The House with the Stained-Glass window by Żanna Słoniowska

The house with Stained-Glass window by Żanna Słoniowska

Polish fiction

Original title – Dom z witrażem

Translator – Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Source – review copy

This is another from Maclehose new collection of press editions of books from around the world. This book is by one of the rising stars of  Polish fiction. Żanna Słoniowska she won the Conrad prize a prize for a debut novel and also the Znak prize which had over a thousand books in contention for it. She was born  In Lviv in Ukraine but now lives in Krakow. She works as a Journalist and Translator.

On the day of her death, her voice rang out, drowning many others, rancous sounds. Yet death, her death, was not a sound, but a colour. They brought her body home wtrapped in a large, blue and yellow flag – the slag of a country that did not yet exist on any map of the world.She was tightly shrouded in it, like an Egyptian mummy, thoug in one spot on the surface a dark, blood-red stain was breaking through. As i stood and starred at that stain, I was strucj by the feeling someone had made a mistake.

The opening and her mothers death and the first mentio of Blue and Yellow .

This book is set in the town of Lviv, in fact in a way it is as much as a character in the book as the people that live in the House with Stain glass. The story is told through the three woman who all live in the house and really cover the whole of the last century. The house in Lviv in Ukraine is home to Great Grandma grandma Aba and Mother Marianna and her Daughter. All live in the house the books open as Marianna is killed, she is a famous Opera star and leader of the movement to free Ukraine from the Soviets. The story is told from the daughter’s point of view she tells of her grandmother’s  struggles and during the wars. The loss of the fathers in history. Also, the grandmother could have been a painter and due to circumstances missed out. The daughter herself many years later start an affair with an older man as we see how the fight to get the blue and yellow flag was flown has affected all those living behind the stained glass window in Lviv four woman and hundred years of history.

That winter in the mid -1990’s , Balconnies started falling on peoples heads and walking close to the houses became dangerous.

“Mind your head!”wnet the refrain to anyone who ventured outside.

“Yesterday, on So and Son Street, balcony mouldings from tje second floor of house number six collapsed onto the head of a woman walking below” I read in the newspaper “Although the pieces of plaster were not heavy, she was seriously injured and taken to hospital.#

This made me thing of those advert” have you had a balcony hit you !! ” as the kept falling on people .

The other great female writer about Ukraine Svetlana Alexievich this book shows the true spirit of females in the Soviet Era. Also the constant struggle of the sleeping giant that was Ukraine. This is a portrait of family but also on a great scale of the country. from the grandmothers war time and exile from the original homeland through the mother’s struggle to lead the first movement to freedom, To the present day told from the daughter and those recent years we also saw on the news where the country kept going one way to another. The other character in this book is Lviv one of those great towns full of ghosts and touch so much by the history of the 20th century. An amazingly confident book for a debut novel.

 

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In red by Magdalena Tulli

 

In red by Magdalena Tulli

Polish fiction

Original title –  W czerwieni

Translator – Bill Johnson

Source – personal copy

One of the publishers over the years I have discovered is Archipelago. I have reviewed a number of their books over the years and have brought a lot as they are so pretty in their design. Magdalena Tulli is one of the writers from them I hadn’t tried and this short novella seemed a great intro. Magdalena Tulli is a writer and translator she has been five times on the prize list for the Nike prize in Poland (the polish Booker Prize), this book was one of the books to make that prize list.

Left to prey to foreign forces, stitchings filled with stories that previously no one had ever heard or wanted to hear. In the house of pleasure, in the downstairs parlor, at night officers in jackets unbuttoned in contravention of the regulations fell madly in love, sang. andlaughed; during the day the other ranks were let in through a side door and took the creaking stairs to the second floor. They thronged the poorly lit corridor, wreather in cigarette smoke, grasping metal tokens in their sweaty palms.

The town is change by Germans , this passage remind me of the Brel song Next where a soldier loses his virginity.

This book follows a small town in Poland Stitchings a town where time stands still even thou the world moves on around them.We follow the town over the period pre world war one to pre world war two. This story tells little tales of the multitudes from the workers in the main factory their Loom and son and the two other big factories in the town. German invaders the officer and the ranks their impact on the town both during the war and afterwards. The creation of Poland is proclaimed after the war to the citizens of the town. A young woman who has to decide between the two most eligible bachelors in the town. This is an odd world like that of say Dylan Thomas llareggub full of dark characters that are touched with a bit of magic realism but also the dark realism of that period of history.

