We have such temptations – out of sympathy or curiosity – we would like to stand next to two people and observe what is hidden in them, what is happening between them. Capture the essence of what is special for them, distinguishing them from others, distinguishing them from others can.
Will the reader of “The Story of a Marriage” reach the world of feelings and emotions of Bronisław Malinowski, the famous Polish anthropologist and his fiancee, with time his wife Elsie Masson, an Australian who comes from a British family with university traditions? I think so.
Muza publishing house has just published a collection of letters that Bronio and Elsie wrote to each other from the beginning of their relationship, i.e. from 1916 until 1935 – the year of Elsie’s death. The edition is very elegant. The hard cover in subdued colors with a reproduction of a photo from the family archive hides a collection of carefully commented letters written by fiancés and later spouses. Between them are glued black and white photos of the heroes and their families, as well as colorful, because contemporary places where they stayed. The reader will also find a preface by the scientific editor of Grażyna Kubica, who, by the way, developed the Malinowski Journal published in 2002 in the strict sense of the word (published for the first time in 1967, apparently as a shock to the scientific world). The information contained in the introduction, preface, including the youngest daughter of Bronisław Malinowski, Helena Wayne, allows you to introduce the characters of the characters to the beginning. Even those who actually do not know the history of the scholar’s life will be able to orient themselves in this matter, and it is quite important. After all, we are dealing with a scientist, anthropologist, creator of a modern method of studying other cultures, the so-called methods of participant observation, in contrast to the one in force at the beginning of the 20th century – the so-called Cabinet anthropology, which consists of analyzing texts and reports from other people who have contact with culturally different peoples.
In the letters to Elsie we will find a lot of reflection on the work of Bronisław Malinowski. After all, before their affection develops fully, and they themselves decide to marry against the reluctance of their parents, Malinov will make the last trip to New Guinea and the famous Trobriand Islands, which will bring him later fame. Some of the researcher’s comments will undoubtedly turn out to be surprising, sometimes even arouse some consternation of the reader, because maybe he did not imagine the famous scientist, a cultural researcher at work, in contact with the Other. They certainly encourage reading of Malinowski’s famous works, such as “Argonauci of the Western Pacific, Sexual Life of Savages in North-West Melanesia”. The anthropologist writes quite meticulously in his letters about the “externalities” of his life, travel, and subsequent work at European and American universities. He will do it all the time. Elsie Masson was a real intellectual partner and wanted her to have a real idea of his everyday life and work. In this way, he probably also dragged her into his world, because their joint life was marked by numerous separations, resulting from the character of Malinowski’s scientific career and later Elsie’s disease.
We will also read in them the story of love that lasts, overcoming distances, financial problems, home disappointments (ah, another daughter!), Illnesses and difficult characters, despite the fact that we find signals that sometimes force you to ask the question of how beautiful the headers of letters: My Only Dear, Dearest Elsusia, they are completely sincere and as far as wishful. Undoubtedly, he touches what he writes in 1935. Malinowski: … I feel even more connected with you and I miss you so terribly that I often have a need to sit down and write to you. This need made us write down and meticulously inform about what it is in so that the other person had the impression of participating.
From the letters we will find out what books Malinowski read, what concerts he went to and that he liked dancing and sometimes bored parties. Who he respected and did not value. What was his attitude towards Poland and Polishness? Sometimes Elsie reprimands him, or even strongly reprimanded for some actions or omissions, sometimes he reproaches his beloved, that he speaks too little about himself, that he would like to know what she looks like, what she is wearing. After all, he presented himself in his letters, he also liked to write about his ailments, although it was Elsie who was struggling with a serious, incurable disease.
She- Elsie Masson is not as chimeric, self-focused and analytical as he is. She wrote in one of the letters: It seems to me that I am more aware of my life at that moment. Although she attracted Malinowski to her scientific work (she wrote a book describing the life of Australian Aborigines), and the vivacity of mind impressed him all the time of their joint life, she was for him the muse, scribe and editor-in-chief (the term biographer Malinowski M.Young), after all she gave up getting married with their own independent activity, initially for Bronia, later in connection with the disease. Although with her she fought with all her might.
Elsie in this relationship is definitely the character who aroused more positive feelings in me. However, I am aware of the difficult personal situation of this world-famous scientist.
But when you’re not here, I realize how much I love to do different things for you, and that as long as we share everything, nothing is really bad – Elsie wrote to Bronisław. I recommend reading these letters, they are a sign of the unusual art of epistolography.
* The title is a description of the writing style of Bronisław Malinowski and Elsie Masson, used by herself in one of her letters