Drama
Weronika Murek
Feinweinblein. Plays

Well-crafted social and historical anecdotes, amusing and disturbing at the same time, are imbued with metaphysical angst by one of the most promising young Polish authors

Act I

Scene I

Darkness. A radio humming: someone is turning the knob, looking for the right programme. A silly tune, like in a circus or amusement park.

A child’s voice

There is one remedy against death: the leaves of the broadleaf plantain.

female voice 1

Moisten it lightly and then rub, rub.

A silly tune: a circus or amusement park.

female voice 2

It is four o’clock, the hour of pleasure.

A spritzing sound: a spray bottle or atomiser.

female voice 2

Perfumed water, present in every household back in the day.

A silly tune: a circus or amusement park.

male voice 1

We just heard Shebalin’s Sighs.

male voice 2

And now let’s return to our conversation.

male voice 1

A question that each of you has asked herself from time to time. Should a husband be buried in low boots and a woolly hat? I say: it depends on the boots and it depends on the hat.

male voice 2

If we can afford them, that would be like bowing to him, as long as the body, you know, is still in good condition, a presentable body, in an open casket. If the casket is closed then the shoes would go to waste, perhaps just for a short time and then take them off.

male voice 1

Unless we’re talking about a war hero.

male voice 2

Oh, if he fell then he’s a war hero, you’re right.

male voice 1

And in this case – with shoes.

male voice 2

In this case – with shoes always.

male voice 1

And in this case – with shoes always, anything else would be unseemly.

male voice 2

Many of our women listeners have shared their thoughts on this issue. We’ll be back after the break: Schumann’s Sighs.

A melody: “The Song of the Forests”; interrupted a few seconds in. A silly tune: a circus or amusement park.

A child’s voice

There is one remedy against death: the leaves of the broadleaf plantain.

female voice 1

Moisten it first, rub, rub.

A silly tune: a circus or amusement park.

 male voice 1

Returning to the subject of the afternoon programme, a listener from Hindenburg is asking about the appropriate way to dress close relatives and not-so-close ones for their funeral.

male voice 2

Who is close and who is not so close – that’s another question.

male voice 1

Approach the question calmly: map it all out. One circle, a round, a round, some more rings. Then count and compare who got how much. Four rings or more means they’re more distant.

male voice 2

It’s not always the father.

male voice 1

It’s not always the father, but that happens often.

A silly tune.

A female caller

I have a question: what clothes should we put on close relatives when they die and what about more distant ones?

male voice 2

Well, naturally close ones in fancy dress shoes and a fur hat, if we happen to have one.

male voice 1

If we don’t then sure we can borrow one.

male voice 2

Pop over to the neighbour’s and explain the situation.

male voice 1

You can tell him you’ll return them after a while.

A silly tune.

A child’s voice

There is one remedy against death: the leaves of the broadleaf plantain.

female voice 1

Rub, moisten and rub, rub, rub.

A silly tune.

male voice 1

With more distant relatives you needn’t be so strict.

male voice 2

Which is not to say you can do it any which way.

male voice 1

Not any which way, but you needn’t be so strict.

male voice 2

You can pull some old-fashioned outfits out of your wardrobe, items you don’t think you’re going to wear anymore.

male voice 1

A pleasant surprise, not to let anything go to waste.

male voice 2

Light but firm fabrics.

male voice 1

And we wipe empty plates with a small chunk of bread.

male voice 2

So now we know how to dress closer and more distant relatives for their funeral.

A silly tune, then white noise, as if the radio signal was lost. The lights come on.

Translated by Tul’si (Tuesday) Bhambry

Drama
Weronika Murek
Feinweinblein. Plays

Well-crafted social and historical anecdotes, amusing and disturbing at the same time, are imbued with metaphysical angst by one of the most promising young Polish authors

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2019
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates Warsaw, anna.rucinska@nurnberg.pl

The book consists of three plays by Weronika Murek (born 1989) – the titular Feinweinblein (a nonsense word) as well as Uncles and Devastating.

Feinweinblein was awarded the Gdynia Drama Prize in 2015. The play is set in the former eastern territories of Germany that became part of Poland after World War II. A variety of voices – ordinary people remembering everyday life during the war, casual clubhouse conversations and chit-chat on the radio – paints a lopsided world in a manner that recalls the theatre of the absurd. People remember the war with nostalgia because the flowers were more fragrant back then; a staff member at the community centre dreams about a career as a cloak-room attendant in the capital; radio presenters discuss whether the deceased ought to be placed in the casket with their shoes on or not. What is the point of these strange stories? Perhaps to cover up the tragedy of a couple who, in the early days of the war, followed the German authorities’ orders and sent their mentally handicapped child away ‘to be tested’. They received a radio receiver in exchange. But Murek’s absurd stories all become the opposite of what they seem to be and end up alluding to the horrific story from which they are supposed to distract. These well-crafted social and historical anecdotes, amusing and disturbing at the same time, are imbued with metaphysical angst.

Uncles is a visionary comedy based on subversive references to the prominent dramatist and artist Stanisław Wyspiański (1869-1907). The uncles have come together for a Polish Christmas Eve dinner to reminisce about their country’s mythical interwar period and as the drama evolves they somehow come to embody its heroes. But they also lend their voices to characters that are usually overlooked in historical narratives, such as women, or a gardener. True to the Polish folk belief that animals can talk on Christmas Eve, we hear the voices of Prime Minister Paderewski’s fattened goose and of the warhorses assembled in the dining room of the country manor. While the era is usually presented in idealised and heroic terms, Murek’s grotesque representation deprives it of its pomposity and much of its glory.

The play Devastating consists of dialogues about illness. The title is a pun, as the Polish word ‘morowe’ can mean both ‘bringing death’ and ‘excellent’. Combining these two meanings Murek makes deadly diseases appear as something desirable. The characters discuss their ailments as if they were boasting about goods and achievements – careers, wealth or social standing. With this playful inversion Murek exposes the empty talk about climbing the social ladder that dominates conversations in contemporary Poland. Beyond the distorting mirror of society, however, we encounter the metaphysics of illness and death.

Magdalena Miecznicka, translated by Tul’si Bhambry

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2019
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates Warsaw, anna.rucinska@nurnberg.pl

Selected samples

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Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda
Wojciech Kudyba
Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Bienczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Majewski
Weronika Murek
Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Swietek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
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© 2019 The Polish Book Institute