Monday, April 6, 2009

Henryk recreating himself his admiration of Chekhov Doctor versus writer

The Jew was the outsider and the Polish name he chose recreated him as an heroic insider possibly even in his own self estimation. Many of the articles were on versatile topics especially the plight of poor children,land reform,health insurance and pedagogy. I liked the statement he used fragment of his two selves. His medical articles alone were signed only by "Henryk". Leon Rygier asked him if being a doctor interfered with him becoming a great writer and Henryk replied that medicine deepened his creative work and that a great writer is necessarily a diagnostician, as was Chekhov . Medicine gave him insight into human personality and the many facets of children's play.

Henryk might have assumed a pen name to protect the anonymity of his
family-possibly even to change his luck. ( "I escaped from my youth as from a
lunatic asylum ," he would tell an interviewer.) But it was also not chance that
he chose a Polish one. In a country where one´s surname reveals one´s religious
affiliation, Goldszmit was unmistakably a Jew, the outsider. With an old gentry
name such as Janusz Korczak, Henryk could re-create himself as an insider,
linked to a heroic Polish past.
Still, it was not an easy transition. For
the next six years, he did not sign Janusz Korczak to the hundreds of articles
and feuilletons that flowed from his pen-some of them humorous observations on
human behavior, others earnest essays on land reform, health insurance,
pedagogy, women´s rights, the plight ofpoor children, and travel articles from
Switzerland and France. Instead, he used fragments ofhis two selves: Hen, Ryk,
Henryk, G., Janusz, or K.-as if he needed time to fully integrate his new
identity. Only his medical articles in professional journals were consistently
signed Henryk Goldszmit, as they would be for the rest of his life.
friends wondered why he wanted to be a doctor when his literary career was going
so well. When Leon Rygier, a fellow writer, encountered him in his blue medical
uniform watching some children playing quietly near their nursemaids in Saxon
Garden, he asked him just that.
" Being a doctor didn´t interfere with
Chekhov´s becoming a great writer ," Henryk replied. " It deepened his creative
To write anything of value, one has to be a diagnostician. " (Much later
he would say he owed most to Chekhov-a great social diagnostician and
clinician.) " Medicine will give me insight into human personality, even into
the nature of children´s play ,"
he continued. " See those children over there.
Each one plays differently. I want to know why ." In response to Rygier´s
comment that not all great writers were doctors, he conceded wryly that his
decision might have been influenced by the fact that a literary career was too
risky when one had a mother and sister to support. (He didn´t mention that both
his paternal grandfather and his maternal great-grandfather were doctors.)
Henryk had committed himself to a medical career, but he was impatient with
his training. He considered most of his professors pompous, insensitive men who
seemed detached from the suffering of their patients. As far as he could see,
medical schools dehumanized doctors. Students were taught little more than "dull
facts from dead pages," and when they finally received their degrees, they
didn't know how to cope with sick people. His critical attitude toward the
system did not go unnoticed by his professors, one of whom told him: " Hair will
grow on the palm of my hand before you become a doctor. "

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