n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Poolse compendia over Zuid-Afrika in het begin van de 20 eeuw : de Aesopische uitweg

Volume 49, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


This paper focuses on the historical accounts of South Africa published in Polish at the time of the Second Anglo-Boer War. That period was marked by the most intense European interest for South Africa. The Polish response to the Anglo-Boer conflict was no less animated, with its own specific social-historical background. Between 1795-1918, as a result of the partitions of Poland by three powerful neighbours : Russia, Prussia (later Germany) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the country was missing from the map of Europe. It was in the Russian occupation zone in Warsaw that the support for the fighting Boers was most clearly visible. In the German and the Habsburgian sectors, the publicity of the conflict was much more balanced. A hypothetical defeat of the English posed a threat of further strengthening the political status of Germany, which would be likely to exert an adverse effect on the fate of Poland. In all three partition zones, however, the context of the attempts at the liberation of the small Boer Republics and their uprising against the British Empire was compared to the subjugation of Poland. The comparisons were conducted in a subtle and careful manner, particularly in the Russian and German zones where the preventive censorship was the strictest. Since any direct call for the preservation of the national identity would have been too dangerous, writers imposed their own restrictions on their texts, evading interference on the side of an official censor. In this way, the Anglo-Boer War became a perfect ersatz for the expression of the idea of liberation. Polish writers applied a specific code of communication, the Aesopian language, in order to depict similarities between Poles and Boers. Lev Loseff defined this specific strategy as "a special literary system, one whose structure allows interaction between author and reader at the same time that it conceals inadmissible content from the censor".

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