Messiahs is a story of Polish migrants in 1840s based authentic letters and memoirs. György Spiró meticulously recreates the story of the Towiańskiite sect and sketches out the spiritual portraits of Towiański, Mickiewicz and Słowacki with a visionary flair. How could it happen that people such as Mickiewicz came to believe that they are the apostles of a new religion and viciously fought with each other for the leader’s favour and influences in the group? However, Spiró does not limit himself only to Polish matters. His book is both a tale about the Polish romantic spirit, born out of trauma, defeat and mystical self-righteous ideas about saving Europe through suffering, as well as an introduction to the labyrinth of 19th century ideologies - nationalism, conservatism, liberalism, communism, atheism, faith in progress, in money, in power - military, biological or spiritual. It is also a compelling, existential tale of alienation from reality and disillusionment with the world. The novel was written in 2007 and translated into Polish two years later. It received the “Angelus” Eastern European Prize the same year.
Aneta Groszyńska’s play is a coproduction of Malta Festival Poznań and Teatr Zagłębie in Sosnowiec, and it will be the first staging of the novel. The premiere will take place during the 28th edition of Malta Festival Poznań, the idiom of which will be “Leap of faith”.
Aneta Groszyńska, Jan Czapliński
In mid 19th century, after the defeat of the November uprising, the Towiańskiite sect founded The Circle of God’s Cause - a strange religious, messianistic and heretic sect. They believed that the Polish people have special position in the world given by God. They wanted changes in the Church. They rejected the ides of military action. Their basic rule was the Christian commandment of loving one’s neighbour. The circle didn’t last long, the defeat of yet another uprising put and end to it and Henryk Sienkiewicz became the ruler of hearts (historical fantasies about the First Republic turn out to be more effective than the whole of romanticism put together).
There is something in this sect that makes it an attractive object of study, today more than ever. National meassianism enforced with the idea of antemurale christianitatis (taken from even further back in history) is more and more evidently shaping the foreign policy of our country, creating a national and religious hybrid on an official level. Therefore, it is particularly important at this moment in time to examine the romantic heritage and its extravagances.
The figure of Mickiewicz himself is naturally the most interesting. For years he remained one of the most active members of the sect. This “strange Mickiewicz”, so different from the eminent poet we know from the bronze statues, is the subject of the monumental heterogenous novel. György Spiró, a Hungarian, an outsider, reluctantly given access to Polish archives, drew a story out of them which speaks more of romanticism and Mickiewicz than the literary and historical school canon would have us know. To tell this story is to engage in a flirtation with the 19th century and challenge modern national messianism.
In one’s attempt at staging the Messiahs one would be inclined to go further, to go beyond making a theatre rendition of Spiró’s novel and inter-uprising story of emigration of Polish elites. Only people of extraordinary imagination and great despair could create a sect so precisely immersed in political and historic realities. Therefore, perhaps aside from looking for analogies and caution signals in the past, and aside from abolishing romantic myths - one should resort on one’s imagination - even if it rises from despair - and prepare a response to the Towiańskiite sect. We could set up our own Circle of God’s Cause at the theatre and work out how to forge the disappointment with the current condition of the country into a story of a better country. Maybe, like the Towiańskiite sect we should start with a bold fantasy. Worst come to worst we shall fall.