Kordian by Juliusz Slowacki traslated by Gerard T. Kapolka
Fado by Andrzej Stasiuk
Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk
The Mighty Angel by Jerzy Pilch
The Last Supper by Pawel Huelle
Astonishments by Anna Kamienska
Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski
Salt Monody by Marzanna Kielar
The Coming Spring by Stefan Zeromski
The Forgotten Keys by Tomasz Rozycki
Castorp by Pawe Huelle
Polish Literature From 1864 To 1918; Realism and Young Poland; an Anthology by Michael Mikos
Waiting for the Dog to Sleep by Jerzy Ficowski
Moving Parts by Magdalena Tulli
Mercedes-Benz by Pawe Huelle
The Woman from Hamburg by Hanna Krall
White Magic and Other Poems by Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski
Snow White and Russian Red by Dorota Masowska
In the Garden of Memory by Joanna Olczak-Ronikier
Death in Danzig by Stefan Chwin
Bacacay by Witold Gombrowicz
House of Day, House of Night by Olga Tokarczuk
Dreams and Stones by Magdalena Tulli
The Noonday Cemetery by Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski
Farewells to Plasma by Natasza Goerke
Tales of Galicia by Andrzej Stasiuk
White Raven by Andrzej Stasiuk
So, to all readers who might feel either intimated or guilty about enjoying the company of some very old-fashioned queens from a country you're probably more used to providing your plumber than your literature, reassure yourself that this hilarious, scabrous, sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued (and brilliantly translated) novel is essentially and life-enhancingly political – if by politics we mean who gets to live, and how. Treat yourself; buy it.
“Primeval and Other Times” marked the turning point in the literary career of Olga Tokarczuk, thanks to which she achieved artistic and commercial success.
Published in 1996, the book received multiple awards, including the Koscielski Prize, the Passport prize from “Polityka” magazine as well as being short listed for the Nike prize and winning the Nike readers' prize. With “Primeval...” Olga Tokarczuk won the hearts and sympathies of international as well as Polish readers. Her books have been translated into several languages (including Chinese and Danish), and the author is well known on the international scene and is at the forefront of the 'export' of Polish literature. Her prose has won the readers' prize of the Nike four times and 2008's jury awarded her the main prize (for her novel "Bieguni/ Runners”).
With "Primeval…" Tokarczuk confirmed the hopes placed in her as revitalising the storytelling tradition in Polish prose, and fulfilled expectations in the emergence of a writer who is simultaneously original, intriguing, ambitious, and accessible. Books which one is simply keen to read, and also to return to repeatedly.
"Primeval…" is a unique novel, and at the same time a very interesting artistic project. On the one hand it is a saga, harking back to the best traditions of the genre, telling the story of two families - the Boski and Niebieski - living in a fictional village Primeval, located somewhere in the Kielce region. The action of the book begins at the outbreak of World War I, and continues up to the 1980s and describes the trials of three generations. But it is also a stream of consciousness novel, portraying the world as a number of threads - reflective, magical, historical, philosophical - and fills the story with numerous other characters whose often perplexing fates form a specific puzzle of reality and a collective portrait of the Polish provinces in the past century.
Tokarczuk does not base the story around great events, or cultural, political or historical processes. She takes the perspective of individuals - the book is primarily after all a novel (moreover, clearly bearing the mark of feminism) and in this lies the power and conviction of its narrative. The portrayal of individuals (especially women), and their entangled and convoluted roads through life seem to be at the same time surprisingly accurate and - most importantly - authentic, and thus gain the acceptance of the reader.
Another merit of "Primeval..." is the way in which the story is framed. The Primeval of the title is a provincial village, but also a metaphor for the world. Reymont's Lipce [in Peasants] is a closed space, where everything happens: history intervenes brutally, politics interferes with it, there is social and cultural change, but the main stream of events takes place in the hermetic circle of the local community, made up as much of common as of original human individuality.
Tokarczuk portrays the Polish province in a manner unlike other Polish writers dealing with this topic. She does not engage in satire, like Redlinski (the author of "Konopielki"), nor cultivate nostalgia like Mysliwski (author of "Stone upon Stone"), nor is she fascinated by the collapse of traditional peasant culture and social drama like Kawalec (the author of "Dancing Hawk"). Her village is as much realistic as magical. Her novel - as much psychological as symbolic. In a sense, the artistic vision of Tokarczuk in "Primeval" recalls the works of the Romantics: a mixture of realism and fantasy, rational description and magic, a story rooted in history, and simultaneously full of the fantastical.
It can, of course, be read as a story of the Polish countryside in the turbulent century of war and political transition. It can also be read as a parable of the complexity of human fate, as a psychological and metaphorical novel simultaneously.
The key to understanding "Primeval" however, is myth. Tokarczuk says about Primeval: "Since I can recall, I have wanted to write a book of this kind. To create and describe the world. It is the story of a world which, like all living things, is born, grows and dies". Myth is in fact a universal template of human fate. Every great novel goes back to the myths - says the writer - that is the repository of universals. And this is just as it is with "Primeval..."
More sophisticated readers will find in this book Buddhist reflections on human and animal suffering, a sentimental and romantic attitude to nature, a Jungian reinterpretation of tragic suffering as a metaphor for human existence, a dialogue between the Pascalian and the Enlightenment rational perception of the concept of God, and finally a pessimistic and Gnostic vision of the world.
But above all it is a breathtaking story of human life and struggle with oneself, with circumstances, with morality and religion, with history. A story full of tenderness for the world, despite its cruelty, and for the people living in it who want at all costs, with varying results, to give meaning to their existence.
In Fado, Stasiuk puts the blasted landscape of Nine ("every lavatory lady used to tell stories Scheherazade wouldn't dream of when she finally hit the sack") and the horrors of Darwinian survival in the mountains behind him. "This lyric of loss, this Slavic On the Road," he describes the book, footnotes his novels, giving them the analytic hinge he refuses in his fiction. In Fado, he outlines why the East is a stranger in the West and still a threat to it; how the long history of the twentieth century uprooted the East; in what ways capitalism puts so many lives in the East at risk. Fado also follows his search—the legacy of the road—for a new life, his "Europeanness" questioned from either side, not only by the West but also by Gypsies, who Stasiuk is drawn to because their "ahistorical presence" defies understanding by the modern world.