"The Promised Land"
Traits of creative talent are seen in "The Promised Land" (Ziemia Obiecana, 1899), a novel-reportage on life in the industrial town of Lodz, where the textile industry was developing. Unlike "Comedienne", in which the main character called for psychological analysis, the new novel dispensed with the love motif traditionally ending with the "red carpet" being laid out for a wedding.He did not concentrate his attention on individuals, though he gave some really fine pen-portraits of many of the characters, but put the emphasis on social groups typical of Lodz in those days, spotlighting their traits, which were, so to speak, a cross between professional and racial characteristics. The "material concerning the pathology of millionaires" obtained in this way produced an extremely interesting portrait gallery of Lodz industrialists,drunk with the power they had gained over the people working under them by the wealth pouring into their pockets. Perhaps the most dominant figures here are the German factory owners, lording it with traditional German ar rogance, characters described with the accuracy of a naturalist, for the author had spent several months in Lodz with eyes and ears wide open, observing the local conditions. His approach was different in dealing with the group of Jewish industrialists, seen with the eye of a satirist, and his task was not so difficult with regard to this group if only because they spoke the same language and it was easier for him to make their acquaintance. He was able to distinguish between the older generation, attached to the traditions and customs of their ancestors, and the younger generation who knew the way the wind was blowing and were able to adapt themselves to the new culture. Reymont did not omit to make a study of the pioneers of our home industry, The Polish industrialists, men with a sense of social justice who treated their workers well, only to be ruthlessly exploited for their painsby the other factory owners.
And precisely here, in the treatment of the
social undercurrent of his novel, Reymont's inadequate intellectual
preparation had the most advers effects, although perhaps a lack
of social consciousness was, in this case a true reflection of
the attitude of the workers of Lodz in those days. So if one
seeks in vain for any sign of the class struggle in "The
Promised Land" this can be attributed both to the author's poor knowledge of this
problem and to the fact that the slave-workers employed in the
factories of Lodz whose life he observed were not yet the working
class but landles peasants who had come to Lodz to earn their
bread and had turned in to the factory proletariat of the town.
Reymont, who lacked a modern social ideology of the workers' or socialist type, replaced it by another rather primitive approach, namely, he looked at the modern industrial town, "the promised land", not with the eyes of a modern sociologist, a militant champion of the class struggle, but... from the point of view of a theologian, who regarded it as the work of Satan. To quote his own words: "Villages were abandoned, forests were felled, the earth was deprived of its treasures, rivers dried up, people were born-all for that 'promised land' for that polypus that sucked them in, crushed and chewed up people and things, the sky and the earth, giving in exchange useless millions to a few and hunger and hard work to the masses.
Such a vision of the monster town did, however, correspond to the international attitude in the year 1899. The protest it raised against the destructive influence of growing industrialization was an unconscious repetition of the views expressed by such earlier English thinkers as John Ruskin and William Morris, and preceded the voices of later writers such as G. K. Chesterton in England and many American novelists who pointed to the apocalyptic growth of industry as a factor harmful and even lethal to mankind. So in this way the author of "The Promised Land", with the first valuable Polish novel about modern industry, unknowngly took the path which was late to converge with that taken by the most famous writers of the world.
This fascinated and overwhelming landscape of great industrial city and its citizens provoked our famous director Andrzej Wayda to give us own vision of XIXth Century Lodz in the film Promised Land.