Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 144

ness" and "stiff correctness," this ecstasy about the Infinitive,
Genitive, and Copula, are an almost perfect anticipation of his
subsequent exaltations, and we suddenly behold in Peter Sczornik
the mentor who, beyond Pound, Eliot, Perse, Cendrars, Frazer,
Bernal Diaz, and Homer, shaped his mind and art.
Yet no sooner have we seized this clue to Mr. MacLeish's
history than a startling suspicion detains us. Has anyone, before
or since, ever heard of Peter Sczornik? Does he exist? Or is he
the product of Mr. MacLeish's and Mr. Mason's fertile imagina·
tions? No book by him is discoverable in the largest American
His name and works are not listed in the standard
Czecho-Slovakian and European indexes, year-books, and philo·
sophical journals. Eminent specialists, on consultation, are dis–
covered to know nothing about him. The "French translation" on
which "The Next Philosophy" purports to be based is as elusive
as the original. Is it possible that Mr. MacLeish was perpetrating
here a hoax-a conscious
the solemn editors of
North Americ(UI, Review
and the great American public-a hoax
projected with a defiant ardor and solemnity that correspond
almost precisely to his later proclamations on verifiable topics?
Hoaxes are notoriously dangerous affairs. They are as likely
to victimize their perpetrators as to deceive the public. They are
symptomatic of compulsions or habits of temperament that exhibit
themselves unconsciously in the other activities of their inventors.
When we observe how closely the features of Peter Sczornik's
revelation reappear in Mr. MacLeish's later gospels, how com·
pletely their doctrines satisfy his hunger for a creed, how true a
projection they are of his search for a faith and a father, and how
the language and symbols of "The Next Philosophy" have been
transferred almost bodily to his later creeds and ukases, we begin
to wonder whom-if Peter Sczornik is indeed a hoax-this hoax
actually victimized, where the hoax ends, and how far the sue·
cessive revelations of Mr. MacLeish's last seventeen years partake
of the same dubious identity, now grown unconscious and ungov·
ernable even to himself.
These questions present a problem of staggering proportions,
which dismay prevents us from facing. But one aspect of Mr. Mac·
Leish's plight consoles us. All of us need a faith and he inspires us,
at the present desperate moment of history, with a desperate faith
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