But Sobieski’s cavalry charge at Vienna gets only one sentence in Davies history

29th March 2022

But Sobieski's cavalry charge at Vienna gets only one sentence in Davies history

In "Quicksilver" by Neal Stephenson, there is a scene whereJohn Sobieski, King of Poland, kneels in prayer before leading his magnificent cavalry in a charge to route the Turks as they laid seige to Vienna in 1683, the proverbial "Barbarians at the Gates". It is an electric image and always left me wondering where Sobieski and the Poles fit in historically and why they helped at Vienna.

Nevertheless, he takes the reader through the canon, and makes it fascinating

In "Heart of Europe: The Past in Polands Present"by Norman Davies, I learned that Sobieski was a powerful King In "Quicksilver" by Neal Stephenson, there is a scene whereJohn Sobieski, King of Poland, kneels in prayer before leading his magnificent cavalry in a charge to route the Turks as they laid seige to Vienna in 1683, the proverbial "Barbarians at the Gates". It is an electric image and always left me wondering where Sobieski and the Poles fit in historically and why they helped at Vienna.

Davies writes for historians who already know the history and want to get down to the analysis

In "Heart of Europe: The Past in Polands Present"by Norman Davies, I learned that Sobieski was a powerful King of Poland and that he was fanatical in fighting the Turks, to the extent that he allowed the Muscovites and Prussians at his borders to grow strong and eventually remove his kingdom from the map with the help of theAustrians whom he had rescued at Vienna. Poland has a fascinating history which may have been brought to life in Davies two volume "Playground of the Gods", which he notes with pride was listed as one of the books of the millenium in Poland, but it certainly is not here. For those of us, like me, who don't know Polish history, this is probably the wrong book. On the other hand, Davies long discourse on the importance of literature to the Poles during their long period of partition between Germany (Prussia), Austria, and Russia is brilliant. He says that Poland has as rich of a literary history as Russia, but that the Polish writer wasobsessed with the question of Polish freedom from the occupying powers, whereas the Russian writer was free to ponder more universal questions. As a consequence, the Polish literary canon is almost unreadable (Davies words) to a non-Pole. He also stresses how important literature was to the Pole then, and in the era of the Solidarity movement in the late 1970-80s. It gives hope to anyone who thinks they can change the world through literature. And despite Davies glossing over, Polishhistory is fascinating, and his discussions are often veryenlightening. What are the roots of the Polish nation? How did the Polish people keep their identity through 125 years when there was no Polish nation? How did the Catholic church become predominant? What happened to Poland's minorities? What was Polish communism? Poland is really the heart of Europe and knowing its history really pulls togetherEuropean history from West to East. Davies does dismiss thelack of Polish help for the Jews of Poland during Nazi occupation by stating that Poland was occupied and they could barely help themselves, much less someone else. This is nonsense, and a glaring omission in a history of the country which housed the Warsaw ghetto along with most of the most notorious concentration camps. I read yesterday that a Polish lady from Warsaw who saved over 5,000 Jewish children just died lamented that she didn't do more. So there is more to the story than Davies writes.