong to the Islamic Andalusian heritage. Although the most famous of them, such as Ibn Arabi, were connected to major urban centres located in today's Spain, they built up their spiritual adventure on the teachings of obscure, rural, often illiterate Sufi masters, such as Abu Jafar al-Uryani from Loulé, that had once trodden the Portuguese soil. This project may thus contribute to bring into the limelight the survival and fertility of a message transgressing the cultural frontiers that can still help us today to work out new “poetics” in the void resulting from the collapse of the dominant structures of meaning. A message that, at its primaeval source, may be seen as so strikingly “Portuguese” even before Portugal came into a definite, political and cultural existence.
But that is a nice way of speaking, of course. Overall, the continuation of my inglorious Lusitanist career, that till now has made of me the only unemployed -as well as undead- titular professor in Europe, is under quite a bold interrogation mark. Certainly, this is not due to a shortage of new ideas, but to the regrettable state of Lusitanist affairs in which academic excellence is not always the key that opens all the doors.
Mgławica Pessoa. Literatura portugalska od romantyzmu do współczesności [Portuguese literature from the Romanticism to the present], Wrocław, Ossolineum, 2019, 470 pp.
The book is an extensive presentation of the Portuguese literary history, going from 1826 to 2017. The content is divided into eight "lectures" and eight "interludes". While the former offer a synthetic narration involving currents and their major figures, the latter focus on some chosen aspects of the Portuguese culture, offering a personal appreciation and insight in such key matters as love, travel, translatability of the term saudade, the Portuguese relations with Europe and Africa, modernity, literary success and illustrated books.
empire & nostalgia
Result of the research project supported by the National Science Centre, Poland; DEC2012/05/B/HS2/03986.
Imperium i nostalgia. "Styl późny" w kulturze portugalskiej [Empire and Nostalgia. "Late style" in the Portuguese culture], Warszawa, DiG, 2015, 180 pp.
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TABLE OF CONTENT >>>
The main conceptual framework of this book is given by my search for the definition of transcultural condition that the Portuguese never managed to achieve, in spite of their incessant search for universalism. The essays included in it form a chain of ideas recounting the Portuguese cultural history, passing through such key figures as Camões, Vieira, Pessoa and Saramago, to whom this research project has been officially dedicated.
In the Foreword, after some preliminary remarks, I give a working definition of transcultural and transcolonial, as well as situate the Portuguese case in the context of global studies. The first chapter, "Light at dusk" is dedicated to the concept of "late style" that appears in the title, as well as other ideas taken from Edward Said. I return to his evocation of Batinist and Zahirite schools in The Word, the Text and the Critic to search for an analogous dichotomy in the Portuguese literature, namely opposing Vieira and Pessoa on the one hand, and Saramago on the other.
In the second essay, "On the path of hyper-culture", I propose this neologism to grasp the premises and implications of the Portuguese idea concerning the special place of their culture as an "essence of unification", idea that appears in the vision of the "Fifth Empire" in the 17th century and is still present nowadays in the discourse of Lusophony. The main bulk of this chapter is dedicated to Vieira, as I try to confront my concept of transculture and his writings, such as História do Futuro and Clavis Prophetarum. Agamben's seminar on the Letter to Romans, as well as the whole discussion involving Paul and the origins of universalism, appear in the background. Finally, Vieira is confronted with Pessoa and what I call the "virtualization" of the Portuguese universalism.
The third chapter, "In the cycle of catastrophe" parts from the essay Shipwreck with spectator by Hans Blumenberg. The metaphor used by the German philosopher obviously invites a confrontation with the Portuguese maritime destiny. I try to go deeper than this superficial association, taking the dawn of the hyper-culture for the moment of transgression launching the European on the one-way path of progress, identified here with the fulfillment of the globalization. As Blumenberg suggests, the cyclic dynamics of the modern catastrophe, rebuilding the ships with the shipwrecked material, is caused by the incessant temptation of wholeness -- of which the early-modern vision of Vasco da Gama in The Lusiads is a premonition. Going back to the idea of crusade, I speak about the cycle of Portuguese catastrophes, situated quite close to the native shores, in Morocco. On the other hand, the longue durée of the crusade forms a cataclysmic pattern that I call the globalization of the Mediterranean.
