Marcin Wicha
Things I Didn’t Throw Out

A one of a kind meditation on the loss of loved ones

My mother adored shopping. In the happiest years of her life she’d set off to the shops every afternoon. “Let’s go into town,” she’d say.

She and my father would buy small unnecessary objects. Teapots. Penknives. Lamps.

Mechanical pencils. Torches. Inflatable headrests, capacious toiletry bags and various clevergadgets which could be useful when travelling. This was strange, as they never went anywhere.

They would trek halfway across town in search of their favourite kind of tea or a new Martin Amis novel.

They had their favourite bookshops. Favourite toyshops. Favourite repair shops. They struck up friendships with various – always very, very nice – people. The second-hand bookshop lady. The penknife man. The sturgeon man. The lapsang souchong couple.

Every purchase was a ritual. They noticed some extraordinary specimen – in a shop with second-hand lamps, where the lamp man held court, a very nice chap, to use my father’s jaunty word.

They looked at something. Asked about the price. Decided they couldn’t afford it. Went home. Suffered. Sighed. Shook their heads. Promised themselves that once they had money to spare, which should happen soon, they really must…

For the next few days they would talk about the unattainable lamp. They wondered where to put it. They reminded each other it’s too expensive. The lamp lived with them. It became a part of the household.

Dad talked about its remarkable features. He sketched it on a napkin (he had an excellent visual memory), pointing out how original certain solutions were. He stressed that the cable had textile insulation, barely worn. He praised the Bakelite switch (I could already see him taking it apart with one of his screwdrivers).

Sometimes they’d go to visit it. Have a look. I suspect it never occurred to them to bargain at the same time. In the end they’d make the purchase.

They were perfect customers. Kind-hearted. Politely interested in new merchandise. Then Dad tried the green Frugo soft drink and had a heart attack in a shopping centre. We had time to joke about it. Even the doctor at the A&E thought it was funny.

A thin trickle was all that was left. The TV remote. The medication box. The vomit bowl.

Things that nobody touches turn matt. They fade. The meanders of a river, swamps, mud.

Drawers full of chargers for old phones, broken pens, shop business cards. Old newspapers. A broken thermometer. A garlic press, a grater, and a, what’s it called, we laughed at that word, it featured in recipes so often, a spatula. A spatula.

The objects already knew. They felt they’d be moved soon. Shifted into wrong places.

Touched by strangers’ hands. They’d gather dust. They’d smash. Crack. Break at the unfamiliar touch.

Soon nobody will remember what was bought at the Hungarian centre. Or at the second-hand shop. The regional crafts shop. The antique shop, in times of prosperity. Later, for a good few years, trilingual greeting cards would come, always with a photo of some plated trinket. Eventually this stopped. Maybe the shop owner lost hope of further purchases. Maybe they closed up shop.

Nobody will remember. Nobody will say that this teacup needs to be glued together. That the cable needs to be replaced (where to find another one like this?). Graters, blenders and sieves will turn into rubbish. They’ll stay in the estate.

But the objects were getting ready for a fight. They intended to resist. My mother was getting ready for a fight.

“What are you going to do with all this?”

Many people ask this. We won’t disappear without a trace. And even when we do, our things will remain, dusty barricades.

Excerpt translated by Marta DziuroszExtended English sample available: anna.rucinska@nurnberg.p

Marcin Wicha
Things I Didn’t Throw Out

A one of a kind meditation on the loss of loved ones

Publisher: Karakter, Kraków 2017
Translation rights: Andrew Nurnberg Associates,

Marcin  Wicha’s  compact  book  is  in  part  an  autobiographical novel and in part a meditation on  the  loss  of  loved  ones,  on  the  formation  of   Polish-Jewish   identity   and   on   the   complex   mechanism of remembering. The narrator of Things… goes  through  objects  left  behind  by  his  deceased  mother. At the same time, using very sparse, carefully calculated words, he creates a profound portrait of a person  wounded  by  history  and  national  prejudices,  an  ironic  and  sharp  analysis  of  familial  relations,  as  well as an interesting description of post-war Poland.The   mother,   the   main   protagonist   of   the   book,   personifies  uncontrolled  vitality  and  expressiveness,  a  permanent  state  of  readiness  to  fight  for  one’s  own  opinions,  sarcastic  resistance  to  the  impact  of  one’s surroundings and, at the same time, feeling the fragility of life, not being rooted in the social fabric and the presence of fear just under the skin. Manifestations of   her   explosive   temperament,   dramatisations   of   everyday life and skilful mixing of irony with directness together  not  only  mask  sensitivity,  but  also  proffer  a  demanding  lesson  in  truthfulness.  The  mother,  the  torturer constantly challenging her loved ones, turns out to be an irreplaceable teacher of caution needed in relations with people and with objects.

For  objects  carry  the  memory  of  people  who  have  passed  away.  “We  won’t  disappear  without  a  trace.  And  even  when  we  do,  our  things  will  remain,  dusty  barricades.”  Books play  a  special  role  here  because  they  say  most  about  us  and  specifically  about  who  we tried to become, to no avail. But other objects also register snippets of human experiences, for example a gold coin which, during the war, could serve as a pass to avoid the Jewish fate.

This elegy on a mother’s passing and on the formation of  the  Polish-Jewish  intelligentsia  in  its  entirety  is  brilliantly written. On one hand there is melancholy, on the other – it is aphoristic, colourful and restrained; it is serious, with a fine sprinkling of invigorating humour. The  author  uses  counterpoint  and  contradiction  with  splendid  results.  He  switches  between  the  general  and  detailed  perspective,  and  interlaces  the  high  nostalgic register with refreshing anecdotes.

This book is similar to numerous records of inherited memory of the 20th century tragic history and at the same time, due to the quality of the writer’s eye and style, is one of a kind.

Piotr Śliwiński, translated by Anna Błasiak


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


Marta Kwaśnicka
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

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

© 2024 The Polish Book Institute