Magdalena Tulli

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  • photo by Krzysztof Dubiel

Born in 1955, Tulli is a writer and translator (of Marcel Proust, Italo Calvino and Fleur Jaeggy). She has won prizes awarded by the Kościelski Foundation (1995) and the periodical of international literature, Literatura na Świecie. She has been nominated for the Nike award twice. She lives in Warsaw. Since 1995, when Dreams and Stones appeared, we have encountered a new phenomenon – “anti-prose”. It is definitely not non-fiction, though it breaks the traditional rules of fiction writing in various ways. As the setting for her first book, Tulli depicted a city that concentrates the features of all cities, with a real and a phantom map, and also roughly resembles Warsaw. Superficially it seems to comply with the rules set by the narrator’s mind, but as the action develops it undergoes an increasing process of disruption from the centre outwards. The real theme here is the transitory nature and collapse of all kinds of established order, and the suffering that is innate in the world by its very nature. Tulli’s second novel, In Red, is set in a “possible world” that she has created to suit her needs. It has the same basic structure as “our” world, but here reality has no permanence. The background and settings are like theatre sets, disappearing from time to time to be replaced by others, but as they act out their dramas, undergo their ordeals, live and die, the characters take no notice of this. In this story suffering is omnipresent, though it is recounted by an unsympathetic, pitiless narrator – a literary device that allows the book to appeal to more universal sympathy. The sad novel Moving Parts, misread by many as a literary puzzle or a commentary on the theory of literature, is essentially a heartbreaking tale about the world’s lack of lucidity, and thus of meaning; it is about the lack of love, justice, and finally truth about our lives. The narrator does his best to tell the trite story of a love triangle, but he keeps being obstructed by other, more tragic tales that disturb the structure of his account by pushing their way into the foreground, as if telling themselves without his involvement. Among them the story of his own fate is told. Tulli blatantly refuses to construct the semblances of reality of the represented world, but in the background to this refusal her story keeps referring to the real histories that lie behind every fabrication. This is not pleasant reading matter – can a book be pleasant if it tells us about the randomness and insignificance of our existence, and concludes that we are stuck in a metaphysical void? This is Magdalena Tulli’s most mature novel, arising under the pressure of the cruel question: why does one write? There is no good answer, just as there is none to the question, why does one live? One lives, and one writes, that’s all.

Bibliography

  • Sny i kamienie, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Open, 1995.
  • W czerwieni, Warszawa: W.A.B., 1998.
  • Tryby, Warszawa: W.A.B., 2003.
  • Skaza, Warszawa: W.A.B., 2006
  • Włoskie szpilki, Warszawa: Nisza, 2011
  • Szum, Kraków: Znak, 2014

Translations:

Catalan:

  • El defecte [Skaza], trans. Marta Cedro, Guillem Calaforra, Barcelona: Raig Verd Editorial, 2015

Croatian:

  • U crvenilu [W czerwieni], trans. Adrian Cvitanović, Zagreb: Hrvatsko Filolosko Drustvo 2008

Czech:

  • Stehy [W czerwieni], Praga: One Woman Press, 2002
  • Sny a kameny [Sny i kamienie], Praga: One Woman Press, 2003
  • Soukolí [Tryby], Praha Litomyšl: Paseka, 2006

English:

  • Dreams and Stones [Sny i kamienie], trans. Bill Johnston, Nowy York: Archipelago Books 2004
  • Moving parts [Tryby], trans. Bill Johnston, Nowy York: Archipelago Books 2005
  • Flaw [Skaza], trans. Bill Johnston, Archipelago Books 2007

French:

  • Dans le rouge [W czerwieni], trans. Laurence Dyèvre, Paris: Pauvert, 2001
  • Le Defaut [Skaza], trans. Charles Zaremba, Editions Stock 2007

German:

  • Traüme und Steine [Sny i kamienie], Berlin: Oberbaum, 1998
  • In Rot [W czerwieni], Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 2000
  • Getriebe [Tryby], trans. Esther Kinsky, Frankfurt am Main: Schöffling & Co., 2008

Hungarian:

  • Vörösben [W czerwieni], trans. Körner Gábor, Budapest: Magveto 2004

Italian:

  • Sogni e pietre [Sny i kamienie], trans. Raffaella Belletti, Roma: Voland, 2010

Latvian:

  • Poloneze sarkana [W czerwieni], trans. Silvija BriceAtena 2004

Lithuanian:

  • Poloneze sarkana [W czerwieni], Atena, 2004

Russian:

  • Sny i kamienie, Moskwa: NLO, 2007

Slovenian:

  • V rdečem (W czerwieni), trans. Jana Unuk, Modrjan, 2008

Spanish:

  • El defecto [Skaza], trans. Francisco Javier Villaverde, Barcelona: Rayo Verde Editorial, 2015    

Swedish:

  • Drömmar och stenar (Sny i kamienie), trans. Julian Birbrajer, Stockholm/Stehag: Symposion, 2008

Ukrainian:

  • Sny i kamienie, trans.Wiktor Dmitryk, Lwów: Calvaria 2010.