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Articles tagged "Polish"

Death in the Amazon

The Assassination 1. They’ve set up the ambush by a small bridge across a stream. They’ve been hiding among the trees since early morning—and they’re lying in wait. They know that José Cláudio and Maria will have to slow down here. That’s when the first shot is fired. Discharged from a hunting rifle, the bullet hits both of them at once: it goes through Maria’s hand and lodges near the left wall of José Cláudio’s...

History, War, and Writing: Notes from the Conrad Festival in Krakow

Photo: Thomasz Wiech / the Conrad Festival The first day of my one-week trip to Krakow, during which I planned to learn more about Polish literature by attending the seventh annual Conrad Festival, spending time at the Krakow Book Fair, touring the city, and meeting with authors, agents, translators, and publishers, began with a long red-eye flight from New York City, which was sleepless enough to make everything that day seem fuzzy and slightly surreal. In the early afternoon, I dropped...

Fakes

What won’t he fix, what won’t he do? The man’s a treasure, a must-have for any decent household. His fingers are like pincers, they can get a grip on even the tiniest little bits and pieces. His nimble joints can turn taps, table legs, and screws any which way. And then with some fast-drying adhesive, rubber cement or just ordinary glue, ta-da, he’s done. “Jeez Louise, how do you do it? Normally I’d have thrown that jewelry box in the trash already but...

The Ship-breakers

1 Shuel is eighteen years old, in a checked shirt hanging loose over his trousers, and with the trusting smile of a child to whom nobody has ever done any harm. Shuel and I are sunk up to our ankles in some sort of gunk consisting of mud, crude oil, organic waste, sawdust, splinters, and scraps of asbestos. We’re walking along the deck of a huge ship, which has several dozen people buzzing around it with files, hammers, crowbars, and other basic tools. The sun is just about to set...

Kyrgyzstan: Shade and Shadow

No Bukhara, no Samarkand, no meaning, just bare life in the rarefied air. That had been what I was after. A clarity of existence. To see sand sifting through the post-imperial rust. That would be enough for me, if anyone were to ask; for that it was worth traveling three or four thousand miles. I’ll go to Murghab, I thought, see the Chinese trucks on the road from Xinjiang. Each day a few of them came by, maybe a dozen or so. Along with extra wheels they each carried a few spare...

Ketchup

I read in the newspaper that the Apocalypse wasn’t going to happen. To celebrate this piece of good news, I went to McDonald’s and ordered a hamburger. “How fortunate,” I thought, enthusiastically seasoning my hamburger with ketchup, “that there won’t be any angelic horns, no earthbound star plunging toward us on a path of fiery destruction.” Until that day I had eaten without enthusiasm, as I had been living in the shadow of impending...

I Wish I Had a Master

               for S.F. I wish I had a master to teach me how to live, to eat with knife and fork as well as to write poems he’d tell me how the stars like people are born and die and like people live in constellations I’d listen to my master attentively for one stray word would mean the fall of kingdoms the suspension of time my master’s words carved from the body would be clear. Translation...

Alterity

The rules are clear: no place to mill about. There’s no such thing as comfort for unhappy men. He leaves the tall house and passes through the eye of the blizzard, insignias unpinned, his neck exposed by a collar haphazardly removed. In silence. No one rings him, not even from his pockets, no sharp objects or dimes, his shoes unlaced, his loops without a belt. He’s free to think—or whatever else he pleases, no one cares where he goes or why— of Roland,...

only i am

it'll happen via levels and verticals, you won't even notice before a cluster of tongues has ground you, smelt from your body a thimble for death. you have no chance without me. only i am cruelty-free: a cyclist helmet, a warm button, a hand that puts away a sharp object, the truth is that sometimes i am not well: i give out spider-catchers for so-called luck, i dig in the ground in search of a glass under which at the beginning i hid a note with my name. Translation...

Adjectival Poem

Amazing spring, warm, humid and full of backlit trees in various colors, even if it’s still unclear which ones, except for the rhododendron, which one way or another stays in shape, though it’s just a bush, and the unfurling leaves of the maple. And the greenery in the flowerbeds, which is green even at night. “Also in the dark?” Also in the dark. Amazing, silly, and even in such dark moments lucid days, because for starters, days, and nights, because of...

Bugging

And of course the birds go on chirping, and how! Even if they’re not chirping. Bah, wires can chirp almost as well, so it’s easy to confuse them. It’s altogether loud and sensuous, almost phonetic. And the flowers blossom to make things colorful, and later wither, first on the graves, but they’re bent out of shape there, mostly due to us passing by on the paths between the trees as if nothing had happened. And no way to avoid the brown-eyed gaze of the...

Utensils Shrink

children grow, no doubt happily verbs swell before your eyes or burst their seams, everything does something to be happy inevitably. In Studio “Bernardi,” Łódź, 17 Piotr- kowska Street, my two-year-old mother sits on her mother’s lap with her arms around her neck. “Negatives Preserved.” Forgive me, but for how long? I look for the atelier myself, where everything is recorded, day by day, and the negatives continue to be preserved,...

Old-Fashioned

And then she died on us, utterly. The leg dead, the foot rough. The bend of the knee glows with emptiness. And the belly’s warmth turns to ash, a black sachet filled with down. Even the cigarette, that meager butterfly, the joining of lung, poison, and breath, is merely an inscription on a signboard that says nothing to passers-by. The mouth it rules being dead. And even I, lying on sheets already musty in late morning, as disposable as a syringe, soak it up like a...

