Thursday, February 02, 2012


Finally I'm reading The Doll, by Bolesław Prus. It stands as the Great Polish Novel (according to people who know better about these things than I do), but it wasn't until I actually cracked it open that it intimidated me.

It's 1878, and it's all Napoleon III, Bismarck, Gambetta, on top of which, it's set during the Partitions, and while I understand the fact of the partitions, it's hard to appreciate the logistical reality of them—how it affected people's heads, their language, culture, politics, their day to day. And when we're dealing with a main character who participated in the 1863 Uprising and was sent to Irkutsk as a result, and then went off to make his fortune in the Russo-Turkish war, I get the feeling the political background might be a little bit important.

[My grandparents were born some years after the events of this novel take place, but still in unPoland. Their day to day, their schooling, was German, yet they remained Polish, if nationless. I cannot fathom what that childhood might've been like.]

So even more so than with War and Peace, or The Red and the Black, I feel I am out of my depth.

But! I've looked a few things up, reread a few passages, passed the 50-page mark (of 683), and wishing I could stop the world so I could sink into it for a few uninterrupted days.

Izabela, our allegedly cold-hearted bitch of a heroine, is reading Zola's latest novel, A Page of Love.

Jacek Kaczmarski's song of the novel in the above clip is illustrated by scenes from Wojciech Has's 1968 film adapatation.


Kinga said...

I cannot wait to hear what you think of it. It is one of those books I've wanted to read for years and years (as well as Quo Vadis, one of the other great Polish canons of literature). I'd like to get to it sooner rather than later but I've just read in a relatively short succession: The Count of Monte Cristo, War and Peace and finally finished Vanity Fair this week.

But I am very curious to hear your thoughts on Lalka. Cousins who had to read it in school hated it, but I think that's often the case with books of that importance: we're forced to read them far too early, before we can truly enjoy them.

I'm really enjoying Dorota Zanko's (n as in kon -- a horse) "Opowiesci z powielacza" set during the first bit of the Martial Law in Krakow. Really, really nice and easy read. If you can get a hold of it and would like something ligther in Polish after your encounter with Lalka, I would recommend it. (sorry to have rambled on...)

Isabella said...

You're welcome to ramble here anytime, Kinga. I'm taking note of Zanko -- I know what you mean about needing a lighter read between long books. (My copy of Quo Vadis sits languighing. I'm thinking of trying it on audio.)

I haven't had much time for reading in the last couple days, but I'm finding Lalka to be highly readable -- shades of Dickens, in terms of the socioeconomic backdrop, the characters are self-aware, and at heart (at least, so far, it seems) it's a love story.

The book seems highly accessible, and possibly more so for non-Poles, who don't have the sociopolitical baggage to overcome.