The title of the next essay, "Conversation with a skull", is taken from Rushdie's short story included in East, West and refers to the skull of the dead jester Yorick that appears in Hamlet. Since the first moments of their presence in the New World, the Portuguese humanists, such as Pêro Vaz de Caminha and Damião de Góis, appropriate the alien voice, realizing the early-modern pattern of intercession, once again shown through the Shakespearean reference to the figure of Desdemona, causing the tragedy by her obsession of interceding in defense of a plain soldier. The stranger is silenced as the humanists speak loud in his name. The burden of hegemonic situation, of which I spoke in the chapter dedicated to Vieira, creates a longing for otherness' voice and the supposed re-creative potential of genus angelicum. Nonetheless, the eventuality of a native Yorick answering Hamlet causes a thrill that ultimately blocks any attempt at a genuine communication. On the other hand, the simile of the bottom and surface of Narcissus' spring subsumes the search for an alien mirror permitting a glance at the European condition. The chapter on Cannibals in Montaigne's Essays doesn't actually offer this insight; it is found very late, when a Portuguese colonizer discovers his own portrait in the African sculpture of Yaka.
In the next chapter, I return to the messianic imagination contributing to the imperial utopia that survives the decolonization and is to be found in the post-modern constructs of lusophony. I read both the defenders and the adversaries of the new project, seeking to understand the peculiar Portuguese understanding of the notion of spiritual empire that arguably survived unscathed the postcolonial negotiations.
Finally, the last part of the book is dedicated to the contemporary Portuguese culture, featuring Jorge de Sena, Eduardo Lourenço and Saramago. They are seen as "dispatriants" breaking through the limiting patterns of their homeland, reflected in the claustrophobic simile of an island of the leprous. Once again, they search for a new form of intellectual universalism beyond the limitations of the "insular" mentality of the Portuguese. The final remarks on Saramago are placed under the sign of the "victory of Erros". I employ the erotic-erratic concept proposed by the Polish philosopher Agata Bielik-Robson to highlight the earthly liberation achieved after the breakdown of the Portuguese hyper-cultural narration.
The book closes with a "Moral of the story", adopting an external view of the Portuguese culture and evoking its place in non-European memory. Panglima Awang, a short novel by a Malay writer Harun Aminurashid is evoked, leading to a de-centered vision of the global history.
temptation of the desert
Pokusa pustyni. Nomadyzm jako wyjście z kryzysu współczesności w pisarstwie José Saramago [Temptation of the Desert. Nomadism as a solution for the contemporary crisis in the novelistic works of Jose Saramago], Kraków, Universitas, 2005, 360 pp.
ISBN e-book: ISBN 97883-242-1163-0
The aim of this book is to offer a synthetic vision of the complex theologico-anthropological and political position formulated by José Saramago in his novels, from Manual de Pintura e Caligrafia till O Homem Duplicado.
As a novelist, José Saramago gives a complex picture of the human condition in the world. It is determined by agonistic relations: on the one hand, a conflict between human beings and the tyrannical deity who strives to crush them, on the other – a feud among human beings themselves. History, therefore, appears to be a cyclical pattern of recurring tragedies and injustice.
A point of departure for the reflection is the impossibility to formulate a theodicy. The evil experienced by human beings is shown to be an outrage, a source of unassuaged horror. There is, however, a recipe for solving the dual conflict with the Other (another man or the deity): abandonment of the settled way of life, of manufacturing and accumulating material goods. Only extreme ascetism could remedy the human condition, eliminating the rivalry between the manufacturer and the Maker and disrupting the network of relations which entangle man in the historical human world. The way to avoid being enmeshed in relationship which, in Saramago’s opinion, always threatens with conflict, is nomadism: averting of the gaze, no longer meeting the gaze of the Other – either a rival human being or the jealous Eye of Providence. While looking at the Other, man sees an opponent, which gives rise to the agonistic relation. It is better, then, to view the world disinterestedly during an endless journey.