Andrzej Sosnowski’s “Lodgings”

Prominent figures in Poland’s postwar literary pantheon—such as Czeslaw Milosz and, later, Zbigniew Herbert, Wislawa Szymborska, and Tadeusz Rózewicz—have in some ways shaped our expectations of the experience of Polish poetry; as the translator Benjamin Paloff puts it, “Many of the Polish poets known abroad are treated as unambiguous, even as moral authorities.”  But these expectations do not quite suit contemporary poet Andrzej Sosnowski, whose...

from “Gombrowicz in Argentina”

Rita Gombrowicz’s Gombrowicz in Argentina (Gombrowicz en Argentine, 1984) and Gombrowicz in Europe (Gombrowicz en Europe, 1988) pull together her years of research into Witold Gombrowicz's life and work, along with her recently launched Web site on the author, www.gombrowicz.net. The books are structured as a unique biographical pastiche, comprised of interviews, commentary, photographs, and other ephemera tracing the writer's path from Poland to Argentina, where he...

Jerzy Pilch’s “A Thousand Peaceful Cities”

Hailed by Czeslaw Milosz as "the hope of young Polish prose" and often compared with the Polish master of surrealist pranks Witold Gombrowicz, in the third of his novels to be published in English the acclaimed satirist and newspaper columnist Jerzy Pilch once again weaves fact and fiction in a memorable absurdist tale of flawed political resistance.   Like the dipsomaniac protagonist of Pilch's The Mighty Angel, the narrator of A Thousand Peaceful Cities shares his first...

A Thousand

We exist on innumerable photographs. Whoever you are you exist. In a country landscape there is no place for sublime pleasures of the soul. Whoever’s tired of the city this, or some other, can go to the country. City creates an atmosphere of unaccountability just as the country creates the atmosphere of irrelevance. Over the atmosphere of the country planes draw straight lines or fall burning. We could have found a plane but someone’s stomach growled. A...

from “The Fool”

The Fool (Głupiec, 2005) is set in contemporary Olsztyn, author Ewa Schilling's hometown in northeastern Poland. Alina is a thirty-year-old high school teacher and the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, who taught her that   " feelings are dangerous. " Dangerous, indeed: She falls in love—  "without sense, "   " without a chance  " —with her dynamic young student, Anka. While exceptionally mature, Anka is still months from graduation. With precise,...

An Interview with Ewa Schilling

This interview was conducted by email, in English and Polish, between 24 May and 1 June, 2010.   W. Martin: How did you begin writing The Fool (Głupiec), and what motivated you to tell this particular story? Ewa Schilling: Well, I was thinking about all these teachers and students who fall in love with each other, women and girls in the schools. And about all their stories, which are unspoken. Especially in Poland, with its politics and priests—all these men who hate...

Olga Tokarczuk’s “Primeval and Other Times”

On April 10, 2010, heavy fog in the vicinity of the Russian forest of Katyn determined the fate of Poland’s president, Lech Kaczynski, and ninety-six other Polish leaders, including members of parliament, the heads of both the army and navy, the president of Poland’s national bank, and Anna Walentynowicz, the eighty-year-old former dockworker whose firing in 1980 catalyzed Solidarity. The fact that this rarest of delegations, bound from Warsaw to Smolensk on a Polish air...

from “Dukla”

One Saturday the summer vacationers appeared. The village was slowly becoming a tourist spot. A few cabins, a woebegone hostel, a kiosk selling Wyszków beer in its special bottles. The locals were used to it, and nothing special was going on. The Tonette was playing “Seven Girls on the Albatross.” The guys hadn’t gotten into the swing of things yet. They were standing huddled in groups, smoking Start cigarettes. A few girls were milling about in pairs. In the...

A Juicer

So many saints that they obstruct the heavens. We have yet to buy a plastic Christ. Holy water which will be absorbed by the blotting paper of sin. Thoughts of unbelief watch us closely. Love converts. A reckless juicer squeezes shy testimony from us. Yes. Translation of "Sokowirówka." Copyright by Ewa Lipska. By arrangement with the auhor. Translation copyright 2007 Robin Davidson and Ewa Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska. All rights reserved. Read...

The Smells of Evil

Let them hate, as long as they fear. --from the tragedy of Lucius Actius, Atreus The secret agent of order. He would prefer to present before the court the chaos of uncertainty. He places a teaspoon of obligatory jam into the mouth of a child. The assimilated taste passes from mouth to mouth. The univocal believer has mastered to perfection the smells of evil. The valedictorian of the unenlightened star gazing into the sky of hypocrisy. Yet bound to the...

A Splinter

I like you a twenty-year old poet writes to me. A beginning carpenter of words. His letter smells of lumber. His muse still naps in rose wood. Ambitious noise in a literary sawmill. Apprentices veneer a gullible tongue. They cut to size the shy plywood of sentences. A haiku whittled with a plane. Problems begin with a splinter lodged in memory. It is hard to remove it much harder to describe. Wood shavings fly. Laminate angels. Dust up to the heavens....

Indiscretion

Had she busied herself in time with the systematic counting of ship screws it would not have come to this— indecent acts of poetry. Translation of "Niedyskrecja." Copyright by Ewa Lipska. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Robin Davidson and Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska. All rights reserved. Read Ewa Lipska's "Juicer."

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