I’ve been happy since the morning. Delighted, even. Everything seems so splendidly transient to me. That dust, from which thou art and unto which thou shalt return — it tempts me. And that’s why I wander about these roads, these woods, among the nearby houses, from which waft the aromas of fried pork chops, chicken soup, fish, diapers, steamed potatoes for the pigs; I lose my eye-sight, and regain it again. I don’t know what life is, Ola, but I’m holding on to it. Thus speaks the narrator of Rafał Wojasiński’s novel Olanda. Awarded the prestigious Marek Nowakowski Prize for 2019, Olanda introduces us to a world we glimpse only through the window of our train, as we hurry from one important city to another: a provincial world of dilapidated farmhouses and sagging apartment blocks, overgrown cemeteries and village drunks; a world seemingly abandoned by God — and yet full of the basic human joy of life itself. Our English translation of Olanda, which includes the radio play Old Man Kalina, brings one of Poland’s great contemporary writers of fiction to the wider world for the first time. These narratives may not contain the entire world, just like a village at the end of a dirt road running through ponds, that floods after a heavy rain, does not contain all that may be found in Warsaw. But the world they contain is an intriguing one, in which everyone, from aging beauties through gravedigger philosophers, defrocked seminarians and even the occasional politician, is welcome.
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Rafał Wojasiński (born 1974) is a celebrated author of fiction and drama. Among his works are Złodziej ryb (The Fish Thief, 2004), Stara (The Old Woman, 2011) and Olanda (2018), as well as the plays Długie życie (A Long Life, 2017), Dziad Kalina (Old Man Kalina, 2018), and Siostry (Sisters, 2019). Many of his dramatic works have also been performed as radio plays; his philosophical novel Stara was adapted for the Polish Radio Theatre by Waldemar Modestowicz. His works have been translated into English, French, Spanish and Bulgarian, and have been consistently nominated for prestigious literary awards, among which: the Gdynia Dramaturgical Award (for Siostry, 2019) and the Marek Nowakowski Literary Award (also 2019, for Olanda).
Charles S. Kraszewski (born 1962) is the author of three volumes of original poetry, as well as numerous translations from Polish and Czech, including classics such as Adam Mickiewicz’s Dziady (Forefathers’ Eve) and experimental poets of the modern period like Tytus Czyżewski A Burglar of the Better Sort: Poems, Dramatic Works, and Theoretical Writings, both published by Glagoslav.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked this book up, but I was gripped by the narrative voice from the start and read through it almost in one go. There’s a slightly dream-like quality to the writing; the characters and their stories will stay with you.” Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings
“A casual reading of this book might suggest that it is about nothing much but as we have known at least since the days of Flaubert, there are some very good books about nothing much. This is one of them. […] Wojasiński has written a work which must surely become a classic of Polish literature.” The Modern Novel
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