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This report is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

A Letter from Warsaw Henryk Rogacki
Poles have a passion for books, and a visit to Warsaw's bookshops will always find them crammed with customers. Recent years, however, have seen the arrival of new breeds of buyers. First, there are the book-dealers, whose trade in re-selling the limited editions of popular books has become increasingly profitable as more people view books as financial investments, fit to be used even for black-market transactions. More numerous are the dutiful parents, desperately searching for text books which may be on the national school syllabuses but are not on the shelves. And then there are the collectors of all kinds of dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and, most surprisingly, of government publications. Though cynics would have these tomes of sombre statistics re-classified as fiction, the fact is that queues for them are far longer than those for Milosz's poetry.

Most of the stock retained by bookshops is worthless stuff, since any decent book is snapped up immediately, within hours or minutes of its appearance. To get one's hands on a good book, when its price is rising daily, has become for a Pole a major success, a source of unimaginable joy.

What have people been buying recently in the capital's bookshops? Mainly the classics, the Iliad, The Divine Comedy, Voltaire's essays, Ibsen, Goethe, War and Peace, Donne's poetry, Moll Flanders, Gide and Maupassant. The biggest seller has been Adam Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz, Poland's great national epic from the Romantic era, first published one hundred and fifty years ago. Huge ...


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