To Praise “Polonaise” (The 1976 Novel)

Centered on the characters of Krystyna, Stefan, Bruno and Rachel, the novel Polonaise, by Piers Paul Read, concerns Polish people from decades past who join, and eventually depart from, the Communist movement.  One of the book’s themes is nihilism.  Another is the way Life overwhelms Ideology, or at least forces it to take a back seat.  It is a compelling read which nevertheless mildly disappointed me with its final standard anti-nihilistic philosophy—a not very fresh summation.

All the same, the book is wonderfully intelligent.  It is interesting to see it go from being a depiction of political sweat and commitment to being a chaste drawing room drama before it gets its hands dirty again.  And, ineluctably, Read is disinclined to ignore sex—significant but no source of salvation—but is never sensationalistic.

 

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