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Towards an Extra-Territorial Literature
In one sense, the outpost of the Kultura editorship could be read as an isolated minority group, free from the Polish postwar mandate to build and fortify a national literature. But was this really the case: could Poles in emigration leave the nation-building literature to the so-called social realists in Warsaw? Because of the political constraints on cultural development in Poland, this function of the literary establishment was left to the emigration as well. As a result, readers looked to Kultura as a surrogate for all aspects of Polish culture, from the aesthetics of its poets and fiction-writers to the ethics (or anti-politics) of its essayists. At times it reflected the religious conservatism of the diaspora alongside of the revisionist Marxism of Gomulka’s generation.
Reading Kultura from a distance demonstrates that the small crew at the Maisons-Lafittes in Paris was not at all alone or isolated. The strongest corrective that this project offers to the wider understanding of the relationship between Kultura and its audience is that it defies the stereotype that Kultura was only a journal for intellectuals and political elites (seemingly evident when only looking at the authors who published it). The great majority of the diaspora is usually assumed to have more conservative, reactionary, and nationalist affinities, which is why small diaspora groups almost always publish a newsletter with that character. And although we could tell from subscription records that small diaspora groups would order the journal, it was not at all clear what they did with those journals full of political ambiguity and compromises with individual writers from behind the Iron Curtain. After looking carefully at the intersecting rings of activity emanating from this journal, it seems that diaspora groups really did accept this journal as a part of their émigré lifestyle, and used it as a platform for the expression of their hopes and desires for the future—both in emigration and at home.