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Wat (My Century: The Odyssey of a Polish Intellectual, 1988--not reviewed) was a central figure in Polish modernism, and this--his 1927 book of speculative stories--comes as a revelation. Wat's lens was set at wide--and the very panorama of Europe losing its moral and political way set his imagination afire. We have here, for example, the comic portrait of a modern English revolution (nipped in the bud as both sides turn the fray into a soccer game); an island to which all poor monarchs flee; and a brilliantly deft inversion of the problem of anti-Semitism (all Jews become Catholics and take over the Church, after which they persecute all the anti-Semites, thus turning the latter into generic Jews). The style is quick, syncopated, and piquant (excellently rendered by Vallee), with Wat capable of richer tones as well: an erotic story, ""Hermaphrodite,"" seems to take the very ideological pulse of European sexual decadence of the era. Not just a historical curiosity, Wat's stories give foundational shading to the work of fellow Pole Stanislaw Lem, as well as indicating the special nature of the mitteleuropisch Expressionism that flourished--however briefly--in a literature we still know so little about.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1989
ISBN: 0810108402
Publisher: Northwestern Univ. Press