Every morning the unemployed demoblized soldiers, a snarl of anger frozen on their faces, would read the newspapers, in which there was not a single piece of good news for them. They lit one roll-up cigarette from the previous one, and blew the acrid smoke up towards the ceiling. They paced from wall to wall in their basements, irritable and gruff

The men left after the war have little hope in stitchings .

I liked this book it is in the spirit of the likes of Calvino and Saramago that fine line between realism and magic realism. Stitchings is a surreal mix of dark characters that like fireflies in the night appear for a second then disappear as death hovers over the town itself. We meet folks then they die it is a strange place. But I felt in a way it is an attempt to capture the madness the encapsulated Mittel Europa in those first forty years of the twentieth century. Where lives burnt brightly at times and lives were short at times. I enjoyed Johnson translation he managed to keep the feel of this being magically real at times. The spirit of how a town is shaped by war and death is what Tulli tries to show here and that is what works it is about the place rather than the people in way.

Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg

 

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Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg

Polish fiction

Original title – Guguly(unripe)

Translator – Eliza Marciniak

Source – review copy

I choose to jump this up my books to review I only finished it this morning it is another tale of childhood like the previous review and also like tha has a slightly Fable like stories in it . Wioletta Greg grew up in the Jurassic Highlands of Poland , where this novella is set she left in 2006 , she is a poet as well as a writer she won the Griffin poetry prize for her poetry this is her first novella to be translated to English .

Disobeying my mother , I started sleeping with Blacky, Blacky smelled of hay and milk and had a snow-white map of africa around his neck. He would come to me in the night, lie on my duvet and start purring, kneading the covers like dough under his paws .Ever since I found him up in the attic we lived in a strange state of symbois. I’d carry him inside my jumper like a baby, steal cream for him from the dresses and, on Sundays, feed him chicken wings from my soup .

THe cat she has Blacky which disappears as quickly as he appeared in the attic .

This as I said is the story of a childhood , one must assume it is some what from Wioletta’s own childhood . It follows Wiola a young girl , she has a cat that she likes to have slept on her bed even thou her mother has vowed this shouldn’t happen the cat Blacky mysteriously disappears one day , She also likes to collect Match labels this nearly gets her into trouble after she takes them into school for a show and tell. Then they have the excitement of Pope John Paul visiting his homeland and they are told he may go through their village in his popemobile .These are a glimpse of a childhood , in the background we see Lech Walsea  and then when the strikes keep happening through Wiola eyes we see a change of regime when Jaruzelski took control of the Government in 1981 when her favourite tv show isn’t shown more a speech by the General on what is happen Martial law see through a childs eyes not quite getting the full view of what is happening.

In the same year that a rumour spread through Hecktary that the pope would drive past ou village, my father took over the running of the farm and , to my grandmothers dismay, began to introduce reforms, gradually turning our homestead into an unruly and exuberant zoo. It wasn’t just beehives and cages with goldfinches, canaries and rabbits, or a dovecote in the attic, where clumsy nestlings hatched out of delicate eggs that looked like table-tennis balls. In the middle of February,right after my birthday, wanting to cheer me up after the loss of Blacky, Dad pulled out of his jacket a little soggy, squeaking ball of fluff, which by the warmth of the stove gradually began to turn into a several-weeks old Tarta sheepdog.We called him Bear

The year the pope may have come to the village they open a zoo, I remember the roundabout zoo on League of gentlemen .

This is a childhood of a child growing up in Poland , but I was remind how much of what Wiola said about the Poland of the time I remembered . It seems another world now where British tv showed news of what was happening in Poland at that time I still remember without even looking up the face of Lech Walsea and General Jaruzelski. This is full of a love of the place but also a sense of the darkness in the background . Wioletta style of writing is rich like that of Herta Muller full of colour and place the village life  and characters we meet jump of the page. I said I jumped this up the review list as it was similar in nature to The brothers where we see a world through a childs eyes a fable like world These are fragments of her past the style is rather like Laurain the french writer in a way the both evoke the 80’s which is why both grab me , as their memories are intertwined with my own of the times as they are from my own youth when here we took more notice of the outside world than we do now.The title was changed but I like the view of the original one Unripened fruit at the time of fruit picking rather like Wiola in her world not quite an adult in an adult world .

Polychrome by Joanna Jodełka

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Polychrome by Joanna Jodełka

Polish crime fiction

Original title polichromia

Translator – Danusia Stok

source – review copy

Joanna Jodełka is a female polish crime writer she has so far published three novels in Polish this her first book won the top lit prize for crime in Poland the High calibre prize .This is her first book to be translated to English .

