* Conrad's Polish Footprints: III International
Joseph Conrad Conference
at Maria Curie-Sklodowska
University, Lublin, Poland,
29 May-1 June
Ann Lane Bradshaw
This Conference, hosted by Maria Curie-Sklodowska
University, and with the Polish Prime Minister
as its patron, is the third such in ten years.
Volumes from the associated East European
Monograph series have also been published
annually over this time by Columbia University
The form of the Conference is peripatetic.
The first day we spend in Lublin, before
moving on to Kazimierz-Dolny for the proceedings.
During the morning's open-ing plenary session
we hear that Professor Najder (who speaks
as President of Poland's Conrad Society)
will not be able to attend conference sessions,
because he is on the committee advising the
Polish Government on how to make its case
for entering the European Union. Sad for
us, but how good, and how unusual, for such
a great humanist scholar and intellectual
to be called upon by government!
Our setting in Lublin is, historically and
currently, politically alivea suitable
atmosphere in which to start discussing Conrad.
As we drive towards the medieval part of
Lublin we hear about the Jewish ghetto, evidence
of long denied and now admitted anti-Semitism
in Poland. Professor Krajka, the chief organizer
of our conference, and supervisor of the
University's graduate Conrad studies, also
explains to us that the architecture of Lublin
Castle is visible testimony that here, on
this very spot in Poland, East meets West.
The exterior of the Castle is Roman Catholic
in design, the interior, Russian Orthodox.
Within, inside the 15th century Russo-Byzantine
chapel, was signed the treaty of union between
Poland and Lithuania in 1569.
The papers at the conference are given in
two sessions simultaneously. In an exquisite,
traditional Polish living room are held papers
mostly concerning Conrad's Polish and Russian
contexts; in a comfortable modern seminar
room are papers ranging over topics such
as Conrad's contemporary French and English
contexts, in drama as well as in prose, writing
style, iconography, political and ethical
philosophy (chief figures here being Emmanuel
Levinas and Homi Bhabha, along with Schopenhauer,
Freud and Lacan), and colonial issues. Despite
the absence of famous names amongst the conference
participants the standard of the papers is
evenly high. Another point people comment
on favorably is the truly international representation,
the 50 speakers coming from 14 countries.
Also remarked is the convivial atmosphere
of the question sessions (though perhaps
this virtue came at the cost of hard scrutiny
of some issues that arose in various papers
the knotty claims of 'intertextual' relevance,
for example). Fortunate members able to stay
on for a further week were guided, in Conrad's
'footprints', to Krakw, Zakopane and Warsaw.