Literary novel
Jakub Małecki
Nobody’s Coming

Małecki doesn’t force the reader to get emotional while allowing for it

She leaned her head against the window- pane and, squinting her eyes, she listened to the rustling names of consecutive tram stops while trying not to look at the title of the book read by the woman opposite. This was one of the most difficult challenges on the tram. She looked out the window, she moved her toes in her soaked shoe and for the first time saw this man, this boy, this child – this combination of all three.

He stood cowering next to the stop, huge and wet. He was wearing wide trousers and two unbuttoned jack-ets with a vest visible underneath. He had a checkered scarf, shoes with untied laces and a hat with a green pompom. His plump hand was clenched on the han-dle of a stuffed framed rucksack. He looked at the rucksack, then at the tram, then at the rucksack again.A woman in a red hat standing next to him adjusted the bag on her shoulder and said something without turning her head, as if she knew that the boy-man had not moved from his spot, had not left, so she didn’t have to check if he was there.

They got on the tram, filling almost all of the empty space. He pressed the rucksack against his body and looked around, while she, slightly absentmindedly, patted him on his back, which he could not possibly feel through so many layers of clothing.

Olga detached her head from the windowpane and, while looking at the boy-man, she heard the name of her stop, as if she were underwater. She jumped up, wobbled, and moved towards the door. Passing by the tall rucksack, she turned her head: the top flap was torn off, she could see inflated, colourful balloons in-side. She got off at the last minute, squeezing through the crowd of passengers with a quiet “Excuse me”. She then got home, climbed the stairs, took her jacket off, but when dropping onto the mountain of cushions on the sofa, she didn’t remember any of this.

She kept thinking about him for several days. She thought about him when pouring milk over her cinna-mon cereal at half past four, at six, when she stopped on the doorstep of the Wypiekarnia backroom, taking in the smell of baguettes and coffee, and around midday, on the patio, having her one-a-day cigarette with Aleks.She thought of him under the concrete ceiling of the subway in the centre, queuing at the market, in her own bed, lying on her side and looking at the spine of one of savagely well-thumbed Steinbeck’s novels. Soon he started slowly dissolving in her memory. A week later she couldn’t remember his face.

She was wondering how old he was, where he lived, and if he had ever kissed a girl. What his name was, what he liked eating and what his longest journey was. Why he wore so many layers of clothing, why this backpack with balloons. She realised that all the knowledge she had about differently abled people came from some old TV series. She even had long forgotten its title.

When she watched this series, the world hadn’t yet sprawled beyond the boundaries of the home and garden in Kalisz, the centre of the world was still a Sunday cake, the grand piano, the upper terrace and Mr. Felicjan on the upper terrace. Days then consisted of watching TV, chasing Rysio, sitting under the kitchen table and, above all, waiting. She waited for dad to come back from work, for the moment when he sat at the piano and she could scramble into his lap. She slid under his open jacket and he covered her with his tie. And she sat there just like that, bent over, in the safest place in the world. Dad was tall and skinny, he had a scar under his right eye and long, bony fingers. He worked at the Calisia piano factory and he was a pia-nist himself. At that time he still played: he would sit in front of the grand piano for a long while, take his time getting ready in silence, with his eyes closed and then he would drop his hands from on high onto the keys and suddenly the whole house would be filled with sounds. Several years later he stopped playing – nobodyknew why. He ignored and dismissed all the questions.

Excerpt translated by Anna Błasiak

Literary novel
Jakub Małecki
Nobody’s Coming

Małecki doesn’t force the reader to get emotional while allowing for it

Publisher: SQN, Kraków 2018
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates, anna.rucinska@nurnberg.pl

Jakub  Małecki  has  left  the  niche  of  speculative  fiction   literature   for   good   and   with   every   subsequent  book,  he  becomes  more  and  more  rooted in mainstream prose, in contemporary realistic writing  which  above  all  is  based  on  psychological  vivisection.

In Nobody’s  Coming,  Małecki  develops  two  separate  plots,  but  from  the  beginning  we  feel  that  sooner  or  later they will intertwine. The first takes place in the 1990s. A young couple – Marzena and Antek – has just had a son, but we soon find out that Klemens is not like other  children.  He  focuses  too  much  of  his  attention  on  spoons  and  a  carpet  which  he  keeps  touching  for  hours,  and  too  little  on  toys  unlike  his  peers.  Is  it  Asperger’s?  Is  he  mentally  handicapped?  Małecki  doesn’t explain, he doesn’t provide a lot of details. The other  protagonists,  apart  from  Antek,  Marzena  and  Klemens,  are  Igor  and  Olga.  It’s  2017.  The  latter  two  just  can’t  seem  to  pair  up  due  to  misunderstandings  and  misapprehensions,  even  though  we  sense  that  love’s in the air.

The author creates a psychological and social portrait of   a   group   of   inhabitants   in   post-transformation   Warsaw. The story’s background is filled with scenes and characters straight out of magical realism: a boy with  a  backpack  filled  with  colourful  balloons;  his  father, a pilot, who dies in a fighter plane crash; a girl who leaves her job in a corporation to bake cakes.

A  large  part  of  the  novel  is  spun  around  Japanese  motifs.  The  Far  East  is  also  a  source  of  formal  inspiration  for  Małecki.  He  sketches  his  sentences  with  fine  lines,  in  a  minimalist  style  without  any  superfluous  words.  He  refines  them  as  if  they  were  haiku poems, read with such passion by Olga and Igor. Each  scene  and  narrative  get  intertwined  at  some  point, creating a complex structure. And even though the  novel  is  open  ended,  we  are  in  fact  not  left  with  many question marks.

Most  importantly,  Małecki  is  not  afraid  to  talk  about  feelings,  but  he  is  not  an  emotional  blackmailer.  He    skilfully  dodges  the  shoals  of  kitsch  by  means  of  meticulously   constructed   psychological   portraits.   He  doesn’t  force  the  reader  to  get  emotional  while  allowing for it.

Marcin Kube, translated by Anna Błasiak

Publisher: SQN, Kraków 2018
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates, anna.rucinska@nurnberg.pl

Selected samples

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