Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chapter 4 - To Rome: Part 2 - Vagabond

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Between the years 1902 and 1904, Alfred traveled throughout Europe. Among other places, he visited Danzig (now Gdansk), Dresden, Berlin, Paris, Budapest, Vienna, and Rome. He may have returned to Warsaw for a brief period after one or more of these visits. But he probably spent most of his time outside of Poland, in Rome.(1)
While traveling [by train] he rode third class, eating his dark bread and garlic together with the laborers and others by whom he was surrounded. When he came to a strange city he found an inexpensive room, secured a map and studied it. Then he took long rides through the town, roamed through the slums, ate his sandwich at the aristocratic cafes (for he had little money to spend), and studied how the different people lived.(2)

Alfred would often visit the local university, where he would sit in on lectures and read in the library. Looking up to see this stranger perusing books, a library habitu√© would have seen a young man “…rather thin, broad-shouldered and muscular, of medium height, [about 5'8"] with blue, alert, contemplative eyes, his hair very blond,…[with] a mustache which he habitually twirled up at its ends.”(3)

Given his appearance and manner, Alfred did not lack female company when he wanted it. In a tete-a-tete with one young lady in Schoenbrunn Park in Vienna, Alfred had his second encounter with Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. The park, located next to the Imperial Palace, opened to the public during the day but closed in the evening for Franz Josef’s private use, at which time the Emperor would take a solitary stroll. Alfred, sitting in the park with his lady friend, got distracted in conversation with her and didn’t heed the closing-time warning bell or whistle. Soon afterwards, the Emperor surprised them on their bench. Alfred and the young lady jumped up and Alfred took off his hat. Franz Josef said, “Oh, never mind, never mind. Be comfortable, never mind.” As Korzybski recalled, “we clear[ed] out like hell.”(4)

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. With no surviving personal records from the time, and only Korzybski’s uncertain memories from years later and a few historical facts to go by, here’s how I established the time-range of 1902–1904 for Alfred’s sojourns through Europe and his time in Rome. Korzybski recalled graduating in 1902. In 1947 he indicated that while in Rome he had an audience with Pope Leo, one or two years before Leo’s death. Leo died in July 1903. If two years before, in 1901, Alfred was still attending the Polytechnic, he would have had to have gotten to Rome and met Leo there sometime in 1902, after his graduation—one year before Leo’s death. Alfred would have had to reside in Rome for sufficient time to do everything that he did there. Sometime later, he left Rome to travel to other parts of Italy (probably during the first half of 1903). He reported returning to Rome soon after the start of the new Pope’s reign. Pope Pius’s coronation took place in August 1903. After he finally returned home to Poland, he got into trouble with the Tsarist authorities. Wladyslaw Korzybski, still alive, intervened on his behalf. From Alfred’s return until his father’s death in October 1904, enough time would have had to elapse for those events to take place. Therefore Alfred would have had to return home to Poland in late 1903 or early 1904. [Korzybski 1947, pp. 453, 466. See also Pula 2003c (1996), pp. 57-58] 

2. Schuchardt 1950a, p. 34. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Korzybski 1947, p. 474.

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