Literary novel
Jakub Małecki
Feast of Fire

A family story intended to be touching, entertaining and sometimes gently affecting

I can’t walk, I’m not self-reliant, nor do I speak clearly; but there are other things I can do, for instance I’m really good at looking, and looking isn’t as straightforward as you’d think, yet the only people who know that are the ones who look for a very long time and very carefully, and to do that you’ve got to have time, like I do.

First you have to forget about yourself, exactly that: who you are and what your name is and so on, so that’s already pretty hard, and then you’ve got to keep it up for a long while, the forgetting, and it’s also important not to lunge at whatever you’re looking at. You have to approach slowly, sneak up on it, sometimes wait it out for ages and be cautious, because only then do things become visible.

Of course I like looking at Łucja most. She’s distinct, I can hear and feel everything clearly, because with other people I can’t always, from time to time something’s off. I shift a little in my chair and check if dad is spying on me, because to top it off you need to have peace – but he’s not, he’s in his room, working, I can hear his click-click, click-click-click.

I close my eyes and search for her, at first she just slips away from me, like trying to grab onto a wet bar of soap, but I am patience itself, I keep looking and finally there she is, and then I look even more and more, I look so long and hard that the distance finally vanishes, all the air, buildings, posts and people between us disappear, the streets and intersections disappear, all the differences between her and me disappear. Suddenly everything feels empty for a moment and then something, like a pigeon waddling on my skin, back and forth, hop-hop-hop, and I feel so lightheaded.

I open my eyes and I’m smarter, and suddenly I have many words, and I remember everything smoothly, not in scraps, and I observe Łucja, first from afar, and then from above and over her shoulder, and then from within. At first it makes my head spin when she leans forward, focused on what she’s doing.

She got back earlier today. Some days she doesn’t have afternoon classes, because it depends what performance she’s in and so on, well anyway she got back earlier today and she probably won’t stop by to see us because she did yesterday. She has all this time to herself and right now she’s busy with her pointe shoes.

Pointe shoes are the most important object in my sister’s life. When she still lived with us, she had this large plastic box where she kept them, always a few identical pairs, and she always went through them so quickly that dad had a Youllgivemeaheartattack.

Every dancer in the troupe has a favourite brand, and Łucja’s are Freeds, size 5.5. One pair costs 320 złotys and lasts her two weeks, more or less. Now she gets pointe shoes from the theatre, three pairs a month, but since she likes the Freeds more than, for instance, Gaynors, which are more durable and can last a month, fairly often she has to take care of them, meaning prepare them for performances. A few times a month she sits on her own in an armchair, like now, with her sewing kit spread out on her lap, and prepares a new pair for yet another week, and I with her.

Excerpt translated by Sean Gasper Bye

Literary novel
Jakub Małecki
Feast of Fire

A family story intended to be touching, entertaining and sometimes gently affecting

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Sine Qua Non, Kraków 2021
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates Warsaw, anna.rucinska@nurnberg.pl
Foreign language translations: Germany, Macedonia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Russia

Feast of Fire is Jakub Małecki’s eleventh novel, which must make Małecki, born in 1982, one of the most prolific fiction writers of his generation. Over the years, Małecki has moved little-by-little from fantastical stories toward magic realism and social-psychological novels, developing a cherished and recognisable style. This perhaps reached its apogee in Shudder (2015), a somewhat grotesque, horror-laced historical saga set in the Polish countryside. Yet Feast of Fire is a more understated narrative compared to Małecki’s previous novels, both on the level of form and plot. Małecki, who has tapped into different varieties of genre fiction, turns here to well-structured popular fiction. This accounts for an occasionally sentimental poetics, familiar from TV, that gravitates toward a final, somewhat fairy-tale happy ending. The story of the Łabendowicz family is essentially three interwoven narratives intended above all to be moving, entertaining and sometimes gently affecting. The story, of a father caring for his twentyone- year-old daughter Anastazja, who has cerebral palsy, and the trials and tribulations of his second daughter, thirty-year-old ballet dancer Łucja, truly reads like a movie script. In particular, the sections narrated by Anastazja are richly, authentically delightful. This young woman, imprisoned in her disabled body, observes and at the same time creates the world beyond her window. Yet Małecki’s aim is not to write yet another story about suffering. This book contains many humorous counterpoints, ironies, and oftentimes lyrical reflections on visual detail. Anastazja’s world is poetically moving, because it makes us practice sensitivity and imagination. When she lovingly gazes at photos of puddles from different corners of the globe, the better to later go “jumping” through the puddles outside her window, this very warmth of detail seems able to rescue even the most challenging story.

Ireneusz Staroń

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”

Wojciech Chmielarz

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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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