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#FoylesFive: Polish Fiction

22nd February 2018 - Gary Perry

#FoylesFive: Polish Fiction

2017 was a great year for Polish writers in translation (and, indeed, their translators). Here are five favourites from Gary Perry, our fiction in translation expert.

 

Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg (translated by Eliza Marciniak) 

The first novel from an acclaimed poet, Swallowing Mercury offers a series of vignettes from a rural Polish childhood. A child's fears and wonders, the passage of the seasons, the intersection of political upheaval and everyday life, Greg handles her themes with a poet's precision.

 

The House with the Stained-Glass Window by Żanna Słoniowska (Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) 

With reductive notions of national identity depressingly resurgent, this love letter to the Ukrainain city of Lviv, and its past incarnations as Polish Lwów, Soviet Lvov and Austro-Hungarian Lemberg is the book we need right now. Charting the lives of four generations of women, as the borders of eastern Europe shift during the course of  the turbulent twentieth century, Słoniowska's prizewinning debut explores the ways in which people and places refuse to be diminished to just one identity. 

 

History of a Disappearance by Filip Springer (Translated by Sean Gasper Bye) 

As with Słoniowska's novel, the shifting of borders throughout Europe's terrible twentieth century provides the narrative fuel for Filip Springer's moving work of creative non-fiction. Through oral histories, imaginative reconstructions and research in various archives, the author resurrects the disappeared Polish town of Miedzianka, formerly German Kupferberg. An elegy for the lost towns of Europe, History of a Disappearance bears witness to the displacement of peoples - an issue that remains all too pertinent. 

 

Moving Parts by Magdalena Tulli (Translated by Bill Johnston) 

I find it very hard to describe Tulli's short and experimental novels. For me, her style evokes the work of one of my favourite writers, José Saramago. Each of her books feels like a step into new literary territory. In Moving Parts, the role of the narrator takes centre stage as he grapples blindly with stories and characters determined to lead lives of their own. A book about the frustrations and pleasures of fiction, this is one for the lovers of novels that make the reader work. 

 

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Translated by Jennifer Croft) 

A revolution, in terms of what we expect the novel to look like and, indeed, to do. Flights jettisons convention, crosses places, times zones and eras, and ushers into being a new form for the novel in our hyperconnected age. It sets a new standard for contemporary fiction and is one of my books of the past year. 

 

 

 

 

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Swallowing Mercury
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