Tuesday, June 14, 2005

M&I: Initial Reactions

Heck, let's just start now. What were your initial reactions to the John Paul II's Memory and Identity (general ideas only, please; we'll get into detail in other posts).

Peter of Catholicae Testudines has this to say:
Essentially, it's a crash course in Twentieth-Century philosophy and Polish history. I don't know that the book itself will equip you to offer well-read retorts to learned people with whom you disagree, but it definitely serves as a useful annotated bibliography for finding more scholarly retorts to them. Though the prose is always clear and key concepts are always followed by handy explanations, it seems to have suffered something in translation. This is perhaps most noticeable in the selections of the Pope's own poetry which comes off as rather stilted. By far, the best part of the book is actually its epilogue, which is a transcript of a conversation about the failed assassination of the pope. It is in this brief section that JPII's personality really shines through the text; it is in his response to his own fragility (a word in which the text revels) when he becomes a man and not just a teacher.

I agree that the language and writing itself is (as in all of John Paul's books that I've read) one of the most interesting parts of the work. His writing has a complex simplicity, if such a thing exists. He can pack a lot of punch into a relatively small space. I do think the translation is always an issue, however, and would always be a huge one in regards to poetry.

As a journalist myself, I was personally intrigued by the questions (as I was in Crossing the Threshhold of Hope). Some seemed a bit repetitious (maybe they thought he didn't answer exactly what they asked the first time); others seemed amazingly broad considering the issues we're dealing with in the book. It's important to note when considering the questions, however, that they were asked by Polish philosopher friends of his. I wonder how our late Holy Father would have responded to similar questions asked by different people.

We all know the affinity John Paul had for his homeland, but I was struck by how much Polish history is in this book. I'm proud to be an American, but I couldn't see how I'd be able to weave any amount of American history analogous to the Polish history John Paul includes in such a slim book. It really does show and explain the central role Poland played in the the history of the 20th century.