«pl.it / rassegna italiana di argomenti polacchi», 7, 2016, pp. 39-60

Emiliano Ranocchi

University of Udine / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Polish Cyborg. A Reflection on the Relationship between Man and Machine in Early Polish Modernism

ABSTRACT. Far from being enthusiastic “modernolatry” of Italian futurism, Polish futurism demonstrates an attitude of ambivalence toward modernity. This is particularly evident in the Polish approach to that very synecdoche of modernity which is the machine. In his essay of 1923, the leader of the group, Bruno Jasieński, compares the fetishistic cult of the machine, which characterizes the Italian approach, with the utilitarian one of the Russians, exemplified by a quote from Majakovskij. To these two propositions, as a sort of Hegelian synthesis, he adds a Polish one consisting in the conception of the machine as a prosthesis, a continuation of the human body. Thereby he introduces an idea later known as “cyborg”. The category of cyborg is also useful to understand the work of another today almost forgotten Polish writer of the Twenties, Jerzy Sosnkowski. He was the author of a short novel, A Car, You and Me (Love of Machines), in which a whole chapter concerns the chief character’s dystopian nightmare wherein machines take control over the world. The third section of the essay deals with the idea of man a machine – an old, 18th century conception, which became actual anew in the 20th century and whose traces we can findc among others in a well-known poem by Tytus Czyżewski. Thirty years before N. Wiener, Polish modernists seem to have sensed the social, political and anthropological implications of the mechanization of work.

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