The first part of the book presents the situation of man facing the deity, tragically determined by disproportion between the heavenly power and the insignificant human world on the one hand and, on the other, by similarity between the participants of the conflict – similarity which incites God’s jealousy of human beings, for they, on their diminutive scale, may be achieving something unattainable to God in all his might. Human beings rebel and overcome their mortality, fulfilling themselves in parenthood and material, literary or musical achievement. The jealous Maker never stops trying to thwart their creative plans, to destroy the order they strive to establish, to stifle their words and their music which is not a reflection of harmony of the spheres but a revolt against the silence of God’s universe. The deity disrupts their work, uproots them, forces them on their way. The ultimate advice that can be given to the tormented human beings crushed in their struggle against the invincible enemy is to accept the necessity, to relinquish the hubris of manufacturing and to undertake the imposed journey.
The second part presents Saramago’s battle against politics and history. It appears that here too, one cannot trust promises. Neither religion nor political revolution leads to a better world. The Western world, based on individualism, is headed for collapse, since the individual identity does not provide a sufficiently stable foundation. Faith in reason is equally illusory and deceptive as faith in divine providence. Rational methods cannot prevent wrongs, and intellectual cognition not only fails to solve real problems but it also proves unable to strengthen morality or eliminate violence which is a basic modus of one human being meeting another. Democracy does not survive, either. This rational system of co-deciding is demonstrated to be a mere cover for ambitions of the most aggressive and an endorsement of the powerlessness and incapacitation of an individual in society. Voting gives only an illusion of responsibility, so the day comes when almost every voter casts an empty ballot into the box.
The nation as a system of solidarity also turns out to be a fiction aimed at concealing centuries-old inequity. Moreover, national history cannot be rectified; it is even impossible to do justice to victims of the past. Consequently, the national community is just another kind of relationship to be dissolved. A micro community, loose group of people, remains the only true form of social life. Only in such minimalist circumstances may the simplest kinds of responsibility be expected, though tentatively so, with no assurance.
History, then, is a problem to be solved. Recurring maladies cannot be remedied with historical methods, as history consists of ever returning, unchanging situations of violence. Permanent improvement can solely be attained in an messianic way, through an apocalyptic closing of history and establishment of an eternal kingdom of nomads who relinquish any rational or technological control over the world, who no longer appropriate anything nor enter relations with other people. Contrary to declarations made outside literature, therefore, the political recipe Saramago proposes is not Marxism as a strictly defined doctrine but going beyond the domain of politics.
The final part of the book elaborates on the metaphor of the desert appearing in the title. The desert is an area free from works of human hands and mind, a place of rest where the menacing deity, faced with human quietism, finds no grounds for rivalry. Thus, hell – that is, the world – becomes familiarized. Man stops fighting the lost battle against time and expanding chaos. Architecture changes into ruin, an indistinct sign. Meticulously organized archives fall apart. All archiving must be abandoned. The eye of the camera, which was supposed to serve as an extension of human sight and memory, proves to be completely useless. Human beings need to reject the instrument and undertake a journey, trying to see the world through their own eyes. They need to give up their passion for cartography and, instead of attempting to control and exploit the changing world, they need to wander without maps, accept the feeling of being lost, and rely on their instinct. Nomads are people without names, possessions or relationships with others, people without plans. They have liberated themselves from the burden of both past and future. Living in the constant now, they are free from history.
The minimalist solutions suggested by Saramago are a response to his radical assessment of Western culture. They arise from the state of utter helplessness, and it is only in such circumstances that they may be accepted. They constitute a call for betrayal, for rejection of one’s cultural heritage – a call made in hope that this radical act will give us the power to return to the auroral moment, to begin everything anew and thus to rebuild the world without its flaws. For those stuck at a dead end, the only course of action is to shift into reverse. This proposal, oscillating so dangerously between utopia and anti-utopia, between a promise and a threat, raises inevitable doubts and reservations. It is valid only in the context of powerlessness of literature, of a game without translation into reality which Saramago tries in vain to modify, searching, as the Neorealists did, for literature aimed at transforming the world. To cast literature in such an elevated role, however, means only another level of the cultural game, and the ultimate lesson to be learned from Saramago’s call for betrayal of Europe and, further, of Western culture, seems to be the affirmation of remaining faithful.
Review of this book
Agnieszka August-Zarębska, "Pokusa pustyni Ewy Łukaszyk (Kraków 2005)", Estudios hispánicos, XIV, 2006, pp. 212-215.
the territory & the world
Terytorium a świat. Wyobrażeniowe konfiguracje przestrzeni w literaturze portugalskiej od schyłku średniowiecza do współczesności [The Territory and the World. Imaginary configurations of space in Portuguese literature since the end of the Middle Ages till the contemporary period], Kraków, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2003, 290 pp.
