by Tadeusz Konwicki ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 11, 1981
On an all-too-timely queue outside a Warsaw jewelry store one Christmas eve, author/narrator Konwicki stands with a host of others, all waiting to buy gold tings imported in from Russia. Among those on the line are spies, anarchists, apologists. And the man standing behind the author knows him; in fact, this man is an approving, though rough, ad hoc critic: ""Your cleverness is vile, elusive, exalted, dripping with sincerity, a foul sentimental attempt at sanctity aspiring to the tragic. Your cleverness is such that its every gleam kills you forever, for all time. Your books aren't kosher and nobody will ever touch them again."" Then, when the crowd is finally let into the store, there are no Russian gold rings for sale--only vulgar samovars--whereupon Konwicki, whose chest has been paining him, has a mild heart seizure. (A shopgirl relieves Konwicki's cardiac distress by proceeding to have sex with him in the store's back room.) And, finally, the disappointed crowd moves on, to an abandoned building adjoining a church, where the pepole continue their wait with the help of vodka and cigarettes and talk. The absurdist situation here, then, is an obvious allegory--of self-loathing, of depthless victimization, of the Polish artist's spiritual trial. Konwicki breaks his narrative, furthermore, to insert an historical fantasia on the 1863 Polish partisan campaign against the Russians--plus frequent, impassioned jeremiads which castigate both the West (for regarding the Polish impulse to freedom, with its admitted components of tragedy and buffoonery, too casually) and the Soviets (for their psychic hostage-taking). And the result--pain mixed with low, self-mocking comedy--is certainly attractive. Still, Konwicki leaves the edges very rough throughout, with little in the way of guidance for non-Polish readers; so, though this is interesting and even magnificently rageful work (banned, unlike other Konwicki books, in Poland), it may prove too diffuse and special to engage the widest possible audience for dissident fiction.
Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1981
Page Count: -
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!