chapter  22
24 Pages

Heresy and Its Afterlives in Communist-Era Poland

ByJohn M. Bates

The vital role played by events and writings from the medieval and classical pasts in the elaboration of new fictions about contemporary society is highlighted by Annabel Patterson in the introduction to her revised 1991 edition of Censorship and Interpretation. Patterson reminds us of the rediscovery by mid-sixteenthcentury English writers of ‘a classical system of rhetorical ingenuity’, an ‘Aesopian language’, which could become the ‘medium of a quiet but sustained critique of their government’.3 In many respects this was a recurrent feature, one that could and did occur within all repressive political systems from the ancient world to nineteenth-century Russia – where the term ‘Aesopian language’ acquired specific currency – to the Soviet Bloc after the Second World War.4 The Aesopian strategy of ‘telling a story which appears to have nothing to do with present political concerns and leaving it to the readers (viewers, theatre-goers) to make connections that are apparently hidden from the censor’5 often informed literary forays into the distant past. In this context, tropes of heresy and dissent as resistance to tyrannical rule provided copious analogies for more contemporary forms of dissidence, the implicit assertion being that for all the style and degree of suppression of unorthodox beliefs and behaviour might change, the principles behind it remained the same.