Sunday, June 27, 2010

Switching up Reading Lists

After I finnish Kenneth Roberts Rabble in Arms, I will switch to Michener's Poland. This is interesting in that the Editrix likes this book. My father who is a fan of the author was critical of this offering. His point was that the absence of Jews in the book where they were a large part of the population is glaring. He does read a surprising number of the books I have finnished.


The_Editrix said...

"His point was that the absence of Jews in the book where they were a large part of the population is glaring."

Your father is right, Beak. I pointed it out in an earlier comment already. Still, while one ought to be aware of that -- indeed glaring -- omission, the book still teaches a lot about the very complex history of the Polish people.

Warren said...

"His point was that the absence of Jews in the book where they were a large part of the population is glaring"

It is odd. I know that of the Katyn Massacre victims that a large portion were Jewish. 18 Military Chaplains were among the murdered including the Polish army's chief rabbi.

beakerkin said...


Michener was a great author and usually does not get things like this wrong. Interestingly, Roberts
goes through some trouble to point out that there were Blacks who fought with the colonialist.

While most point to his depiction of Benedict Arnold in heroic terms
and many of his peers in less than
flattering terms this is not what
strikes me as unusual for a book written in 1929. The actual hero of the first book is an Abenaki indian Natanis who saves the day
on several occaisions.

Interestingly, Roberts peer Edmunds does show the role of the Indians on both sides in Drums along the Mohawk. Maybe after I read Michener, I will track down
Henryk Seinkowicz and see how he deals with the same material.

beakerkin said...


This is a point I have made to Ren on multiple occaisions. Ren pretends that all the Jews in the region fought for the Soviets. My family fought for Poland in 1920.
They did not like Poland and emigrated at the first opportunity,
but recognized Communism as evil.

The_Editrix said...

Warren makes a good (and much overlooked) point!

It is not more than a gut feeling and I may be wrong, but I don't think it was 'active' antisemitism that let Michener omit the Jews. The task to explain the intricacies of Polish social conditions is a daunting task, so maybe that let him make that omission. This means that he only thematizes the nobility (the magnates), the gentry and the working classes. The bourgeois or middle class is not existing in the book. That is because there was, historically, no Polish bourgeois or middle class. The Jews had historically functioned as the power that developed the towns and the trade. As I said, I may be wrong, but I think it was all too much for one book, even for one as voluminous as "Poland".

Jews faught against Germany in large numbers, USA 550,000, UdSSR 500,000, England 62,000, Canada 16,000, South Africa 10,000, Jews from Palestine 30,000, France 48,000, Poland 190.000, Greece 13,000, Yugoslavia 12,000, Czechoslovakia 8,000, Belgium 7,000, Australia 3.000, a total of 1,406,000.

More than 150,000 Jewish soldiers and officers took part in the "September war" 1939. Their losses were high, 35.000 killed, 61,000 pows.

Source (in German). The Katyn massacre and the Polish army's chief rabbi, Dr. Baruch Steinberg, are mentioned there as well.

beakerkin said...


Are you familiar with Warren from Bad Eagle. You might remember him under the name Longrange. He is my best friend on the web.

In the case of Michener he is clearly not antisemitic. He was a Quaker and modern Quakers can be very far left and hostile to Jews.

I read that the book was produced
in connection with a media event. He also covered Jews in another book.

A look at Seinkowicz whom Michener probably read would be interesting.

When writing this type of literature we get a glimpse at the author. In the case of Michener he placed story first. Roberts is more historian and his books reflect his perspective that was unheard of at the time. Michener was more conventional.

The Pagan Temple said...

I've never read a book by Michener, and don't think I could, but if I might offer a theory, maybe he just didn't have the time or space and didn't want to detract from the main subject matter, which was the Polish people. If so, that's a shame, seeing as how Jewish history to a large extent is so bound up in Polish history. There were a lot o pogroms there, I think more than Russia, and also I think more Jews killed in the Holocaust came from there than any other single place.

If I were to read a book by Michener, I think I'd read Hawaii, at least I think he wrote that. If not, somebody should.

The_Editrix said...

Beak, but of course I know who Warren is because I knew his name already while we were both still at BE. And of course, I remember the avatar.

TPT, what makes you think that Jews were not part of the Polish people?

The Pagan Temple said...


I didn't exactly mean it that way. I should have said he probably wanted to devote the book mainly to ethnic Poles. That's the problem with trying to fit a subject with such a huge scope and history in the pages of a book, especially when you try to cover successive generations. There's no way you can cover everything adequately, unless you do it over successive installments.

You could write a book on Ste[hen Bathory alone and might need well over 400 pages to even begin to do it justice.