Literary roundup: Pre-war Warsaw and Russian dystopias
The first English translation of a book by Polish-Jewish author Józef Hen will be published later this month, according to the Polish Book Institute’s website. Nowolipie Street is a 1991 memoir of growing up in the lost world of Jewish Warsaw in the 1920s and 30s, up until the German occupation caused Hen to escape the country to The Soviet Union (though his father, a brother and a sister were killed). Author of Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder gives the book very high praise.
Speaking of World War II in Poland, I will soon post a review of the new edition of Jan Karski’s Story of a Secret State, which tells of his life in the Polish resistance and his witnessing the Holocaust and futile attempts to warn world leaders of what was going on. (I forgot to mention that I’ll also have a review of Nowolipie Street up soon).
At Russia Beyond the Headlines, Phoebe Taplin looks at the abundance of dystopian novels coming out of Russia recently, writing: “Settings range from feudal barbarism to hi-tech nightmare with everything in between. Books are banned and mutant humans live in primitive huts, eating mice. The secret police rape and burn all day and relax with drug-fuelled orgies. People are continually reincarnated, wear mirror masks, and copulate or die en masse at festivals. Warring factions survive in the tunnels of the disused subway.”
And if that description doesn’t make you want to read the article and some, if not all, of the books then look around and make sure you aren’t already living in a dystopia.
Photo – The building of Warsaw’s former Jewish Council during or after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by photographer involved in Jürgen Stroop’s report to Heinrich Himmler.