Konwicki (Moonrise, Moonset; A Minor Apocalypse, etc.) can be a terrifyingly depressed writer, writing out of a tradition of Polish melancholy that informs his every work. Here, he says, he is writing ""his last voyage in literature, a senseless trip without forced destination""--going back and reimagining his grandmother Helena Konwicka's life late in the last century. Helena is the daughter of a discouraged Lithuanian nobleman. She is slated to marry a rich neighbor, but is consumed by desire for a young Jew, Elias Szyra, whom she tutors in Polish. But Szyra may or not be a real person, may be a wraith of history, a nightmare of failed democracy. Dreadful prospective echoes play around the book like mocking licks of flame: there are a local madman-murderer named Schicklgruber and a police prefect named Dzhugashvili, and every once in a while there are also Konwicki's own interjections about fate. Impurity, in the guise of an old-style romance, seems to be the very point here--all made affecting by the authorial apprehension of the future: ""I don't know how to reach my grandmother and immerse myself in that long-forgotten commonality of life, when there were few people and many gods, or when there will be many people and no god."" Searching and melancholy, but with Konwicki's sort of trademark honesty.