The book presents an analysis of space categories in Portuguese literature across the "imperial cycle", i.e. an extensive epoch that goes from the passage from Middle Ages to early modernity till the contemporary period. The main aim is to put in the limelight the evolution of spatial conceptualization, built up around two crucial notions: that of the "territory" and that of the "world". These two crucial concepts are in constant interaction along the Portuguese history, leading to their paradoxical identification in the concept of the "Fifth Empire" introduced by a 17th century Jesuit, António Vieira, who dreamed about a universal state unifying all humanity.
The five extensive chapters of this book show different aspects or stages in the development of the Portuguese spatial imagination. The first chapter, "Crossing the borders, seeing and reorganizing the world" starts with the teophanic root of the Portuguese identity, based on the narration of "milagre do Ourique". The maritime expansion is thus inscribed in the context of the "sacred mission" determining and justifying the existence of the nation. The legitimizing narration given by Camões in The Lusitans is one of the main points of this chapter. As a consequence, the paradigm of homo viator is conceptualized as the ideal realization of the human potential.
With the second chapter, "Unification of the world", we enter in the full blossom of the Portuguese idealistic project of the universal spiritual empire. I show the interplay of two apparently heterogeneous aspects: the vision of universalism elaborated by the humanists and the "Fifth Empire" of António Vieira. These two aspects contribute to the crystallized vision of humanity unified by the Portuguese in a new, at the same time political and mystic reality. Breaking the chronological order of the book, this chapters brings about Fernando Pessoa as the 20th century culmination of the vision of the Portuguese spiritual empire.
The beginning of the third chapter, "Unified world falling apart" takes the reader back to the early modern history, dealing with the negative aspects of the expansion. It presents the testimonies of being lost in the hostile world that make an important part of the Portuguese experience. A highlight in the presented material is given to the narrations of shipwrecks collected in História Trágico-Marítima. The analysis continues across the Portuguese literary history, culminating once again in the narrations of the African colonial war.
The last two chapters deal with modernity, marked by the destruction of the sacralised vision of the Portuguese destiny. This degradation of the consciousness of sacred mission that legitimised the very existence of the nation in earlier centuries is translated by visions of illness and degeneration of the national space, mainly in the literature created in the second half of the 19th century. What emerges during this century is the painful consciousness of contradiction between the supposed hegemonic and messianic mission in the world and the actual insignificance and poverty of the continental territory. Nonetheless, the generation of saudosistas brings back the idealised images of Portuguese homeland. Across this period, the negotiation of status between Portugal and Europe requires a new spatial category, that of periphery. Finally, the survey of the Portuguese spatial imagination culminates in Saramago's understanding of nomadism that obliterates both the hyperbolic notion of empire and the painful consciousness of periphery.
Review of this book
Teresa Jaromin, "E. Łukaszyk, Terytorium a świat...", Estudios hispánicos, XII, 2004, pp. 291-293.
themes, problems, obsessions
Współczesna proza portugalska (1939-1999). Tematy, problemy, obsesje [Contemporary Portuguese Literature (1939-1999). Topics, problems, obsessions], Kraków, Universitas, 2000, 237 pp.
The book offers a comprehensive glance on Portuguese narrative literature (i.e. the history of such genres as novel and short story, as well as minor and experimental texts such as crónicas) since the neorealism till the end of the 20th century. The material is synthetically divided in three parts: "Ideas and manifestos. The age of certitudes, convictions and attitudes", "Fight against history. The age of questions without answers", and "After the Apocalypse. Tame history, entanglement in texts". The aim is to offer the reader an insight into the evolution of the main currents, ideological stances and aesthetic choices of the 20th century narrative in Portugal.
Review of this book
Agnieszka August-Zarębska, "Współczesna proza portugalska Ewy Łukaszyk (Kraków 2000)", Estudios hispánicos, X, 2002, pp. 153-155.