He’d put off talking to his mother for almost a month.And not long ago he’d been happy not to have to listen to her grumbling so frequently about his having let Malina go .It was so damm painful every time .They’d been together for six years .He’d been the one to mess things up when a year ago ,they’d agreed to part .

Maciej worries about his very overbearing mother and what to tell her .

Polychrome is set in the Polish city of Pznan ,which for me was the first book I had read to be set in this city .The book focuses on two at first unconnected murder in the town ,one of these murders of a retired art restorer happens to have happen in one of the upper class parts of the city the Villa area .Brought into investigate these crimes are Maciej Barrtol and his partner .Now Maciej is a chap in his mid thires with his own problems outside work .Now the two bodies where both found in strange places and strange positions ,now the two victims actually seem at first to have nothing in common ,but as the clues start flying in and they are no near they finally get a strange break about symbols and symbolism to do  with the bodies so they visited Madga an expert of Medieval symbols and symbolism  to get some help .The lack of a connection is actually a connection more in the death and  how they died .

Everybody’s life is riddled with secrets

Now this is the back cover quote from the book and it suits it perfectly as they all have secrets in this book .

Now yet again Stork books have brought us a prize-winning Polish crime novel to English.All the talk ion recnet years of Nordic crime and french crime fiction for me of the books of=ver that time I have read it has always been the Polish crime novels that have been the most challenging and inventive books around .Now on the surface I bet you are all thinking that is rather Dan brown like with the talk of symbols and symbolism  but no to me it remind  me more of the tv series White chapel were the past is just used as a guide to the present .Now Joanna Jodełka lead character Maciej is in the usual mould of a  detective in a modern crime fiction novel ,in his mid thirties ,with problems the difference is in his problems ,his relationship has recently broke up and he is now with his rather overpowering mother at home .This book cleverly scatters clues and keeps you turning the pages as you find the ones that matters and the red herrings along the way .So I hope we get to see her other two books in English as this is the first of a series and I’d love to learn more about Maciej and also his partner who here is there but feels like he has more to tell .

Have you a favourite novel from Polish crime oeuvre ?

Chasing the king of hearts by Hanna Krall

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Chasing the king of heart by Hanna Krall

Polish fiction

Original title – Król kier znów na wylocie

Translator –  PhilipBoehm

Source – Review copy

Hanna Krall is a polish writer born in 1935 in Warsaw to a Jewish family she survived the second world war in hiding ,but lost many member of her own family .After the war she graduated in Journalism and started working for the polish magazine life of Warsaw and moved around working a a literary manager ,before becoming a novel writer in the 1980’s since then she has written nearly twenty years .this book was published too much acclaim in 2006 in Poland .

She’s right ,too there he is ,second row ,first card on the right – the king of hearts next to him the six of hearts ,which means a trip .Of course those three of spades are a bad sign .Terenia explains ,but even that’s not so tragic : you should be getting news any day

from chapter with title of the book and also a card reading of what may happen to Izolda .

Chasing the king of hearts is a story set during the second world war story ,it is a Jewish second world war story ,it is a jewish second world story of what happened to many Polish and other Jewish people during the war .This book is about one women surviving the horrors of that time ,this book is her story Izolda Regenberg .Her story as told in this book is a collection of vignettes   editorial piece ,articles the novel is a series of glimpses into Izolda and her life ,her great husband Shayek ,we follow them and all the people around her  in her life as they enter the ghetto .We glimpse the ever opening doors of horrors at the war and what it has brought them too .Izolda hides but ends up in many a tight corner as she tries to escape from the war and the Nazis ,but she ends up getting caught up and ends up in Auschwitz but will he love save the day as it was foretold near the start in a card reading .The novel is also litter with pictures that help you picture the people and things mentioned so well .

After all ,I carried him inside me ,like you carry a child is it my fault ? is a pregnant woman guilty for having a belly ?

The closing lines of the book as Izolda looks back .

I liked this book last year when I read it but left it to review it  and as I feel it is going be a strong contender for this years Independent foreign fiction prize 2014  I decide to do it today .The book is a very different novella it is very polish in that I mean it is firmly rooted in the polish reportage style of writing .The little choppy chapter keeps you as a reader at the edge of your seat as you follow the bits of Izolda life but also the greater world around her ,bit she does remind me of scenes from Schindlers list where one women visits Schindler as she is hiding but want help for her family ,another thing I was remind of is the german film Europa ,europa the true story of Solomon Petrel a German jew that pretend to be a Nazis to survive the war .I was so touched by Izolda feeling about suriving it mus have been so hard to have been a survivor of this horror.Yet again Meike from Peirene  has shown even the field of holocaust fiction can be enriched by wonderful books like this .

