cover image Mad Dreams, Saving Graces: Poland: A Nation in Conspiracy

Mad Dreams, Saving Graces: Poland: A Nation in Conspiracy

Michael T. Kaufman. Random House (NY), $19.95 (270pp) ISBN 978-0-394-55486-0

The Poles, in Kaufman's probing portrait, are a ``people steeped in legends of suffering, loss, and sacrifice'' who ``for a very long time have seen themselves as the suffering Christ of nations.'' As a New York Times correspondent based in Warsaw for three and a half years, the author found the Polish political and social scene ``a mixture of putrefying Communism and idiosyncratic Polish romanticism.'' His trenchant observations capture the drab patterns of everyday life in a backward, pauperized economy, the ferment of a thriving cultural underground, the conspiratorial antics of Solidarity leaders and strong-arm tactics in what remains a police state, albeit an ``idiosyncratic, sloppy'' one. Kaufman takes a hard look at anti-Semitic tendencies within the Solidarity movement and in Poland generally, ``a country without Jews.'' His report of his father's visit to Warsaw in 1985, after a half-century's absence, makes for dramatic contrasts. The Poles' mixed reactions to Gorbachev, as recorded here, indicate that many view Soviet reforms as countermeasures designed to preserve the U.S.S.R.'s ebbing power. (June)