literature · synopses
Kraków: Znak, 2001.
Społeczny Instytut Wydawniczy Znak:
Website For Ireneusz Kania the insight that »different pre-philosophical intuitions« lie at the base of cultures is a motivation not for a renunciation, but rather for an attempt to discover these intuitions on one's own.
The importance of the book Ścieżka nocy (Path of Night) lies in the following: the author Ireneusz Kania – a recognised translator working with more than ten languages, including Rumanian, Hebrew, Sanskrit and Chinese – moves between the different languages and cultures and manages to bring to light the extreme difficulties of such a »between«. As Kania concerns himself both with the history of ideas and cultural studies, he is – being well versed in the humanities – capable of dedicating himself with complete self-confidence to the problem of understanding the foreign cultures that are described in the essays of this book.
The reflection on his own fascination with foreign cultures and personal experiences as a translator, interpreter and researcher coalesce with the question of the meaning of many years of professional activity. It is a question about the possibility for an intercultural dialogue and about the significance of his own, personal participation in this dialogue. Kania does not agree with the thesis that this dialogue is impossible, but does note that the condition for what he can achieve lies in concentrating on fundamental, universal problems.
With this kind of understanding, suffering and evil became some of the most important issues for Kania. Nothing other than a dissatisfaction with Christian theodicy steered Kania's attention towards Buddhism. Because of this, he refers to old and new misreadings – especially those by Christian theologians and philosophers – of the teachings of the Buddha in some sections of the book. He remains radically sceptical about the different designs of a »synthesis« of the main religions. The idea to simply correct mistakes and misunderstandings arises from this scepticism and could be seen as a minimalist approach. However, while Kania nonetheless holds the opinion that intercultural dialogue may not be entirely impossible, he believes that looking into misunderstandings could intensify this dialogue.
Why did Kania not become a practising Buddhist? The author responds to this question by saying that he is probably too deeply rooted in the world of the occident. It is therefore not possible for him to take ostentatious, religious conversions and travels to the east seriously. As an editor and translator of early Buddhist texts into Polish, Kania admits that his awareness of the difficulty of understanding these texts increases the longer he is studying them. The door to the world, in which the greatness clearly felt by him emits a force of attraction, has only been opened slightly.
Kania analyses works by E. Hartmann, R. Wagner, E. Cioran as well as a number of contemporary authors. When referring to key topics of our cultural area (Hiob, New Testament and Kabbala, angel and devil, love), he contrasts them again and again with other worlds of thought. He fights, in part because of this, the too constructive and bright image of the »European canon« and reminds us of the »Path of Night« which has existed in European culture alongside this canon – at least since Parmenides. This corrective reminder is possible, it appears, because of the encounter with other cultural worlds.
Such being the manner of Kania's understanding of philosophy, a claim on a complete »transparency« of other cultures is denied to him. For Kania – thinker, researcher, translator – the insight that