The Egyptian Słowacki
The title of the article refers to a publication entitled Słowacki współczesny [Modern Słowacki] by various authors (published by the Literary Studies Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw 1999) which included such papers as Słowacki orientalny [The Oriental Słowacki], Słowacki ukraiński [The Ukrainian Słowacki], Słowacki hiszpański [The Spanish Słowacki] etc. It seems that the issue raised in the title of this article but omitted from the above mentioned book requires a separate treatment. So far the Egyptian episode in the poet’s journey to the East, though noticed, has not been properly acknowledged both in Słowacki’s biography and in his literary oeuvre. An analysis and interpretation of selected “Egyptian” works, especially a cycle of poetic letters (Do Teofila Januszewskiego [To Teofil Januszewski], List do Aleksandra Hołyńskiego [A Letter to Aleksander Hołyński], Piramidy [The Pyramids], Na szczycie piramid [On the Top of the Pyramids]) show that Słowacki’s vision of Egypt, though not satisfactory from the point of view of an orientalist or an Egyptologist, is nevertheless truly original, distinct when compared to the conventional Romantic orientalism or the legacy of Polish orientalism. Słowacki did not only point to a temporary “touristic” respect and admiration for Egypt’s cultural heritage, but also tried to find in Egypt universal values, looking in it for cultural sources of the idea of immortality. After all, his infatuation with Egypt did not hide contemporary, real problems, a fact confirmed by various journalistic interpolations in his literary works, concerning, for instance, the issue that outraged Słowacki, i.e. the plundering of Egypt and stealing from it various historical and archaeological treasures which would later impress the “bewildered pack” in London.