Literary roundup: Re-enacting massacres and monkeys with paintbrushes

“Under communism the basic building material was greyness. That’s what we all remember. Even those of us who have forgotten everything else. Communism was grey – this truism has poisoned our minds. And so, after our heroic liberation, our first reaction was to rush to a paint shop. And that’s what my country looks like now: as if a monkey had played around with a paintbrush,”

–          Andrzej Stasiuk from an article in Tygodnik Powszechny by way of Slovakia’s Salon Central European Forum (scroll down to read Stasiuk’s concluding words).

Taking dictation from Jerzy Pilch

An earlier issue of that same magazine has an account (scroll down) by the author of A Thousand Peaceful Cities and My First Suicide, Jerzy Pilch of his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Besides all the practical obstacles there is the fact that he can’t write and so has turned to dictation, an option he had previously imagined would be reserved for his deathbed. The (summarized) article ends with a hilarious account of the responses the “one-time womanizer” Pilch gets from the women he asks to dictate for him, ranging from “Is this your latest trick? Pathetic” to “I couldn’t bear to read your drivel, and now I’m supposed to type it up?” to “I didn’t know you’re a writer.”

Bonus article on same page: Don’t miss poet Jacek Dehnel on the historical re-enactment being carried out in Southeastern Poland of the 1943 Volyn Massacre “of the local Polish (as well as Jewish, Russian and Czech) population by Ukrainian nationalists.” Advertised as the “Massacre Reconstruction” it is the clearest reminder possible that it isn’t only those who don’t remember the past who are condemned to repeat it but also those who remember it. This doesn’t leave us many alternatives, does it?

Saving Kafka from the Kafkaesque

At the New Republic there is a review of Holocaust historian Saul Friedländer’s reassessment of Kafka’s letters and diaries Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt. Reviewer William Giraldi is upfront that the “autopsy of a writer’s personal papers is normally a tedious endeavor” but makes a good case that Friedländer, in identifying Kafka’s torment as primarily sexual, has contributed something new to the “hulking alps” of Kafka studies.


Photos – A very long communist-era apartment building in Prague’s Jižní Město (South Town) both before being painted (2006) and after (2008) – photo by Ondrej Konicek/wikimedia commons

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Categories: Magazines


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  1. Literary roundup: Budapest bookfest, Polish crime writing and a literary fabrication | literalab - 17/04/2013

    […] We usually think of the communist past as gray and featureless, and the present as more colorful (for example) but the building names of the festival location puts paid to this idea. What today is called […]

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