Short story collection
Paweł Sołtys

The “nonjoy” of the title does not overwhelm us with hopelessness but encourages us to take heart

Adam looks like a former wrestler, boxer or maybe a footballer, but one of those less brilliant ones, the sort you love for ‘tough tackling’, a ‘good engine’, being ‘solid and dependable’. It’s the way he walks, his body straight, with a row of invisible medals on his hard, skinny chest. A gold medal in the shape of a calf muscle, a silver one with horsehair and a cross engraved with drops of oxygenated blood.


Since we moved here, I’ve seen him almost every day, and almost every day I’ve tried to match him up with former glories. Football glories one day, wrestling ones another, and boxing ones on other days. But his nose is rather unboxerlike. I ought to be the sort of person who looks for an opportunity, starts a conversation, buys the first round of vodka. Unfortunately, I’m not. So we’ve been walking past each other, sitting back to back at the Frigate or standing in parallel queues at the supermarket. Till today.

A small concrete square behind a large shop – a good shortcut for those in a hurry, with a low wall for the likes of us. Adam is sitting on the wall as I’m walking with my shopping, arms weighed down, a cigarette in my mouth like a compass needle. In the middle of the square, right in my path, in front of Adam’s feet, there are two dead cats. It’s impossible to say, ‘They look like they’re asleep.’ They’ve been mauled and are lying in unnatural positions, even for cats. Adam keeps getting up from the wall to chase away birds.

Suddenly he says to me, ‘The fuckers are taking revenge! Who knows how many of their children they’d killed.’

But he’s got no sympathy for bird revenge. A magpie trying to poke at a dull dead eye gets a kick and flies away shrieking. I’m standing there like an idiot. We know each other and we don’t, I was walking home, there are two dead cats in the spot where they probably liked to sun themselves.

‘Best to call somebody.’

‘Who?’ I reply, spitting out my cigarette, because I haven’t put my bags down. I’m just standing there like a scarecrow, for magpies and pigeons – there are no crows in sight. Finally, I rest my shopping on the wall and say, ‘One time when a bat flew in through my window, I called the municipal police. They have a special number for animals.’

‘They do?’ ‘Yeah, they do.’

I call and a woman tells me they won’t come if they’re dead, that it’s up to animal control or the city cleaning department. I pass this on to Adam. He curses under his breath, spits and lights up a Viceroy.

‘Somebody killed them.’

‘What do you mean? A dog maybe; there’s lots of big dogs around here. Or foxes – I heard they’ve been spotted in Kępa.’

‘Two of them? One would be hard enough for a dog, but two? No, somebody killed them and dumped them here. When I find out, I’m going to kill them.’ ‘Who?’

‘Whoever did this. I’m going to kill them.’

We’re smoking, chasing away birds, people are looking at us in surprise and disgust. There’s no good way to start a conversation over dead cats’ bodies. It’s muggy – there’s going to be a storm before dusk.

Eventually I hear, ‘Why don’t you go home. There’s a vet around the corner, I’ll go and ask, maybe they can… Or they might tell me who…’

I say goodbye, and he extends the hand of a former boxer, wrestler, or footballer. Or maybe a weightlifter? ‘See you.’

I pick up my bags and turn into the street from where I’ll turn into my own street. I don’t look back; I don’t buy the vegetables I was supposed to buy; Adam is going to kill them.

Short story A Skinny Man, translated by Eliza Marciniak

Short story collection
Paweł Sołtys

The “nonjoy” of the title does not overwhelm us with hopelessness but encourages us to take heart

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2019
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates Warsaw,

There is a Polish saying, “old age is no joy”, and it is this saying – alluded to in the title – that serves as the point of departure for Paweł Sołtys’s poignant short story collection. Having reached the symbolic age of forty, the writer – also known in Poland as a musician and singer – has turned his focus to ageing. That is, to something largely ignored by contemporary culture or plagued by stereotypes. In twenty-five short pieces, Sołtys tells a series of discrete stories set in different sociohistorical contexts. He plays with narration, demonstrating his stylistic range, though more often than not he writes in the first person. In one story, he is his own alter ego – a writer tired of author talks; in another, he is a drunk accosting people on a Warsaw street, trying to get them to drink beer with him. Elsewhere, he is a child naively observing his grandparents, or a septuagenarian reminiscing about his youth in provincial communist-era Poland. Sołtys talks about ageing and transience in different guises in order to show that they are aspects of human experience on a par with others: different from childhood or youth but not necessarily worse.

The stories share a certain melancholy, reinforced by descriptions of decaying matter and withering bodies. A sense of being tired of life takes the protagonists by surprise. Some fight against it; others submit to it calmly. There is a place here for illness, sadness and dwelling on missed opportunities, but there are also small joys and the bustle of the everyday, which reassures and gives meaning to passing life.

Sołtys’s prose is close to poetry in its precision and brevity; it is wise without being condescending. He makes us believe that everyone has a story to tell, and that the feeling of dissatisfaction in the face of passing years is something natural. This is why the “nonjoy” of the title does not overwhelm us with hopelessness but encourages us to take heart.

Marcin Kube

Translated by Eliza Marciniak

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
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
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
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

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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”

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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
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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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