Literary novel
Daniel Odija
Empty Flight

An excellent analysis of mental illness along with its obsessions

“Fall!” I heard.

Somebody pushed me in the back, and I started falling from a great height. Then, as I was about to crash down, I woke from a short nap. My body twitched in an unconscious reaction to stop a fall which was as real as if it were about to take place in reality, yet existed only in my dream. When I was dreaming though, I didn’t know that. I was entirely convinced that I was about to die.

At that same moment, I heard a loud thump on the window, just above my head. Maybe that’s what woke me up. There were two seagulls fighting over something so fiercely in mid-air that they didn’t see the window. […]

They’d left a mark on the window, an impression of widespread wings. The impact must have been very hard for them to have crushed in this way. Luckily, the window didn’t crack.

“Angels!” I recalled mother’s words. “Come on, boys, look at the angels!”

Years ago, when we were still children, mother showed me and my brother marks like those on the window. When was it I last visited her? About six months ago, perhaps a bit longer. Mother, sometimes mum, never mummy. I only called her “mum” when I wanted to make her happy, but to me, or when I talked to others about her, I called her “mother”. Mother not mum. We kissed each other on the cheek to say hello and sometimes hugged when saying goodbye. Ever since I remember, we’ve kept our distance.

She liked watching television series and nature films, playing patience and placing tarot cards, drinking black coffee, smoking one cigarette after another, and sometimes swigging a drop of herbal or fruit spirit. She’s worked at the Marriage Registry all her life, was quickly promoted to manager, and has officiated over several thousand wedding ceremonies. She didn’t want to retire because she’d miss the weddings which she kept on talking about with her colleagues:

“Beautiful! So handsome! Youth is always beautiful. It speaks for itself.”

“But did you see that other one? Old cow, pretending to be a spring chicken. What husband is that, her fifth?”

“Every blight’s someone’s delight.”

“They look as if they’re in love. Do you think they’ll spend their whole lives together?”

“He suits her like a hunchback suits a straight wall.”

“Look at that, practically still a child with such an old boar. I bet it’s the money.”

Commenting on the appearance and choice of newly- weds never bored her. She also went to the country to see her sister, whom my brother and I had known since we were children because mother took us there. She never found herself another guy after my father, although many milled around her because she was shapely and attractive.

I think she’d have preferred her older son’s fate to have been mine. I was always second-best because not only had I been born second, but I also proved a disappointment.

Excerpt translated by Danusia Stok

Literary novel
Daniel Odija
Empty Flight

An excellent analysis of mental illness along with its obsessions

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2021
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates Warsaw, anna.rucinska@nurnberg.pl
Foreign language translations: Daniel Odija’s works have been published in France, Germany, Macedonia, Ukraine.

Daniel Odija’s novel, Empty Flight, offers a rare insight not only into the world of the mentally sick but also, and perhaps above all, the world of those who live alongside them. In it, we observe the destructive progression of mental illness through the eyes of the sufferer’s brother, the narrator. This gives a clearer picture of how the deteriorating state of the mentally afflicted bears upon the lives of those close to him, especially his family. The destructive force of schizophrenia affects not only its victim, for whom the torment becomes unbearable and, in the end, leads to suicide, but also the brother, who falls into the grips of alcohol, the mother, who cannot cope with the suffering, and the ex-fiancée. It destroys many relationships or turns them toxic.

Both the narrator and the other main characters remain nameless, making it easier for us to identify with them. This could happen to any of us, the author seems to say. Throughout the novel, we accompany the narrator in his attempts to understand what had happened. The author’s highly skilful use of flashbacks allows the truth to be gradually revealed. This effect is further heightened by the same events being seen from different points of view, which come to light when the narrator meets his mother and his brother’s exfiancée after his death. Aside from that, Daniel Odija’s book constitutes an excellent analysis of mental illness along with its obsessions (in this case, they take on “birdlike” connotations, reflected also through symbolism), phases and relapses tensely awaited. This tension is contagious because Empty Flight is an expertly-written novel. Interesting as regards language and style, but also very informative.

Szymon Babuchowski

Translated by Danusia Stok

Selected samples

<
>
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”

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

© 2022 The Polish Book Institute