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Early NOWA Samizdat Publication

Późne wiersze [The late verse].

Warsaw: Niezależna Oficyna Wydawnicza, 1979. Octavo (19.7 × 14.6 cm). Original side-stapled light blue printed wrappers; 79 pp. Light discoloration to wrappers; else very good.

Samizdat reprint of Barańczak's translations of the Voronezh Notebooks of Osip Mandelstam, as well as several poems written in the early 1930s. With a preface signed "J.H." The text is a xerox reproduction of the first edition, which appeared London by "Oficyna poetow i malarzy" in 1977. With an additional preface in xeroxed typescript by the publishers, signed by Konrad Bielinski, Miroslaw Chojecki, and Adam Michnik. NOWa [The Independent Publishing House], was Poland’s preeminent underground independent publisher; it was not run or regulated by the state and was not subject to state censorship. Established in 1977, NOWa was sponsored by the Commttee for Socal Self-Defense (KOR), forerunner to the more famous Solidarność (Solidarity), Poland’s and the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union and the seat of Polish opposition in the 1980s. KOR provided the startup capital for NOWa which printed most of KOR’s fliers and educational materials. The central demands of KOR were the right to have an independent worker’s union (to self-organize) and to go on strike. Like KOR, NOWa was not anti-communist, instead it wanted to create an independent press that was free of censorship. “The Black Book of Polish Censorship” (1978) was one of the first major hits of the publishing house, based on the documents of the Warsaw censorship office smuggled out of Poland by one of its employees and first printed abroad in 1977. NOWa was also a leading publisher of banned literature, such as works by Witold Gombrowicz, Günter Grass, Bohumil Hrabal, George Orwell, or Joseph Brodsky. By 1978, NOWa was able to compete with state publishers in quality and was able to attract famous contemporary Polish authors. This gave contemporary Polish authors an alternative to the state, which helped them curb self-censorship and write more honestly and freely. NOWa’s activities, like those of most non-governmental organisations in Poland, were in a legal grey zone. Publishers faced harrassment and unpredictable short arrests but were not persecuted as harshly as simmilar operations in other Soviet block nations. Siobhan Doucette writes: “NOWa worked on two planes: aboveground and underground. In keeping with the KOR ideal of transparency, NOWa had an open editorial board which came to include Miroslaw Chojecki, Konrad Belinsky, Adam Michnik, Ewa Milewicz, and Grzegorz Boguta. This gave the publishing house a public face, which not only provided potential readers, writers and printers with a point of contact but also the state authorities. Accordingly, NOWa also maintained a silent editorial team to help prevent the confiscation of publishing materials. Most of its printers and distributors also remained anonymous. By 1978 about two hundred people worked with NOWa” (Books are Weapons: The Polish Oppositional Press, and the Overthrow of Communism). Printing was done in different locations that changed regularly, usually houses on the outskirts of Warsaw. NOWa’s visibility made it a primary target during the crackdown on opposition during the martial law and most of its leading activists were arrested. Despite the crackdown, NOWa continued operations throughout the 1980s, and worked closely with Solidarity, publishing many of its serials such as Marzowe Weekly. The original 1977 publication is widely held, but this samizdat reprint is rare; as of August 2019, KVK and OCLC only locate a single holding worldwide, at Yale.

Book ID: 50205

Price: $750.00