(submitted 9.09.2019) "Des Lettres de la religieuse portugaise aux Nouvelles Lettres portugaises: la conquête de la solitude à l'aube de l'âge moderne et son palimpseste féministe" ["From the Letters of a Portuguese Nun to New Portuguese Letters: the conquest of solitude at the dawn of the modern age and its feminist palimpsest"], Colloquia Comparativa Litterarum, 2020. ISSN 2367-7716
“Raczyński w Portugalii. Spuścizna 'zderzenia kultur'” [“Raczyński in Portugal. The heritage of a cultural clash”], Postscriptum Polonistyczne, no 1 (21)/2018, p. 27-43. ISSN 1898-1593;
The article presents Atanazy Raczyński’s research on Portuguese art against the background of the modernisation and Europeanisation processes going on in Portugal in the 19th century. His specific view of Portuguese artistic heritage and openly expressed critical opinions made of him a controversial figure, which paradoxically contributed to the importance and resonance of his work. Discouraged by the conflict with his Portuguese milieu, Raczyński did not complete his final synthesis. Nevertheless, his letters to the Art Society in Berlin and his dictionary of Portuguese artists initiated history of art (in the proper sense of a scientific discipline) in Portugal.
“Od morskiego imperium do ziemi odzyskanej. Esej o 'świecie portugalskim'” [“From empire to the reconquered earth. Essay on the 'Portuguese world'”], Kultura – Historia – Globalizacja, no 21/2017, p. 149-160. ISSN 1898-7265
Reprinted in volume: Historia – Kultura – Globalizacja, vol. VIII, Adam Nobis, Piotr Badyna, Piotr J. Fereński (eds.), Wrocław, Arboretum, 2018, p. 653-666. ISBN 978-83-62563-68-5
The essay comments on the evolution of the Portuguese concept of identity between its medieval and early-modern origins and the decline of the colonial empire. The concept of the “Portuguese world”, exemplified in the exposition organised in 1940, is treated as a simulacrum covering the deficiencies of the colonial project. At the same time, the vindication of the “earth” as opposed to the maritime space of the supposed “paracletic” destiny of the nation, is brought back to the Salazarian epoch with the figure of Henrique Galvão. Portugal is imagined as a garden, in which also the Other is included, as it can still be seen in the collection of "peoples of the empire" decorating the botanical garden in Belem. On the other hand, the decolonisation and the return of the settlers (shown in O Retorno by Maria Dulce Cardoso) is treated as a crucial point in which the vision of the “Portuguese world” suffered a profound reshaping. It emerges, at the beginning of the 21st century, as a community of the poor in such novels as O Apocalipse dos trabalhadores by Walter Hugo Mãe.
"Universos domésticos na narrativa portuguesa das últimas décadas do século XX: moradas imaginárias no ciclo duma cosmogonia mítica" ["Familiar universes in the Portuguese narrations during the last decades of the 20th century: imaginary homes in the cycle of mythical cosmogony"], Mitologizacje człowieka w kulturze i literaturze iberyjskiej i polskiej, Wojciech Charchalis, Bogdan Trocha (eds.), Zielona Góra, Pracownia Mitopoetyki i Filozofii Literatury – Uniwersytet Zielonogórski, 2016, p. 167-181.
“No ventre dum cavalo de Troia. Espaços da criatividade feminina na escrita de Teolinda Gersão” [“Inside the belly of a Trojan horse. Spaces of female creativity in the writings by Teolinda Gersão”], Lusorama. Zeitschrift für Lusitanistik, no 103-104, November 2015, p. 6-23. ISSN 0931-9484
Discute-se o problema dos entraves à atividade criadora da mulher, denunciados na escrita de Teolinda Gersão. Um relevo especial é dado ao romance A Cidade de Ulisses e à desconstrução do mito de Ulisses enquanto parte da herança patriarcal portuguesa. Teolinda Gersão acentua a especificidade da arte entendida pela mulher, postulando a sua inscrição no contexto existencial duma vida individual e comunitária, e recusando uma celebração póstuma do génio feminino.
