Małgorzata Anna Packalén, Uppsala University
From the forest to the fate: space as a sacrum in Polish and Swedish peasant literature
This paper analyzes the writings of the group of Swedish authors as Ivar Lo-Johansson, Jan Fridegård, Vilhelm Moberg, Moa Martinson and the Polish author Władysław Orkan. All take the material for their writings from their own experiences during childhood and youth. In the second group are the Polish authors Henryk Sienkiewicz, Bolesław Prus and Eliza Orzeszkowa, with their lively engagement in the situation and problems of the poor farmer from an upper class perspective. I see a third path in two authors representative of the peasant genre in Poland, whose works are written according to the strategy that I call the observing witness strategy, that is Władysław Stanisław Reymont and Maria Dąbrowska. By virtue of their being raised in rural areas, they were firmly rooted in the reality of rural life. At the same time, they were both members of a higher social group.
These overall strategies form the basis of the way that I choose to structure the Polish and Swedish peasant stories. They can be seen at all levels in the literary texts. The authors’ structural and stylistic designs are one with their values, which are the result of both their norms and their personalities as writers and which represent their sources of inspiration.
In my article I discuss the issue of space in order to determine the semantic field and its function in the literary work. The heroes in the peasant portrayals exist and act in different semantic fields: between the profane space and the sacral space. The profane space gives the framework for the daily events in the village, while the sacral space – the home and its security, indeed, but primarily nature – has a more symbolic value. In contrast to the view in Poland, nature is seen in Sweden and in Scandinavia not only as something natural and original but also as man’s spiritual haven. While in the Swedish autodidacts’ works nature receives – beyond a strictly biological – also an emotional sacral dimension, it fulfills primarily three important functions in the Polish works: it provides a physical and geographical place for the events of the story, it can be mythologized, in the biological events of the calendar year and/or the annual traditions in the church, and, finally, it can be seen from the traditional mentality of the Polish manor. In any case, the literary figures in the Polish works lack the awareness of nature and the conscious self-identification with it that is found in the Swedish autodidacts and, thus, also their heroes.
Warsaw: Losgraf Oficyna Wydawnicza , 2005. 83-93 p.