Have you read this or any other books around the Holocaust ?

21:37 BY Mariusz Czubaj

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21:37 By Mariusz Czubaj

Polish crime fiction

Translator Anne Hyde

Original title 21:37

Source – review Copy

I’ve not read as many Polish crime book as I would like over the Years ,this is the latest to my list and from one of my favourite new Publishers Stork books .Mariusz Czubaj  he is a professor of cultural anthropology in Warsaw and is also on the editorial panel  of the quarterly Popular culture a magazine following trends in popular culture around the world .21:37 is his first book to be translated to English .,in Poland it won the High calibre prize for the best Polish crime novel .Here is a link to Mariusz’s ten favourite crime novels also an interview

 He was a profiler, the best in the country ,a specialist marking out unknown criminal offenders .A lonely hunter tracking savage ,unique types such as serial killer ,rapists or pyromaniacs .And he was a hunter barely tolerated by the police regulars .

He finally understood it would never change when he turned forty .He would never find his place .At work they saw him as a weirdo and an outsider ,a specialist in out-of-this-world ,imagined theories ,which ,by sheer luck ,could be useful in capturing murders of different sorts .

A complex man is our Rudolf Heinz

Well THE books title follows a discovery two bodies of naked men have been found with numbers written on them on has 21 on one and 37 on the other turn up near the olmpic ground in Warsaw  .This case lands at the feet of the main character of the book the guitar playing brown belt karate fighter Rudolf Heinz ,he is a late middle age criminal profiler .Now it happens these two numbers are the exact time that Pope had died is this a clue or a red herring .This leads Rudolf to a conflict with high-ranking officers and church figures as he searches for the killer but also to try to keep his own neck of the line .Will the man from upper Silesia  break the case ? Also why were there Pink triangles on the bodies as well as the numbers ? (short than my usual book description but sometimes feel I give too much away and this is one you need to read !)

There are many psycho around me ,Heinz thought half an hour later,lying in the darkness with earphones in his ears .

He was listening to john lee hooker singing about the flood in Tupelo .Yet again it took a long time to fall asleep .

One of the numerous references to music .

For me a crime book to appeal to me as a reader , it is the man Character(policeman ,profiler or detective ) I have to connect with and Rudolf Heinz is one detective I did really connect with ,he loves Rock music and the references litter through the book to music and food remind me of other detective series I have enjoyed ,at times the nearest figure from Crime fiction I’ve read I was Rankin’s rebus ,Because Heinz also likes a drink  , the  frequent references to music  as well  (lot of Rankin’s book titles are song references ). He is a similar age to Rebus in the books from  that series I loved .But this book is Polish at its heart the main clues seem to bring  connect to the church and the seminar .It appears this is the first in a couple of book with Rudolf Heinz .I hope we get to follow Heinz and see how he moves on from here .Anna Hyde did a good job on the translation which kept the pace going .Again I loved another polish crime writer surely not be long before Polish crime is the new Nordic noir !

Have you a favourite crime writer in Translation ?

Mother departs by Tadeusz Różewicz

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Mother departs by Tadeusz Różewicz

Polish prose and poetry

Original  title Matka odchodzi

Translated by Barbara Bogoczek

Source – review copy

Tadeusz Różewicz is one of the foremost Polish poets and writer ,he was a solider in the polish underground army ,and after the war which he lost his brother Janusz ,Tadeusz Różewicz  he has written Poetry ,Prose and plays  his early play the card index is considered the first example of the Theatre  of absurd in polish .In 2007 he one the European literature prize ,Mother departs also won the Nine prize in Poland the sort of  polish booker prize .He is considered the last of what was called Poland’s golden age poets .

So mother departs is one of those books that is hard to pigeon-hole ,Like a number of other polish books I ve read this tends to blur the lines .Memoir ,prose ,diaries poems and photos all form a rememberance built by Tadeusz Różewicz  to his late mother ,she died of cancer in 1957 ,this book written in 2000 is an older man looking back on his connection to his mother ,his mothers legacy ,through him and through his late brother .The effect feels like a lid being lifted on the innermost workings of a family and the Matriarch of that family  .Now many of you that read this blog may know or those that know me via twitter I struggle at times with poetry so for the poetry in this book it is hard for me to benchmark it as good or bad .I like them the style is quite short and clipped there is spaces in his words that I felt I had to fill in if you know what I mean .

