Małecki doesn’t force the reader to get emotional while allowing for it
She leaned her head against the window- pane and, squinting her eyes, she listened to the rustling names of consecutive tram stops while trying not to look at the title of the book read by the woman opposite. This was one of the most difficult challenges on the tram. She looked out the window, she moved her toes in her soaked shoe and for the first time saw this man, this boy, this child – this combination of all three.
He stood cowering next to the stop, huge and wet. He was wearing wide trousers and two unbuttoned jack-ets with a vest visible underneath. He had a checkered scarf, shoes with untied laces and a hat with a green pompom. His plump hand was clenched on the han-dle of a stuffed framed rucksack. He looked at the rucksack, then at the tram, then at the rucksack again.A woman in a red hat standing next to him adjusted the bag on her shoulder and said something without turning her head, as if she knew that the boy-man had not moved from his spot, had not left, so she didn’t have to check if he was there.
They got on the tram, filling almost all of the empty space. He pressed the rucksack against his body and looked around, while she, slightly absentmindedly, patted him on his back, which he could not possibly feel through so many layers of clothing.
Olga detached her head from the windowpane and, while looking at the boy-man, she heard the name of her stop, as if she were underwater. She jumped up, wobbled, and moved towards the door. Passing by the tall rucksack, she turned her head: the top flap was torn off, she could see inflated, colourful balloons in-side. She got off at the last minute, squeezing through the crowd of passengers with a quiet “Excuse me”. She then got home, climbed the stairs, took her jacket off, but when dropping onto the mountain of cushions on the sofa, she didn’t remember any of this.
She kept thinking about him for several days. She thought about him when pouring milk over her cinna-mon cereal at half past four, at six, when she stopped on the doorstep of the Wypiekarnia backroom, taking in the smell of baguettes and coffee, and around midday, on the patio, having her one-a-day cigarette with Aleks.She thought of him under the concrete ceiling of the subway in the centre, queuing at the market, in her own bed, lying on her side and looking at the spine of one of savagely well-thumbed Steinbeck’s novels. Soon he started slowly dissolving in her memory. A week later she couldn’t remember his face.
She was wondering how old he was, where he lived, and if he had ever kissed a girl. What his name was, what he liked eating and what his longest journey was. Why he wore so many layers of clothing, why this backpack with balloons. She realised that all the knowledge she had about differently abled people came from some old TV series. She even had long forgotten its title.
When she watched this series, the world hadn’t yet sprawled beyond the boundaries of the home and garden in Kalisz, the centre of the world was still a Sunday cake, the grand piano, the upper terrace and Mr. Felicjan on the upper terrace. Days then consisted of watching TV, chasing Rysio, sitting under the kitchen table and, above all, waiting. She waited for dad to come back from work, for the moment when he sat at the piano and she could scramble into his lap. She slid under his open jacket and he covered her with his tie. And she sat there just like that, bent over, in the safest place in the world. Dad was tall and skinny, he had a scar under his right eye and long, bony fingers. He worked at the Calisia piano factory and he was a pia-nist himself. At that time he still played: he would sit in front of the grand piano for a long while, take his time getting ready in silence, with his eyes closed and then he would drop his hands from on high onto the keys and suddenly the whole house would be filled with sounds. Several years later he stopped playing – nobodyknew why. He ignored and dismissed all the questions.
Excerpt translated by Anna Błasiak
Małecki doesn’t force the reader to get emotional while allowing for it
Jakub Małecki has left the niche of speculative fiction literature for good and with every subsequent book, he becomes more and more rooted in mainstream prose, in contemporary realistic writing which above all is based on psychological vivisection.
In Nobody’s Coming, Małecki develops two separate plots, but from the beginning we feel that sooner or later they will intertwine. The first takes place in the 1990s. A young couple – Marzena and Antek – has just had a son, but we soon find out that Klemens is not like other children. He focuses too much of his attention on spoons and a carpet which he keeps touching for hours, and too little on toys unlike his peers. Is it Asperger’s? Is he mentally handicapped? Małecki doesn’t explain, he doesn’t provide a lot of details. The other protagonists, apart from Antek, Marzena and Klemens, are Igor and Olga. It’s 2017. The latter two just can’t seem to pair up due to misunderstandings and misapprehensions, even though we sense that love’s in the air.
The author creates a psychological and social portrait of a group of inhabitants in post-transformation Warsaw. The story’s background is filled with scenes and characters straight out of magical realism: a boy with a backpack filled with colourful balloons; his father, a pilot, who dies in a fighter plane crash; a girl who leaves her job in a corporation to bake cakes.
A large part of the novel is spun around Japanese motifs. The Far East is also a source of formal inspiration for Małecki. He sketches his sentences with fine lines, in a minimalist style without any superfluous words. He refines them as if they were haiku poems, read with such passion by Olga and Igor. Each scene and narrative get intertwined at some point, creating a complex structure. And even though the novel is open ended, we are in fact not left with many question marks.
Most importantly, Małecki is not afraid to talk about feelings, but he is not an emotional blackmailer. He skilfully dodges the shoals of kitsch by means of meticulously constructed psychological portraits. He doesn’t force the reader to get emotional while allowing for it.
Marcin Kube, translated by Anna Błasiak
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”