Michener is renowned for incredibly well-researched and learned (sometimes overly intellectual) doorstop novels. Poland perhaps misses some of the adventure and atmosphere of others I’ve read like The Covenant (about South Africa), The Source (about Israel), Chesapeake, Texas, Iberia, Caribbean or the fantastic Hawaii. Some of the early chapters are heavy going – the complex family trees full of identical-sounding Polish names makes it harder going still. But it is a great insight into a country that is all too often just a blurred Eastern Europe outline in many peoples’ minds. The book would be worth reading if only for the last chapters dealing with the mind-boggling horrors of the holocaust and the subsequent Russian occupation. Suddenly the normally quite staid writing of old-scholar Michener seems to be goaded into something that could have flowed from the pen of Norman Mailer or Robert Stone. He even goes so far as to use the F-word at one point. Can this really be the venerable old Quaker? But the traumas of poor old Poland in that era were enough to get the blood boiling.
Ok, I’d had a few busy weeks on the road but the 700-odd pages of Poland were enough to carry me through trips in Australia, New Zealand, Bali and Lombok. I carried on reading it again at home in Spain and England. And finally finished it in my hammock in a cargo boat on Indonesia’s longest river (the Kapuas, in Kalimantan, Borneo). I left it with an English friend and hope it will have some more travels in the future.
Kitbaggers book project – travel literature on speed.
Have you ever handled a classic paperback and wondered where it’s been and whose hands it passed through? Do you love the well-handled look of a book that’s obviously seen decades of serious mileage through places you might only have imagined?
This project was conceived long ago through a conversation (in San Jose, Costa Rica) between a group of friends who’d wondered about these same things and thought it would be interesting to try to trace the history of just a few random books that we read on the road.
More than just a review – this is also the story of a single adventurous copy that’s probably still out there touring the world somewhere. Let us know if you find it.
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