Reportage
Andrzej Muszyński
My Fathers’ House

A story that poses the question of what it means to be rooted

The first season in your own field is like childhood – colourful, euphoric, and the whole thing becomes a blur in the memory, though packed with clear-cut details. The next few seasons are like adulthood, where the years gone by fold up in your memory like a concertina. Month after month, muck after muck. To the rhythm of passing time we gradually became familiar with nature, by which I mean that we entered into a partnership with it. The mist of recurring enchantment faded. The reverent, myth-making attitude was gone. We loved nature, but sometimes we hated it. Most of the time we were indifferent to it, but when the Sejm passed a law permitting the mass felling of trees we were ready to jump into the fire for it, although from the perspective of the provinces it didn’t look quite the same as in the city: the countryside sometimes needs weeding, ventilating.

The next summer I set aside the half-hectare where the broad beans had grown to be meadowland, so the rotten grass would feed up the clay. I waited for the first crop. It came up quickly and went green. I was sure that dense sowing would choke the couch grass, because it plainly hadn’t surrendered – I was still digging up shoots by the bucketful from among the vegetables, saving their lives in the process. In spring a week’s neglect is enough for your plot of land to become coarse and uncivilised, not just full of couch grass but also something that creeps like ivy, or a weed similar to horsetail with strong and endless roots.

You have to whack it with a hoe from dawn to dusk. There’s dust everywhere, white dust. I’d forgotten about the cooperative. Saving some produce for our own needs seemed as much as we could possibly manage. Did I feel humbled? Perhaps. But at that point I still felt some disappointment too, because out in the field, contrary to what I’d always thought, not much yielded to human vision. I was all the more attentive to the words of the Old Man; one day, when once again we were working something out together, he told me something his grandfather used to say, which is that that the earth never waits, and in the field it has to be like clockwork – and he tapped a finger hard as a beechnut against the face of his watch; if you’re just a day or two late it’s all in vain.

I remember one afternoon well. It was very hot. Half a day spent bullying the couch grass. Suddenly I felt a bit weak, which rarely happens to me. I leaned my chin against the hoe handle. I looked at the rye, completely weed-choked, full of poppies and lupins. Briefly everything went dark before my eyes. For those few seconds I clung to the world like a plaster. I couldn’t have hurt a fly just then. It wouldn’t happen again.

The Old Man said to screw it all. Not to take it personally. The battle can be won, but it demands greater effort. He kept repeating: year after year you have to harrow and reap, fertilise, then sow a mixture of pulses as a forecrop, and eventually something would come of it. By now it was harvest time. Each evening the combine drivers would be on their way back from the fields. They took up the entire road, forcing the cars to hug the fences like sheep. The Old Man brought in cartloads of rich rye from his field. Grain spilling through gaps between the boards lay on the asphalt. I wasn’t sorry, although my weed crop was sizzling in the heat along with the maggots. Horseflies sliced the air like fat sparks. In the second half of the year the weeds grew more slowly and there was more free time. Lower down, by the road, a shed provided sleeping quarters for the carpenters I’d hired from near Żywiec who were finishing putting up the house.

Excerpt translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Reportage
Andrzej Muszyński
My Fathers’ House

A story that poses the question of what it means to be rooted

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2022
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates Warsaw, anna.rucinska@nurnberg.pl

Sometimes you have to go right around the world to find your own home. Andrzej Muszyński  provides the perfect example. He started his career as a travel writer with reportage about Asia and Africa, but more recently he has focused on his immediate vicinity. Thus in his new book, My Fathers’ House, he combines the genres of diary, essay and reportage to write about himself and his own life. Now aged thirty-eight, he begins with his decision to buy a piece of land near where his family is from, in a village outside Kraków. He sowed his field and started to lead the life of a farmer, on the model of his ancestors. “I can’t see any point in working outside art and agriculture,” he writes in the first chapter, “so I wanted to earn the money to write by working the land. I was hoping this would protect me from having to go to an office and having to wear a suit, and that true freedom lay ahead of me, under the turf.” He would soon tot up many a hard clash with reality.

The first part of My Fathers’ House chronicles Muszyński’s efforts to become a farmer. He wants to work the land ecologically, without using pesticides or chemicals, but in practice it proves extremely difficult. He spends hours reading up on internet forums and social media groups for farmers, and asks Google every possible question. Nevertheless, his best source of information are the neighbours with whom he forms close friendships. They give him the most effective advice on how to plough, sow and reap.

And yet the “sorrows of a young farmer” are just the beginning. Further on, Muszyński broadens his perspective and starts to examine the earth with the help of some archaeological and geological tools. His thoughts on the quality of the soil lead him to the layer of prehistoric fossils that lies beneath the surrounding hills. He imagines the everyday life of his early ancestors, and considers the future effects of climate change. He asks from every possible angle what it means to be rooted. Will his children leave here, or will they stay? Questions that people ask themselves in many places, not just in the countryside near Kraków.

Marcin Kube

Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

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