Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies

2018 Recipient

Lisa Jakelski

Making New Music in Cold War Poland: The Warsaw Autumn Festival, 1956-1968

The Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies (formerly the Orbis Book Prize), established in 1996 and sponsored by the Kulczycki family, former owners of the Orbis Books Ltd. of London, England, is awarded annually for the best book in any discipline, on any aspect of Polish affairs, published in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Lisa Jakelski
Title: Making New Music in Cold War Poland: The Warsaw Autumn Festival, 1956-1968 (University of California Press)

Making New Music in Cold War Poland makes an important contribution to Polish Studies at the intersection of three fields: musicology, cultural diplomacy, and cultural history. Lisa Jakelski presents an intricate and compelling story of the establishment and first decade of the Warsaw Autumn festival, marking a key cultural shift away from socialist realist doctrine of the early 1950s. Instead of rehearsing stereotypes about communist authorities and repression of cultural forms, Jakelski grapples with political indeterminacy and the pluralism of meanings as the festival organizers negotiate with mid-level bureaucrats, and the Polish Composers Union exerts its power to change policy from within the system. This book maintains a careful balance between attention to detail and fine-tuned characterizations (showing an impressive immersion in archival material), and Jakelski’s patient construction of a broader framework for analysis. She explores and critiques concepts of “backwardness” and “modern” with subtlety and skepticism, and manages to talk about a highly elite phenomenon in a way that makes larger claims about the general history of the PRL, as well as the geopolitics of the Cold War.

Honorable Mention: Robert Blobaum