"De gregos a portugueses. A transferência cultural como um problema de consciência crítica na Cidade de Ulisses de Teolinda Gersão" ["From Greek to Portuguese. The cultural transfer as a problem of critical consciousness in Cidade de Ulisses, by Teolinda Gersão"], Estudios Hispánicos, vol. XXIII, 2015, p. 173-184. ISSN 0239-6661
The novel A Cidade de Ulisses (2011), written as an answer to the economic crisis, sheds a new light on the relationship between Portugal and Greece. This relationship was very important for the generation living under the regime of Salazar, that looked up to Greece for a model of supranational identity and true civilisation, as opposed to the vision launched by the official propaganda. In her novel, Teolinda Gersao deconstructs one of the myth of the Portuguese identity, the belief that the city of Lisbon had been founded by Ulysses. From a neo-feminist perspective, she criticises the presence of this paradigm in Portuguese culture. At the same time, she deconstructs the idealistic vision of Greece, replacing it by a sounder, more realistic idea of identification and solidarity with Europe's deficient South.
"Nós, Portugal, o poder ser. Um universalismo virtual como resultado dum processo de auto-mitificação da cultura", ["We, Portugal, the possibility of being. Virtual universalism as the result of the process of cultural self-mythification"], Mitologizacja kultury w polskiej i iberyjskiej twórczości artystycznej / Mitificação de cultura na criação artística ibérica e polaca, Wojciech Charchalis, Bogdan Trocha (eds.), Zielona Góra, Pracownia Mitopoetyki i Filozofii Literatury - Uniwersytet Zielonogórski, 2015, p. 287-297. ISBN 978-83-940506-8-9
“Mech, torf i węgiel. O skrzyni z trzydziestoma tysiącami świstków Fernanda Pessoi” [“Moss, peat and coal. The chest with thirty thousand sheets of paper by Fernando Pessoa”], Tekstualia, no 2(37)/2014, p. 99-110. ISSN 1734-6029
The figure of Fernando Pessoa as we know him today results from a double work-in-progress: firstly, by the poet himself, who, instead of preparing his own work for publication, collected spare sheets of paper in the famous chest (“arca”), and secondly, by the researchers, who, year by year, go on publishing successive volumes derived from that legacy. In a sense, Pessoa is thus our contemporary, as the meanings acquired by his published writings follow the current trends in humanities.
The “arca” is interpreted as the result of an intentional project realized by the writer who preferred a collection of spare sheets over a definitive shape of a book published in its author's lifetime. The chest reflects the idea of a library in ruins, overflowing abundance of spare pages and de-contextualized ideas; their potential meaning is constantly re-actualized as an expedient form of order introduced into the chaos. Through this project, the Portuguese poet avoids the fate of the peripheral condition that would otherwise condemn him to eternal belatedness in relation to the modern movements and poetics.
"Sangue e leite. A transmutação andrógina no Físico prodigioso de Jorge de Sena" ["Blood and Milk. Androgynous transmutation in O Físico prodigioso, by Jorge de Sena"], Estudios Hispánicos, XXI, 2013, p. 121-131. ISSN 2084-2546
Also available online in: Ler Jorge de Sena (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro):
To read O Físico prodigioso as an autobiography, according to the explicit recommendation given by the author, seems a difficult task. Nonetheless, the notion of androgyny, appearing in a larger context of reflection on sexuality and gender led by Jorge de Sena, may give an interpretative key to this text, specially if it is considered in the light of his scholarly interests and writings. The intertextual games in O Físico prodigioso give depth to the message concerning sexuality: it should be transcended into androgynous condition, associated with the plenitude of creative powers and the domain of the sacred.
