Madame Mephisto by A M Bakalar
Polish fiction / British polish fiction
A M Bakalar or Asia Monika Bakalar was born and raised in Poland ,spend summers in a small town .She has studied English at university , worked as an English to polish translator .Since 2004 she has lived in the UK after a number of years in the US and Germany ,this is here début Novel that she has written in her second language English .
Madame Mephisto is the story of Magda ,who is Magda ? Well she is a Pole that came to Britain ,like many of her fellow country folk ,after Poland joined the EU to find a new future in Britain .Her story is a story that could happen to any one of them .Especially as we all take wrong turns .So Magda arrives in the UK starts and finds herself drawn into a world of importing drugs from abroad .As she does this she finds she actually is rather good at it and becomes more and more involved and climbs the ladder in the drug underworld .Then a family incident draws her back to her homeland and maybe some how facing who she has become .
“There was a complaint against you” Jantjes told me two weeks later at his place .He was my first link to the cannabis business I was yet to establish in London .
I took a spliff from his hands “it’s good”
“Swazi gold ”
Magda has her first taste of drugs in London
Magda as the lead character is a prefect example of the good girl gone bad ,some one who due to one turn in their life has gone down the wrong path in life rather like the title suggest Madame Mephisto ,even thou the devil isn’t the Magda is a bit like Faust that has sold here life to the devil .Like the polish folklore character Pan Twardowski ,Has Magda sold her self to gain greater power in the drug trade .Is the trip back home a glimpse into the past ,who is Magda the girl who came to England or the girl who is leaving England ? Bakalar talks about the masks people wear in an interview about the book .(it is worth checking stork press you tube feed they have a great collection of videos with the writer )
Now as you see at the top I had trouble placing this I m divide is this a great piece of polish literature that has been written in English the great polish writer Witold Gombrowicz often talked about in his diaries about how the best Polish fiction was written outside Poland in the 20th century by Poles in exile .But part of me thinks it maybe the first in a new line of literature to be written in English by Polish people , rather like the windrush literature from the likes of Sam Selvon did in the fifties with his book The lonely Londoners, is A M Bakalar here in turn giving rise to a new line of fiction like windrush is this a book that in ten years time maybe seen as a trailblazer .The voice of Magda even thou written in English has a very polish feel to it ,I do wonder if this is why some publisher weren’t so keen on this book .As for me it gives it a real fee,l Bakalar said her choice to write in english was because her Polish writing had been seen as tinged by English due to her extensive work translating and I may say the opposite is true her writing in English has a polish feel with out the reader getting bogged down in polish words .Madame Mephisto is one of the first books from a new publisher called stork press
Do you have a favourite book written by a writer in a second language ?