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Polish Samizdat

O złym krôlu Wojcieszku i dzielnym rybaku Leszku [About the evil king Wojcieszk and the brave fisherman Leszek]. WITH: O Krôlewnie Śnieżce i 10 mln krasnoludkôw [About the Snow queen and 10 mln dwarves].

1985. Warsaw: Rytm, 1985. Octavos (21.7 × 14.5 cm). Staple-stitched printed wrappers; [3], 6-25 [1] and [1], 4-25 [1] pp. Illustrations throughout; publisher’s catalog to last page. Very good.

First editions. These strikingly illustrated books of political satire were published by the independent publishing house RYTM (Rhythm), closely connected with Solidarność (Solidarity), Poland’s and the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union and the seat of Polish opposition in the 1980s. Both narratives build on well-known fairytales to provide biting political commentary. The king in “About the evil king” is made to look like Stalin, while dystopian illustrations of the domain of the Snow queen are unmistakably Moscow. The author and illustrator of the texts appear to have written under pseudonyms, no doubt to protect themselves from the arrests and various persecutions that were leveled on independent publishers by the government.

The RYTM publishing house was one of a large network of semi-clandestine independent publishing houses that blossomed in Poland in the 1980s. Commenting on this phenomenon, Siobhan Doucette writes: “The independent press provided the opposition to the Polish communist regime wth a flexible national network, which by 1989 embraced a civil society that overthrew communist rule. […] As a primary focus for opposition activism and the principal forum for independent debates, the independent press from 1976 to 1989 reveals the ways in which one of the most effective trumphant civil resistance movements of the twentieth century achieved its ends” (Books are Weapons: The Polish Oppositional Press, and the Overthrow of Communism, p. 245). Established in 1983, during martial law, the editorial output of RYTM of those years included publications by activists such as Bohdan Cywiński and historical studies of Jerzy Holzer, Krystyna Kersten. The publisher’s catalog on the last pages of the books also lists publications of the Soviet dissidents Vladimir Bukovsky and Aleksandr Zinoviev, as well as Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales.” RYTM also published the first edition of Lech Wałęsa's famous autobography "The Way of Hope," marking the tie between the publishing house and Solidarność, since Wałęsa was the co-founder of the union. Wałęsa went on to become the first President of post-communist Poland and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1990, RYTM legalized its activities. Today it is among the major national publishing houses. These books are fine examples of the early independent activity of this publishing hous. KVK and OCLC show copies of the first book at Harvard, Connecticut, Yale, Cornell, Fribourg. The second book is held by Harvard, Connecticut, Toronto, British Library, Oxford, Amsterdam, and Fribourg.

Book ID: P6160

Price: $500.00