“Komparatystyka w Portugalii: przemiany «mapy wyobrażonej» a studia literaturoznawcze” [“Comparativism in Portugal: changes on the imaginary map and literary studies”], Drogi i rozdroża współczesnej komparatystyki europejskiej, Alina Nowicka-Jeżowa, Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga, Tomasz Wójcik (eds.), Warszawa, Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa, 2012, p. 70-77. ISBN 978-83-7151-083-0
"Akt twórczy jako destabilizacja porządków w pisarstwie José Saramago" [“Creative act as a destabilization of order in the novelistic work of José Saramago”], Tematy z Szewskiej, 2(6)/2011, p. 193-198. ISSN 1898-3901
“Śmiertelność, zasiedzenie, autochtonizm. Kryptoteologia i kryptoantropologia w powieściach José Saramago” [“Mortality, sedentism, autochthonism. Crypto-theology and crypto-anthropology in the novels by José Saramago”], Anthropos?, no 16-17/2011, p. 170-178. ISSN 1730-9549
“Uma lição portuguesa de multiculturalismo” [“A Portuguese lesson of multiculturalism”], Lusorama. Zeitschrift für Lusitanistik, no 79-80 (November 2009), p. 176-193. ISSN 0931-9484
„«Qui vole haut à tomber du haut se condamne». L’œuvre-blasphème dans Le Dieu manchot de José Saramago”, Images, Symboles, Mythes et Poétique de l’Ascension / Envol, études réunies et présentées par Barbara Sosień, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2007, p. 203-210. ISBN 978-83-233-2368-6
“Sebastianizm. W oczekiwaniu na idealnego władcę, który przypłynie z zaklętej wyspy” [“Sebastianism. Waiting for the ideal ruler that shall return from an enchanted island”], Studia iberystyczne, no 4/2005, p. 33-48. ISBN 83-7188-758-2
“Terytorium a świat. Miejsce przestrzeni narodowej w porządku globalnym (na przykładzie portugalskim)” [“Territory and the world. Place of the national space in the global order (the Portuguese example)”], Przestrzeń w języku i kulturze. Analizy tekstów literackich i wybranych dziedzin sztuki, Jan Adamowski (ed.), Lublin, Wydawnictwo UMCS, 2005, p. 219-225. ISBN 83-227-2396-2
"Fernando Pessoa jako «nacjonalista mistyczny». Wizje narodowej tożsamości i historii w twórczości orto- i heteronimicznej" ["Fernando Pessoa as a 'mystic nationalist'. Visions of the national identity and history in the orto- and heteronym poetry"], Prace Komisji Neofilologicznej, t. V, Kraków, Polska Akademia Umiejętności, 2005, p. 123-146. ISSN 1731-8491
Fernando Pessoa “nacionalista místico”. As visões da identidade e a história nacional na obra ortónima e heterónima. O artigo apresenta a questão da génese dos heterónimos sob o ponto de vista do “nacionalismo místico” proclamado por Fernando Pessoa. Nesta perspetiva, a sua obra inscreve-se no contexto das tendências da época, tais como Renascença Portuguesa ou saudosismo, e no empenhamento do próprio autor na política do seu tempo. Por outro lado, Pessoa tenta redefinir as bases da identidade nacional para resolver a grande aporia portuguesa: a do contraste entre o passado glorioso e o presente medíocre, tendo em vista o renascimento cultural e intelectual no qual se propunha desempenhar um papel importante. O problema da identidade tem que ser entendido duma forma subtil, devido aos elementos quasi-religiosos subjacentes na sua formação (o milagre de Ourique e a consciência de missão portuguesa na história universal; o Quinto Império), que ultrapassam a dimensão puramente étnica. Os heterónimos, contrastados com a obra ortónima, funcionam como um meio da participação plurivocal de Pessoa na discussão do problema nacional, permitindo a expressão de posições ideológicas que vão da fé incondicional na realização do destino místico de Portugal na Mensagem até ao cosmopolitismo de Ricardo Reis, “patriotismo linguístico” de Bernardo Soares ou estado pré-nacional de Caeiro. Finalmente, as aporias do pensamento nacionalista conduzem às atitudes auto-irónicas de Pessoa, através das quais se deveria ler sobretudo a obra heterónima de Álvaro de Campos.
