Short story collection
Wojciech Kudyba
Twonhouse

Inhabitants of a block of flats are unable to adapt themselves to the swift pace of economic transformation

There’s no one around. Everything is sparkling clean. The entire building. And the smell is strange, chemical, not like it used to be. Because in the past, at dawn, it seemed to smell of dew, and at lunchtime – of lunches behind doors. Here chicken soup, there borscht, somewhere else something fried. I move further inside, my heels bang on the steps, my fist against the banister. Nothing… I can see for myself… So perhaps I’m actually not banging. Perhaps I’m just bumping around noiselessly – from banister to wall, from door to door. Perhaps that silence, hanging like a cloud in the very centre of the house absorbs everything, so they can’t hear me. Perhaps something’s happened. I hurry up and whack the door at number two and then the one on the first floor, and then on the second and shout:

‘Mr Konrad! Mrs Halinka!’

I shout like that because they always used to come out when the postman was there. Of course. He’s getting on, his bag’s heavy. He often even said it got heavier from year to year, although people have stopped writing to each other. And even if it was a bit lighter, who could climb stairs like that? Old people can’t and youngsters really can’t either, because they’re weak these days. They rush around with flyers and they’ve had enough after one day. Here it’s not about a day or a week, but life, because you don’t become a postman for a month – it’s for life. Am I really saying these things.

So they used to come out at once; sometimes you didn’t even have to call. Banging the front door was enough, or the heavy sound of steps, the jangling of keys. There was no doorbell. If necessary, you knocked and called:

‘Mr Artur! Pension!’

I had a strong voice, but not now. After the illness it’s just a croak. But there’s no point complaining either. I mean, I was lucky. There were no secondaries and I’m just about alive. And Mr Artur at number three would come out in his dressing gown, put on his glasses and count the money.

‘Bugger them, they can go to hell!’

He would take a step forward, rest on the banister, count it again, even though he knew precisely how much there was. Stand with legs slightly apart, focussed. He’d even count it a few times, because it wasn’t the money he was adding up, but his own life.

‘Thieves, bastards, red brigade! Come here, all of you! I’ll show you equality and fraternity! How about you try and live on twelve hundred złoty! And keep telling yourselves that after thirty years of farting behind your desk that’s all you’re worth! One thousand two hundred and twelve złoty and fifty-five grosze. Come and get it. I won’t miss the notes or the coins! I’ll give it all away and watch. After thirty years of hard graft we’ll see what you can afford! Because it has to cover everything! Water, gas, electricity, rent and medicine, food and prostitutes!’

While he was still talking, they quickly took their receipts and the money and hid them away, because it was nothing to boast about. When he got to the prostitutes, it meant he’d was almost done. Everybody knew it wasn’t about the Social Insurance Institution, but Mrs Halinka. And that he did it deliberately. And she really was immediately scandalised, made a face and began to fan herself with the envelope as though someone had farted near her. She was heading back to her flat, but couldn’t quite go in. She was almost inside but still had to say something in her clear voice, a voice like a tinkling stream:

‘I don’t think… I don’t think Mr Artur has washed yet today!’

Excerpt translated by David French

Short story collection
Wojciech Kudyba
Twonhouse

Inhabitants of a block of flats are unable to adapt themselves to the swift pace of economic transformation

Publisher: Pewne Wydawnictwo, Kielce 2018
Translation rights: Wojciech Kudyba, kudyba@op.pl

A local eccentric ‒ an amateur herbalist; a melancholy writer, who only becomes well-known after his death; a young family dreaming of getting away on a holiday; and a single, retired surveyor are the neighbours in the eponymous Townhouse by Wojciech Kudyba, a renowned literary critic, poet and prose writer. Like the old building they live in, the lives of the protagonists in the four stories included in the book are on the brink of utter devastation and ruin. They’re unable to adjust to the too-rapid pace of economic change, the technology that drives the world and business deals that are not always honest. Left to themselves, they resign themselves to life in a small, disorientated community of people on the margins of civilisation — people like themselves. Although their efforts to fight the destructive development and progress prove futile, they don’t despair; they don’t submit to doubt and apathy, but serenely go on with their everyday lives. They are evicted from this broken world that gives them, in spite of it all, a kind of sense of security and certainty, by the crooked activities of a developer who tries to rid himself of the inconvenient residents in order to convert the townhouse into luxury flats.  Thus, he enters an unfair, dangerous game with them.

Kamienica is a literary picture of a fading world of old-fashioned values in which a small community of neighbours – the residents of one building, people connected by a place – seem to exist in a reality alongside rapid, modern urban life. Subtle and sophisticated humour is also discernible in this psychological portrait of the small group of protagonists, residents of the same building, sketched in deeply evocative and rich language pervaded with melancholy dread. The essence of this prose is a tender remembrance about times and people who have passed on, expressed in the stories of ‘grey people’ living in a city that spat them out to the periphery. But ‘a house is not bricks and mortar, it is people’.

Katarzyna Wójcik, translated by David French

Publisher: Pewne Wydawnictwo, Kielce 2018
Translation rights: Wojciech Kudyba, kudyba@op.pl

Selected samples

<
>
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
To the top

© 2019 The Polish Book Institute