Weekly „Wiadomości Literackie” [Literary News] was one of the most important centres of cultural life in interwar Poland. Connected with it were, among others, Antoni Slonimski and Julian Tuwim. The meeting on 24th October, was dedicated to the identities of the founders of the journal, and how they dealt with the allegations.
The meeting which took place on 24th October at the Jewish Historical Institute was participated by the author of the book „Wiadomości Literackie prawie dla wszystkich” [Literary News almost for everybody], Prof Małgorzata Szpakowska and two literary scholars working at the JHI: dr Karolina Szymaniak and dr Agnieszka Żółkiewska.
The meeting began with a paper given by Prof Szpakowska. Firstly, she placed the circle of „Wiadomości...” on the cultural map of interwar Poland. Next, having talked about a few columns edited, among others, by Antoni Słonimski and Julian Tuwim, she talked about how both of these poets dealt with anti-Semitic taunts. Their weapon was obviously satire — as exemplified by „Jadąmośki...”, being an auto-ironic distortion of the name of the magazine — but also a certain dose of slyness as Tuwim, Słonimski and other artists associated with „Wiadomości”, with great care, „pulled out” Jewish descent out of their opponents, supporting the national right-wing.
The thread of the intensity of the discussion on the identities of the men of letters of Jewish descent and the problem of their lowbrows were elaborated on by dr Żółkiewska. She also quoted a fragment of Słonimski’s response to a libel of Adolf Nowaczyński in which he called The Skamander group „skamandruszki” and „cockroaches who boss around at the cafes of Warsaw”:
Gneuwert [the name of Nowaczyński’s ancestors was: Neuwert], pseudo-Shabbos goy, and in fact a sad, old man, now writes only in Polish. Well, it is good that his grandmother, Szyja Gneuwert from Podgórze does not understand Polish, and does not know what her grandson, Szuja Gneuwert writes — otherwise she would disinherit him depriving him of three goats and a tin chamber pot, in which a few generations of the Gneuwerts used to unload their temperament.
Dr Szymaniak talked about the perception of the circle of „Wiadomości...” by writers creating in Yiddish gathered around the magazine „Literarische Bleter”. And there was a lot of resentment in their attitudes. They held grudges against writers such as Slonimski or Tuwim, among others, for completely ignoring Yiddish literature. They saw it as an attempt to completely break off with their descent, which by them — modern writers living at the crossroads of two cultures who still cherished their Jewish identity — had to be disapproved.
The paper by dr Szymaniak provoked heated discussion during which the speakers talked about the identity of the artists associated with „Wiadomości...”, about the attitude of this community towards the community of orthodox Jews, about whether the attitude of the artists of „Wiadomości...” towards Yiddish literature could have been different. Although the issues raised during the discussion did not refer directly to the subject contained in the title of the meeting, they allowed us to look at the role of „Wiadomości Literackie” in interwar Poland and the problem of the complex identity of the creators of the magazine in a new and extremely interesting way.