"Tożsamość hybrydyczna jako anachronizm, przedmiot terapii i nowa jakość (przypadek portugalski)" [“Hybrid identity as anachronism, object of therapy and new quality (the Portuguese case)”], Er(r)go, nr 2(9)/2004, p. 29-38. ISSN 1508-6305
„«Przymierze z rzeczami» Sophii de Mello Breyner Andresen – między nowatorstwem a tradycją” ["'The alliance with things' in the poetry of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Between tradition and innovation"], Studia Iberystyczne, nr 3/2004, p. 113-126. ISBN 83-7188-540-7
„Perspektywy narratora-nomady w twórczości powieściowej José Saramago: wymiary aktu opowiadania w rzekomej «narracji odkupienia»” ["The perspectives of the nomadic narrator in the novelistic work by José Saramago: dimensions of the narrative act in the supposed 'redemption story'"], Narracja i tożsamość (II). Antropologiczne problemy literatury, pod red. Włodzimierza Boleckiego i Ryszarda Nycza, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Instytutu Badań Literackich PAN, 2004, p. 373-386. ISSN 0084-4411; ISBN 83-89348-41-1
“Atanazy Raczyński, historiógrafo da arte portuguesa” ["Atanazy Raczynski: a historiographer of the Portuguese art"], Estudios Hispánicos, t. XI (2003), p. 77-90. ISSN 0239-6661; ISBN 83-229-2486-0
"Fatum, Parki, Salome. Kobiecość fatalna w «dramatach statycznych» Fernanda Pessoa Salomé i O Marinheiro" ["The Fate, the Fates, Salome. Fatal feminine in the 'static dramas' by Fernando Pessoa, Salomé and O Marinheiro"], Intertekstualność i wyobraźniowość, Barbara Sosień (ed.), Kraków, Universitas, 2003, p. 169-180. ISBN 83-7052-882-1
“Le jardin autour de la Grande Demeure cosmique (quelques récits portugais)” [“The Garden surrounding the cosmic Great House (several Portuguese texts)”], Imaginer le Jardin, études réunies par Barbara Sosień, Kraków, Abrys, 2003, p. 320-333. ISBN 83-85827-87-0
“«Au commencement était la route...» A actualização dos itinerários medievais nos romances de José Saramago” [“Au commencement était la route... The actualization of the medieval itineraries in the novels of José Saramago”], L’épopée médievale. Actes du XVe Congrès International de la Société Rencesvals (Poitiers, 21-27 août 2000), Gabriel Bianciotto et al. (eds), Poitiers, Centre d’Études Supérieures de Civilisation Médiévale – Université de Poitiers, 2002, vol. 1, p. 187-191. ISBN 2-9514506-6-4
"A crónica: um género-ambívio na actual paisagem literária portuguesa?” [ "The cronicle: a crossroad genre in the landscape of the contemporary Portuguese prose"], Romanica Cracoviensia, nr 2/2002, p. 86-98. ISBN 83-233-1633-3
"Wokół sztuki powieściowej José Saramago" ["On novelistic artism of José Saramago"], Prace Komisji Neofilologicznej, t. II, Kraków, Polska Akademia Umiejętności, 2001, p. 119-136. ISBN 83-88857-11-8
„Od przekładu do oryginału. O recepcji egzystencjalizmu francuskiego w Portugalii (Urbano Tavares Rodrigues i Vergílio Ferreira)” ["From translation to original. On the reception of French existentialism in Portugal (Urbano Tavares Rodrigues and Vergilio Ferreira"], Między oryginałem a przekładem VI, Kraków, Księgarnia Akademicka, 2000, p. 53-62. ISBN 83-7188-430-3
"Vai, pequeno livro, e escolhe o teu mundo... O tempo da história e o tempo da História nos prefácios aos Amantes e Outros Contos de David Mourão-Ferreira e aos Grão-Capitães de Jorge de Sena” ["'Go, little book, and choose your world...' Time of story and time of History in the introductions to Amantes e Outros Contos by David Mourão-Ferreira and Grão-Capitães by Jorge de Sena"], Romanica Cracoviensia, nr 1/2000, p. 43-47. ISBN 83-233-1357-1
“La mort de Dieu ou la naissance d’un homme nouveau? L'interrogation sur l’avenir de la culture européenne dans l’oeuvre de Vergílio Ferreira” [“The death of God or the birth of a new man? Interrogations on the future of the European culture in the writings of Vergílio Ferreira”], Kwartalnik Neofilologiczny, no 2/2000, p. 185-196. ISSN 0023-5911
“Portugalskie tradycje matriarchalne a najnowsza literatura autorstwa kobiet” [“Portuguese matriarchal traditions and recent women's writing”], Literatura ludowa, no 3(44)/2000, p. 47-51. ISSN 0024-4708
"Zamieszkiwanie wędrówki. Metafory ziemskiego losu człowieka u José Saramago” ["Dwelling in the wandering. Metaphors of man's earthly fate in Jose Saramago"], Er(r)go, nr 1/2000, p. 115-120. ISSN 1508-6305
„Aliança com as coisas. O mito de Orfeu em Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen” ["Union with the things. The Orphic myth in the poetry of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen"], Acta Universitatis Palackianae Olomucensis – Facultas Philosophica - Philologica 71 (1998), p. 85-92. ISBN 80-7067-809-7