Inspektor Mors and Mis Marpl : the May 2020 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Having initially wanted our lockdown-era posts to focus on e-available material only, I am now going one step yet further away myself by writing about books held by the UL neither electronically nor physically…  This post instead looks at Slavonic translations of British detective fiction I have picked up for myself over the years.  Getting used to reading in another language can take time, and I for one found that worrying about the plot as well as the words really held me up.  What I came to discover was that reading a familiar detective novel translated into the language took the pressure off, and it’s a trick I have stuck to ever since. Continue reading

Painting the nightmare of Auschwitz : the February 2020 Slavonic item of the month

This year will see many 75th anniversaries relating to the Second World War, and one of the most poignant – the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets – has already occurred, in late January.  We recently received an important addition to Cambridge’s significant holdings about the Holocaust and Auschwitz in particular, in the form of a catalogue of works by David Olere, Ten, który ocalał z Krematorium III (The one who survived Crematorium III), based on an exhibition held at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 2018-2019.

Olere, a French Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1943, was one of the very few Sonderkommandos to survive the war.  His artistic abilities, employed by Nazi personnel to illustrate letters home and produce other artwork, saved him from the regular killing of Sonderkommando generations.  Olere was in the death march from Auschwitz in January 1945 and was liberated only in May, in Ebensee.  He had spent nearly two years in Auschwitz, the witness of endless and appalling atrocities.  By the time he reached France and home, his “health was ruined and when he tried to recount to his wife the things he had seen, she was convinced that he had lost his mind” (from the catalogue; my emphasis).

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S3-figures and the January 2020 Slavonic items of the month

The introduction to the 1945 ‘Select classes classification’

The University Library’s classification schemes can sometimes seem designed to hinder rather than aid the reader.  This post looks at some recent and lovely East European additions to the S3-figure class and briefly explains its history and current use.

In the past, the Library produced publications about specific classification schemes, chiefly for staff but apparently also for sale (many have prices printed on them!).  From my predecessor as head of department, David Lowe, I inherited a third edition of Select books classification, published in 1945 in a print run of 100 copies following a first edition in 1925 and a second very shortly thereafter in 1926.

The S3-figure class was designed for ‘select books’ which didn’t already fall into one of the other ‘select classes’ covered by the pamphlet.  Most commonly, a ‘select book’ was, and still is, something extensively illustrated or very heavy (archaeology books and art catalogues often tick both boxes) which the Library would want to provide access to only in a supervised reading room.  The class traditionally held only hardbacks but we now add sturdy paperbacks to the sequence too.  The S3-figure class was originally applied in combination with a simplified version of the open-shelf 3-figure scheme, so a book about Russian history which would count as ‘select’ would have been given a classmark starting with S586 (since 586 is the main Russian history class).  About 15 years ago, the decision was made to stop the subject classification of S3-figure books, and now the classmark is standardly S950 and otherwise reflects only size and date of publications with a running number (eg S950.c.201.1).  As is the case with many classes in the UL, then, readers need to use the subject headings in catalogue records to trace subjects for titles added to the S3-figure class since that time.  This post looks at three new additions to the class which relate to East European art. Continue reading

Polish archaeologists and Palmyra : the June 2019 Slavonic item of the month

The book’s cover, showing a digital reconstruction of the temple of Allat

In early 2016, a few months after the destruction of much of Palmyra, our former colleague Josh (now at UC Irvine) wrote about Palmyra and Henri Seyrig. A new arrival, unpacked this week and purchased at the request of a researcher in the Classics department, is a good reminder of the Polish contribution to Palmyra research.

The requested book, Palmyra by Michał Gawlikowski, was written in 2010.  It is only 131 pages long and well illustrated and provides a general introduction (in Polish) to what was then still a well-maintained site of great importance.  The book starts with a history of Polish involvement in the site, dating back to 1959 when Kazimierz Michałowski, the founder and head of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, set up an archaeological team there.  The Polish team at Palmyra was later led by Gawlikowski, from 1973, and suspended with the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.  Palmyra ends with a bibliography, with many entries for Michałowski and Gawlikowski; some of those by the latter were co-written with Khaled al-Asaad, once chief archaeologist of Palmyra, who would be murdered by ISIS in 2015. Continue reading