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.

Polychrome by Joanna Jodełka

Joanna-Jodełka-Polychrome-Cover-216x331

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

Chasing_the_king_of_hearts_small

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 ?

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