Fantasy
Radek Rak
Agla: Aleph

The secrets of metamorphosis

Everything was ready. The candle flame cast a warm, very bright glow, because Maja Ułuda used the best beeswax candles, and not cheap, smelly paraffin, like they did at the Academy to save money. For a moment Sofja thought that, amid the quivering shadows, there was someone else in the kitchen with her, and her heart skipped a beat from fear. She mentally scolded herself for it. After all, Maja Ułuda always said that anxiety and imagination were the enemies of a true mage.

Resisting the temptation to glance nervously over her shoulder, she took one of the small chunks of salt between the thumb and ring finger of her left hand and passed it through the flame, while whispering:

Ignis, o ignis, purgate primam salis meam.

The flame flickered, and Sofja placed the warm piece of salt under the little finger of her left hand, then took another lump between her thumb and middle finger and also passed it through the flame, this time a little less deftly, because she was scorching her skin.

Ignis, o ignis, purgate secundam salis meam.

This lump, in turn, she placed under her curled ring finger. She took the third crystal between her thumb and forefinger and also passed it through the flame.

Ignis, o ignis, purgate tertiam salis meam.

She thanked the fire with a quick bow, then set about tossing the crystals one by one into the bowl, heeding that each time at least one ring formed on the surface of the water. Once again she got the feeling someone was watching her, but she chalked that up to her imagination.

Aquae, o aquae, tibi dono primam salis meam. Aquae, o aquae, tibi dono secundam salis meam. Aquae, o aquae, tibi dono tertiam salis meam.

And before the surface of the water could come completely to rest, Sofja fixed her gaze on the image of her father, picked up a fish knife and ran the blade along the inside of her left hand, damp with sweat and salt. At first she thought she hadn’t done it hard enough; it took a moment to feel the warmth of blood and the burning sting of salt inside her hand.

Ecce sanguis meam, ecce sanguis patris meis. Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius. Sicut occultur, ita apertur. Sicut pater, ita filia.

Thick drops slowly fell and clouded the transparent water, but Sofja did not glance into the bowl. She stared at the daguerreotype, insistently focusing her attention on the image of her father and trying to keep a tight hold on her thoughts, so they wouldn’t scatter like a flock of sparrows. The treatises on divination warned against lacking the necessary focus, though they didn’t specify why. Maybe it had something to do with the blood.

For a moment, nothing happened. Sofja felt a twinge of disappointment, but right then low buzzing reverberated out, as if a swarm of flies had forced their way into her head. Mist rose over the bowl and Sofja’s mouth went dry. Now she couldn’t afford to let this sight break her focus; she was afraid to even blink. It seemed like the image of Doctor Kluk was coming to life, moving, and her father was looking around, disoriented.

“Papa?” whispered Sofja. “Papa, are you alive? Where are you?”

Doctor Kluk put his mouth into a U shape, pointed first down and then up, and seemed to say something, though Sofja couldn’t make out a word. The insect buzz in her head got even stronger and she thought she was about to faint. She closed her eyes for a moment, really only for a moment. And then she felt someone stroking her neck.

Excerpt translated by Sean Gasper Bye

Fantasy
Radek Rak
Agla: Aleph

The secrets of metamorphosis

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Powergraph, Warszawa 2022
Translation rights: Wydawnictwo Powergraph, kasia@powergraph.pl
Foreign language translations: Radek Rak’s short stories have been translated into Russian and Ukrainian

Radek Rak’s sweeping novel is part one of a planned four-volume cycle (one book for each letter of the Kabbalistic acronym AGLA). Its most important and simultaneously most artistically interesting quality is that Rak draws deeply from many sources of fantastical fiction, in both its popular and more refined varieties. Here the typical elements of classic fantasy literature appear side-by-side with a great deal of ancient, mainly early-mediaeval, esotericism and demonology, plus motifs from H.P. Lovecraft and other masters of horror. This gives the universe Rak has created a syncretic character. While it’s easy to say where the novel is set (essentially in the city of Tybli, a fantastical version of Kraków), it’s impossible to tell when. It might be the early twentieth century, or maybe the Middle Ages. Or both. In Rak’s imaginary world, there is no science, since it has been replaced by magic, or anthropocentrism, because fantastical creatures live alongside humans. This is the strange world, as attractive as it is terrifying, into which our teenage hero Sofja Kluk has been thrust. Her father, a professor at the local university and single parent, has just disappeared. Sofja must manage on her own, though she has the mistresses of the witches’ school and a circle of close friends to help. And here is revealed the most important aspect of Agla: Aleph: a coming-of-age story. This is the heart of Rak’s novel – a young girl’s transformation into a young, confident woman. Although the novel’s reality in no way resembles our own world, certain principles turn out to be universal: Sofja learns to tell who is an enemy and who is a friend; she explores her own physicality and falls in love for the first time; little by little she begins to conquer loneliness and find her place. By the end of the book, she has learned who she is and what she wants.

Dariusz Nowacki

Translated by Sean Gasper Bye

Selected samples

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Urszula Honek
Honek
Radek Rak
Agla
Mariusz Staniszewski
Staniszewski_Kartel
Paweł Rzewuski
Adriana Szymańska
Kazimierz Orłoś
Orlos
Rafał Wojasiński
Tefil
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Grzegorzewska_drama
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Sprawa
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Piatkowski_Oleksicki_Ekspozytura
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Droga
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Bunt-rojstow
Witold Szabłowski
Szablowski_Rosja-od-kuchni
Andrzej Muszyński
Muszynski_Dom-ojcow
Wiesław Helak
Helak
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Jastrzebski_Dies-irae
Dariusz Sośnicki
Sośnicki_Po-domu
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski_chodz
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_SO
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jakub Małecki
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło

69

Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
HKD
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_Horyzont
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”

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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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