The Varieties of Religious Experience in Józef Wittlin’s The Salt of the Earth

Łukasz Tischner


The aim of the article is to present the individual and intense experience of sensing the world in religious categories, an account of which can be found in the novel The Salt of the Earth. The term “religious experience” comes from William James. The author of the article first mentions the interpretative difficulties connected with structural irony, which calls into question some of the statements verbalized in the novel. Taking into account this complexity, he points out four elements that justify discussion of a religious experience in The Salt of the Earth. First, he points to the title, which evokes a religious perception of the world, and assumes a response to a calling that comes from God. Second, he refers to the Prologue (deprived of structural irony), which introduces the theme of war as blasphemy. Third, he analyses those passages in which the narrator shortens his distance from Piotr Niewiadomski’s point of view and approvingly accepts the magical interpretation of natural phenomena. Lastly, he refers to the Christian-Orphic-Hutsul theme of the immortality of the soul and contact with the dead. 

This text was presented at the conference Józef Wittlin – pisarz kulturowego pogranicza (“Józef Wittlin: A Writer of the Cultural Borderlands”), which took place on May 29, 2015, at the Catholic University of Lublin. Originally published in Konteksty Kultury 2015, vol. 12, no. 4) (the Polish title: “Odmiany doświadczenia religijnego w Soli ziemi Józefa Wittlina”).

Translated by Filip Mazurczak

Słowa kluczowe: Józef Wittlin, novel, religion and literature, structural irony

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