 WICKED SON

I look through the window

with its pink flower frame

 

Outside the cats are getting drenched

and my old mother

draws some murky water

with saintly hands

 

In the window with a sly smile

her son stands

 

In the window  with a sly smile

her son stands

1941

One of the poems that I connected to a bit .

Now the prose pieces I feel better placed to mention and comment on ,I found the first pieces called the village of my childhood ,quite enticing ,the way it described a the village of his youth .A fly in amber the old ways are brought to the fore ,in a piece that remembers the  village he grew up in ,this is all the more because it isn’t  Tadeusz piece no this prose piece was written by his late mother and is heart-warming and heart aching at the same time .We see the brothers go to war ,only grabbing chance visits with his mother during the war as they fought the Nazis ,then we see Tadsuz try to become a writer in the post war Poland ,he has been a writer that has according to the polish version of his wiki page has transcended genre at times ,interested in many styles of writing but never quite being pigeon holed and this is how I would describe the piece and feel of this book ,yes memoir ,yes prose poetry .But not fully either ,one could almost say the reportage that Polish writers post world war two have often been known for the likes of Kapuscinski or Stasiuk are well-known ,has been turned internally on to  the family trying to find what the mother was and what she meant  to her family .by bring together pieces from all the family to try to grasp the meaning of being a mother in the Poland of the time a shifting world from independence in 1918 ,through the dark war years and the into the bleak Post war communist times .But be easy to see this as bleak but no this book is littered with a humour that is dark and the sort that laughs at the bad times .

Mother’s eyes which can see everything watch the birth watch throughout life and watch after death from the “other world ” .Even if they turned her son into a killing machine or a beast a murderer mother’s eyes are looking at him with love …looking

From the piece now ,don’t all mothers have love in their eyes .

Well I’m not sure I ve put over the full beauty of this book ,because it is .We all have Mothers or a maternal figure within or lives and if I could write something like this about my mother to go through time as a remembrance and testament  to her ,I would be proud .I like thanks Joanne of stork who had invited me to the above event that video is from but it was a couple of days after I was in london shame would love to have met the man ,he is a true great and talent .

 

Do you have a favourite book on mothers ?

Diary by Witold Gombrowicz

Diary by Witold Gombrowicz

Translated by Lillian Vallee

Polish non fiction

 

Witold Gombrowicz was an ex pat Polish writer ,when he got stuck in Argentina  at the out break of world war two .He had already  written a number of books back in Poland  before he went to Argentina ,the most well-known been Ferdydurke a novel about a thirty year old writer being haunted by his former tutor  his debut which from his own words was maybe his best book .This set the theme for most of Gombrowicz writing life deep psychological themes and questioning of Polish society and culture .Any way to the book in question which is his  Diary and is what it says on the cover it is Gombrowicz diary for the years 1953 til his death in 1969 ,these entries were published in the polish Magazine Kulutra .Most of the time in Argentina although near the end of his life Gombrowicz did return to europe to live .

1953

Monday

Me.

Tuesday

Me

Wednesday

Me

Thursday

Me

Friday

Josefa Radzyminska has magnanimously provide me with a dozen or so issues of Widomosci and Zycie (life and the literary news )

The opening of the diary and a rather witty start .

 

Now from its opening you can see both Gombrowicz deepness of thought  and his humour which is quite dry  at times .So this for the   diary  it is hard to pin down it isn’t really a diary in the straightforward sense  as such ,No it is  so much more it is the outpouring of a great writer ,no I’ll go further  a great mind .Granted  at times you disagree with him at times on some of his views  ,he has little time for Proust ,he also had various views good and bad on his fellow countrymen most of which he does go into depth with over the course of this book .WE also so see the many trends of the time things such as  , existentialism , Marxism , phenomenology . structuralism .This marks Gombrowicz as a great Polemic writer he does have strong views on most things he discusses in the book ,these views also set what made him such a great fiction writer as his insight into so many things seemed well thought out and in-depth .

The flaws of Proust’s book are enormous and innumerable -a gold mine of defects .His duel with time ,based on an exaggerated ,naive faith in the power of art -this is the professional mysticism of a crazed aesthete and artist .His psychological analyses could drag out into infinity ,for they are only embroidering on observations -they are not exploratory .

He was not a real Proust fan it seems .

