Short story collection
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda

Stories full of suppressed emotion, about people who find themselves beyond the main current of contemporary life

I sat in the little Chinese restaurant for five hours. I ate a lemon chicken soup. The bowl had plenty of pieces of chicken breast in it. Rice or soy noodles, I don’t remember. It was great. I felt like a reasonable person. Like Grandpa Kalina.

In my head, I was talking to you, Olanda: ‘A cow doesn’t bother worrying about life, she doesn’t yammer on about her existence. The cow has outgrown Socrates and every poet. What a joke. There are new girls behind the counter in this Chinese place and the ones who bring out the food are new too. I look at them, but I don’t get anything out of looking. There’s no path. Life isn’t one path, Olanda, there’s no Ithaca or home you’re aiming for. Even if a person’s at home, they keep leaving it so they can come back home. They go home, but they left home long ago. It’s just a trip but you have to justify it somehow. In a wise way, ideally. But fate, the path, Ithaca, predestination – these sound smarter. So it’s important and continues to exist for centuries. We can’t live without it. We have to justify humanity, so there’s culture and manners too. There’s no wisdom in humans measuring time and learning this and that. That way lies madness, which will so deceive a person that they surrender to ideas, religions, wisdoms, for the sake of calling something the truth. A person can’t withstand being human. They’ve given their fate a tremendous historical weight. Show me, Olanda, the billions of fates of those who’ve died in the history of the world. What are they, those fates, what kind of wisdoms, Ithacas, discoveries of life’s path? Discoveries of life’s path which many billions of people have already gotten to. And newly-born humans keep reaching them. I’m ashamed of that, Olanda. I’m ashamed. I only feel shame. But I love life very much. And I know nothing beyond this, that at all costs the naked must cling tight to the naked’.

You know what’s just? That justice doesn’t exist. If there was justice, humanity would have no hope of surviving. There would be no exploitation, manipulation, domination, rule. Meaning there’d be no work, earning money, competition between people. There’d be no slave labour or pyramids in Egypt. The lack of justice breeds the energy out of which religions, ideas, systems, and social welfare are created. The lack of justice is us. Oh Lord! How glorious. Stupid, but glorious.

Am I deceiving you? No, Olanda, I’m not. Don’t say that. Please, don’t say that. Everyone deceives, but there are some who deceive better. And there are also those who deceive intelligently and so well that they become truth incarnate, the voice of truth, which many believe in. Many, my dear. Because everyone believes in some lie. Every individual person in the world believes in at least one thing that’s a lie. Otherwise a person can’t survive.

Excerpt translated by Sean Gasper Bye

Short story collection
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda

Stories full of suppressed emotion, about people who find themselves beyond the main current of contemporary life

Publisher: Nisza, Warszawa 2018
Translation rights: Rafał Wojasiński, Wydawnictwo Nisza, nisza125@gmail.com

The main characters in Olanda by Rafał Wojasiński, are made up of spoken words. To them, to speak is to be (meaning to exist).

The characters in Wojasiński’s stories are solitary and lost people, familiar with fate’s trials and tribulations, who nonetheless do their best to trust that there is really no ‘greater power than existence’ (The Visit) and love. Marked by loss (Heaven for Mela), an empty life (Void), or suffering (My Husband) they have abandoned all delusions and dreams of happiness, but nonetheless have paradoxically accepted (sometimes in reflexive resignation) their sadness and its bitterness. And they want to talk about it, and direct their words to us, to others, and to one another, because that is the only way they can reach the truth about themselves and reconcile themselves with the world. They therefore examine themselves in words as though in a mirror, or rather create their own portraits out of words – people with tired faces, off the beaten path of life.

In Rafał Wojasiński’s focused, sometimes intimate short stories (at times reminiscent of the prose of Raymond Carver), all these smaller or larger tragedies play out seemingly imperceptibly: outside of time and history, on the borders of spoken words. Wojasiński’s spare, minimalistic style brings out the power of stifled emotions, and also underlines the tragedy of his characters’ fates. They search for some sign to accept things as they are. As the protagonist of the title story says: ‘There’s maybe one piece of advice to be offered – admit you are absolutely unworthy of existence. Then faith, happiness, hope, and love will come to you. Then true religion will be born in your heart and you can even begin to think about something like salvation or the meaning of existence’.

Karol Alichnowicz, translated by Sean Gasper Bye

Publisher: Nisza, Warszawa 2018
Translation rights: Rafał Wojasiński, Wydawnictwo Nisza, nisza125@gmail.com

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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