Literary novel
Jakub Małecki

Małecki constructs a convincing narrative about the realities of soldiering and life after deployment

Here I am.

Bald and a little sweaty already, dirty shoes on the white carpet, a police car next to my left shoe, a comic book in my hand, blocks everywhere, two tanks on the floor in front of me, American ones, some kind of robot-dinosaur, a ton of little soldiers and a board game – I can’t see its name. The sweat is running down into my eyes.

On the wall, a poster from a film I don’t know, a drawing of a guy in a helmet, and one more – of a house, I think? A school? Alongside it, a large photo of some grinning cretin with a Finnish SAKO sniper rifle. A photo of me.

Milena led me in here a few minutes ago. She kept tossing glances my way, smiling uncertainly, expecting, probably, that I’d be happy to see all this. The toy soldiers. The drawing. That picture of me.

I wipe my forehead. I get up, toss the comic book on the bed, it slides off and lands on the police car. I rest my hands on my hips – there used to be no flab there, but now I have a little – and I do my best to remember how, exactly, I ended up here, at this moment, in this kid’s room, with dirty shoes on the white carpet. My old self in the photo is looking back at me.

Milena got up, placed her hands on her thighs and moved her face close to mine.

‘I’ll be back in a minute, literally, OK?’

I nodded. My sister touched my arm, then drew her fingers back.

‘Why don’t you wait in his room?’

So here I am, waiting, now more than slightly sweaty, and even more nervous than sweaty.


The room is like any kid’s dream, at least the dream of any kid back when I was small: large, with tons of everything everywhere – action figures, board games, puzzles and cars, plastic weapons, electronic gadgets.

I walk from the white door to the white desk, on which lie: a jigsaw puzzle box, a scribbled-on piece of paper and a mug full of felt-tip pens. I stand in the middle of the room, look at the wall again, and the guy in the photo looks back at me. Who took that picture of me anyway? Pytlak? Minty?

I imagine them hanging it up – the seven-year-old impatiently directing the work and the adult obediently carrying out his orders with a roll of adhesive tape – his father, my brother-in-law Hubert, a computer programmer with colourful tattoos on his arms. I wonder what he was thinking when, at his son’s request, he stuck this large image of me here. I turn my head away and inhale deeply.

No, I can’t take this after all.

I start pacing between the desk and the door. I’m leaving, I’m running away, I’ll apologise to her somehow over the phone; she’ll understand. She won’t. I place my hand on the doorknob and I can hear their voices. I swear under my breath. Their voices are distinct now – hers calm, his reedy, excited. I rub my chest. It’s tight around my sternum; my vision’s going dark. My vision’s going dark and I, Mariusz Małecki, age 36, unmarried, cholesterol normal, two photos with the president and an honourable discharge from the military, stand here by the desk. I take a deep breath, hesitate a moment longer, then finally place my foot on the sill and jump out the window.

Excerpt translated by Sean Gasper Bye

Literary novel
Jakub Małecki

Małecki constructs a convincing narrative about the realities of soldiering and life after deployment

Publisher: Wydawnictwo SQN, Kraków 2019
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates,

Jakub Małecki’s Horizon is a novel about war in the 21st century, and its victims. Mixing both fictional and autobiographical structures, Małecki and his main character share a name, age and place of birth, making us wonder how much of the author is present in this veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Not much, of course – Małecki, one of the most popular Polish authors of his generation, hasn’t patrolled Afghan villages, disarmed mines or, like his novel’s protagonist, made split-second decisions about whether to pull the trigger. But Małecki has also clearly done his homework and constructs a convincing narrative about the realities of soldiering – as well as life after deployment, once the only enemy is that hidden in the veteran’s mind.

In brief, precise sentences evoking military commands, Małecki shows us his hero’s state of mind as he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and struggles to pull his life back together. He’s troubled by the gazes of people on the street; the neighbours’ vacuum cleaner sounds like a rocket launcher, and vodka seems to be the best sleeping aid. He only feels comfortable in the company of his army friends who’ve lived through the same experiences.

That is, until the former sapper meets the young woman next door, who herself becomes, along with him, a protagonist and narrator of Horizon. Yet her battlefield is her family. Her mother’s tragic death, years ago, has left her with questions that she, as an adult, is now seeking to answer.

With each chapter, Małecki reveals new layers of this story, skillfully building suspense. And although the characters’ struggles with the past bring them closer to one another, Horizon is neither a melodrama nor a romance, but a brilliantly written psychological novel of manners, with Małecki filling out these portraits with evocative details – flourishes, obsessions, weaknesses. It is the very imperfection of the characters that makes them so strikingly true.

Marcin Kube

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)
瑪格熱妲·斯文多夫斯卡(Małgorzata Swędrowska)、尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
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
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Dariusz Sośnicki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Jakub Małecki
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
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


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Piotr Mitzner
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Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
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Małgorzata Rejmer
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Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
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Barbara Klicka
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Anna Kańtoch
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Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
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Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
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Anna Bikont
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Wojciech Orliński
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Marian Sworzeń
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Wacław Holewiński
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