Then at other times you marvel at Gombrowicz ability to recount the writers of his day and also his looking in at the polish literature scene from the outside ,this is definitely one of those books you need a notebook for the names of writers you are unaware of (although this said most of the ones I have looked up seem to be out of print in English a great shame ) also one of those books I can see myself returning over the coming years for quotes and insights into writers he has mentioned or encountered . I felt  via this book you get a real sense of polish literature up to the late sixties .Then we also  get his insight into Poland as a place and culture  there isn’t the wistful looking back and yearning you expect of an exile no Gombrowicz opens his homeland up and pulls it to piece bit by bit ,so you see how it became the place it was when he left and since he left .Then we see the life of an exile working in a bank ,mundane at times but his slow move into the lit society of ex pats and Argentinians ,also his late night meeting with younger guys .Gombrowicz manages to catch what it is to be an intellectual but without that feeling of him showing it off to you as a reader ,you feel he knew this or else he wouldn’t have  had a successful column in   Kultura for ten plus years .

Now strange enough  John Self happen to mention he had been reading Gombrowicz novel because Keith Ridgway had mention him as a writer to read ,but I had already read the diary’s before he mention this  in his post ,strange we both come at a great writer via different routes ,well I had read Ferdydurke by chance many, many  years ago and had forgotten about him as a writer til I saw a Yale press tweet about the diaries coming out  (the book I read had a funky graffiti style cover and was published in the sixties I mainly borrowed it from library due to the cover rather than the writer , but Yale have just put out a new edition ) .I must admit this is maybe given me a feeling for diaries as a form of writing I need to read more off so suggestions welcome (I know of Woolf’s thou ).I would say this is a book that any lover of writing and writers would love it is a great insight into a writers mind .

Have you a favourite Polish writer ?

Madame Mephisto by A M Bakalar

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 ?

Rondo by Kazimierz Brandys

Rondo by Kazimierz Brandys

Polish fiction

Translated by Jaroslaw Anders

Kazimierz Brandys was a polish writer ,he is little known but a multiple prize winner and also a member of the order of fine arts in France .He was a graduate in law and made his writing debut in 1935 .his first novel published in 1946 .This considered one of his best was published in 1982 at that time he live in france where he lived until his death in 2000.

So rondo what is it well it is a man life the man in question is called Tom ,it is his story he has written after reading an account of the RONDO organisation a resistance movement in Poland written by a professor Janota  in a historic magazine  .Tom  was a member of , but the question as the books unwinds is what is real and what is false in this account of Rondo and toms retelling of his remembrance of events  ? .Tom past and present mix as we jump from the now of Warsaw in the 70’s a city just starting to become wealthy and changing .Then to the past of pre war and wartime Warsaw .So how did he get involved with the RONDO (Tom called it after a Chopin piece ) well this is how it started as he imagined it he was dating a girl Tola he made it up to impress her (haven’t we all bent the truth a little to impress a girl /boy ) but as the war progresses his peers start to build the imagine resistance movement into a real one because of the own selfish motives and  thus fiction becomes fact .So tom is he the illegitimate son of a famous polish pre war leader ?  This book very much in the allegorical vein of literature a display  of what may have happen if person x had done this and persons a ,b and c had joined in rather than a truthful account of events .Then there is Tola an almost saintly women in Tom’s eye ,he is one of these men brought up to put the women in his life  on the pedestal no matter what they do to them  .

Professor W.Janota claims that (1) Rondo was founded in 1942 ;(2) it was established by people smuggled secretly from London;(3) its activities included extensive infiltration of the Wehrmacht and SS circles as well as surveillance of German strategic objectives ..

Tom read this and through that find out what happen for real or maybe for real .

So this is a mix of spy ,romance ,surreal ,memoir and  allegory  fiction ,all in one package ,I suppose the nearest book in English maybe  is William Boyd’s Any human heart their is something of  similar in Logan and Tom ,Logan is a man  who ends up caught up in major events by accident rather like Tom  has in Rondo and also Logan maybe extends the truth at times like Tom as well  .But in the wider sense outside fiction ,he is a Walter Mitty  the film character carried into a wider story of the second world war in Poland ,also rather like Clifton James the man who played a double of Monty to fool the Germans in the war and he played himself in the film  where he was portrayed as a man who got carried along by events after he initially played Monty for a joke in a stage show ,there is a similar feel in Toms story here he started of with a small idea and then  got carried along into a bigger idea .I loved this books take one world war two in Poland ,Tom was a great character to follow  through these events .The book is published by Europa editions and is part of there first group of books to be published in the UK .

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