Short story collection
Bronisław Wildstein
The Lion and the Comedians

Politics and passion in a new book by a brilliant intellectual

People are mortal, so they die – no, I did not say that, although it took effort to remain silent. The pompous seriousness with which Lefranc announced the otherwise truly unexpected death of Druon went further than his usual somewhat grandiose manner approaching self-parody. That self-parody got a mocking organ grinder going in my head. I was utterly surprised, however, by his next sentence. “He committed suicide,” the commissioner added, looking at me. Now all his behaviour was becoming obvious. A polite, but firm telephone invitation: “Right now. Naturally, I can wait a few minutes if you have something urgent to do…” I have never heard such decisiveness from him before. Although Lefranc always made sure to emphasise his position of authority, he never demanded real obedience. Appearances were enough for him. I had often had the impression that the more he depended on me, the more he took care in demonstrating his seniority. I got into the game of emphasising his managerial competence so much that at times I began to fear that I was exaggerating, and that my superior would view my irony as appalling rudeness. Until now, however, nothing of the sort had happened, and Lefranc would swallow my subservience with the face of a cat stroked under the chin. Now I understood the behaviour of the office staff that struck me the moment I had entered the building: those frightened glances when greeting me, those uncertain steps… A thought had even crossed my mind that the earlier rumours of reorganisation might turn out to be true, especially when I saw the expression on the secretary’s face before I had the time to tell her I was a god. “Boss, the commissioner wants you to call him. Should I put you on the line?” “So… do we know anything?” I was buying time face-to-face with Lefranc since I realised that Druon’s suicide was hard to believe. “You know… we’re all in shock. Such a king of life… suicide… anyone but him. Well, not everyone. If they told me, you committed suicide… heck, even if they showed me the photos and evidence, I wouldn’t believe it. Even if I saw your corpse… I hope you don’t feel offended?” “On the contrary, but what about Druon?” “He shot himself with his service pistol – well not exactly a service pistol since we are not really like the military despite all those recommendations to be armed and trained. Why am I even saying this when you know it as well as I do? He shot himself in his office at night, last night. The guard heard it. He banged on the door but couldn’t open it. Finally, they broke it down with the commander. That’s about it… You were friends with Druon.” I did not like Lefranc’s take on our relationship. “We knew each other.” “Exactly. Very well.” “Not too well.” Lefranc bristled, “I didn’t mean it like that. But all things considered… and just in case, I’d like to suggest that you talk – well – informally for now, to an officer… since we are not an ordinary police force and there will be no formal interrogation, you understand… Here and now, if possible. I mean, the colonel is waiting in the office next door. I would much appreciate it, of course, and I hope you’ll agree.” The commissioner’s voice told me that refusal was not an option. I had never heard that tone from him before. Colonel Jugnot was polite, but inattentive. He went through the motions, but he seemed to think about something else and, while pretending otherwise, he appeared to have no interest in his interlocutor. Years of training. The subject of interrogation must be set at ease and relaxed – and an aura of indifference or inattention serves this purpose well.

Excerpt translated by Mirek Lalas

Short story collection
Bronisław Wildstein
The Lion and the Comedians

Politics and passion in a new book by a brilliant intellectual

Publisher: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 2021
Translation rights: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, e.szwagrzyk@piw.pl
Foreign language translations: Bronisław Wildstein’s novels have been published in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Romania, and the USA.

What do the three short stories and two short plays by Bronisław Wildstein have in common? Politics and passion. Politics – though not in the sense of disputes between parties, and not as those usually blunt pins used by any given editorial staff of a media outlet to prick the public figures they dislike. Politics here means the interpersonal sphere, or rather, that part of it where people are driven not only by their feelings and passions, by their personal gains or loyalties, but also by their convictions and a vision of how to run the world.

This should come as no surprise since Wildstein, a man of many endeavours and talents – an oppositionist, writer, émigré activist, philosopher and editor – has always been most curious about the way convictions shape people’s lives and attitudes while they intertwine, and sometimes merge, with their more private reasons and motives. Even as we read the volume’s first story, The Lion, we see it unfold on two levels, so to speak. Is Alexandre Kojeve – an outstanding philosopher, a “restorer of Hegelianism” and at the same time a high-ranking official of a French government agency – the story’s protagonist? We never get a clear answer, even though we should remember that Wildstein’s prose is always written like a roman a clef where the “key” matches with various degrees of precision.

Of more importance than the captivating, though rather cliché combination of “operational” events – a charming young woman, heaps of praise, an envelope with money – is the build-up unravelling on another level (the underground?) of this prose: an operation of self-justification in which the protagonist proves to be a master.

Similar “operations” – self-justification, invoking higher reasons, and using them to cover one’s nakedness – are carried out in other stories and plays of this volume by protagonists active in various areas of public life, be it an office, a boarding house, or a theatre stage after the curtain has fallen. Though Wildstein, the author of several novels, attempts the drama genre for the first time, he succeeds in his effort. His plays, however, might almost be considered puppet shows: his characters are driven to action, wound up by the spring of the doctrine they profess, and led by the thin wires of pride.

Wojciech Stanisławski

Translated by Mirek Lalas

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

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
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