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

Radek Rak
Agla: Aleph

The secrets of metamorphosis

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Powergraph, Warszawa 2022
Translation rights: Wydawnictwo Powergraph,
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

Julita Deluga
Wojtek Wawszczyk, Tomasz Leśniak
Anna Kańtoch
Andrzej Bobkowski
Wisława Szymborska
Zdzisław Kranodębski
Andrzej Nowak
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jarosław Jakubowski
Anna Piwkowska
Roman Honet
Miłosz Biedrzycki
Wojciech Chmielewski
Aleksandra Majdzińska
Tomasz Różycki
Maciej Hen
Jakub Nowak
Elżbieta Cherezińska
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
作者:沃伊切赫·維德瓦克(Wojciech Widłak), 插圖:亞歷珊德拉·克珊諾夫斯卡(Aleksandra Krzanowska)
文字:莫妮卡·烏特尼-斯特魯加瓦(Monika Utnik-Strugała), 概念和插圖:皮歐特·索哈(Piotr Socha)
作者:亞格涅絲卡·斯特爾馬什克(Agnieszka Stelmaszyk)
尤安娜·日斯卡(Joanna Rzyska)、阿嘉妲·杜德克(Agata Dudek)、瑪格熱妲·諾瓦克(Małgorzata Nowak) Druganoga出版社,華沙2021
艾麗莎·皮歐特夫斯卡(Eliza Piotrowska)
米科瓦伊·帕辛斯基(Mikołaj Pasiński)、瑪格熱妲·赫爾巴(Gosia Herba)
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
瑪麗安娜·奧克雷亞克(Marianna Oklejak)
拉法爾·科希克(Rafał Kosik)
亞歷珊德拉·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Aleksandra Woldańska-Płocińska)
巴托米耶·伊格納邱克(Bartłomiej Ignaciuk), 阿嘉塔·洛特-伊格納邱克(Agata Loth-Ignaciuk)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
羅珊娜·延澤耶夫斯卡-弗魯貝爾 (Roksana Jędrzejewska-Wróbel)
作者:普舎米斯瓦夫·維赫特洛維奇(Przemysław Wechterowicz) 插圖:艾米莉·吉烏巴克(Emilia Dziubak)
尤斯提娜·貝納雷(Justyna Bednarek) 插圖:丹尼爾·德拉圖爾(Daniel De Latour)
尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
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Jan Kochanowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Olga Tokarczuk
Władysław Stanisław Reymont
An Ancient Tale
Stanisław Rembek
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Henryk Sienkiewicz
Maria Dąbrowska
Stefan Żeromski
Bronisław Wildstein
Zbigniew Herbert / Wisława Szymborska
Karol Wojtyła
Wiesław Myśliwski
Czesław Miłosz
Anna Świrszczyńska / Melchior Wańkowicz
Tadeusz Borowski / Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
Wiesław Helak
Góra Tabor
Adriana Szymańska
Paweł Rzewuski
Mariusz Staniszewski
Radek Rak
Urszula Honek
Kazimierz Orłoś
Rafał Wojasiński
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Józef Mackiewicz
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Józef Mackiewicz
Witold Szabłowski
Andrzej Muszyński
Wiesław Helak
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Dariusz Sośnicki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Jakub Małecki
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
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Wit Szostak
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Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
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Artur Daniel Liskowacki
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Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
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Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
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Witold Szabłowski
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