Mariusz Sieniewicz

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  • fot. Ela Lempp

Born in Olsztyn in 1972, he writes fiction. He graduated in Polish studies from the University of Warmińsk-Mazuria, where he now works as a teaching assistant. His work has been published in a number of youth literary journals, and has been translated into German, Lithuanian, Russian and Croat. From 1995 to 2002 he was editor-in-chief of the journal Portret [“Portrait”]. His first novel, Great-Grandmother, is the story of a boy growing up in the countryside “an hour’s drive from the eastern border”. The complex relationship between the hero and his great-grandmother (who has the typical features of a witch and mystical knowledge of secret worlds) is the basis of the opening story, which includes first encounters with sexuality, spirituality and the march of history, which appears in the form of General Jaruzelski announcing the state of martial law on television. Sieniewicz describes these first experiences in a serious tone, spiced with irony, humour and even satire; he knows there are already lots of stories about growing up, and is aware of the conventions of the world he has created. Another source of satire is the reality of martial law: television presenters in uniforms, tanks, and the feeling that in this war there’s no enemy.

In Fourth Heaven Sieniewicz questions the meaning of the changes taking place in Poland from the point of view of some young people from Olsztyn. They feel as if they’re living in suspension, in a permanent state of transience and are unable to accept the new Polish reality (banal television programmes of the “reality show” kind, the struggle to get jobs, careers and cash, the invasion of commercialism, etc.). All their attempts to deal with the things they encounter inevitably lead to even greater evils (radical political views, aggression, murder, and an arson attack on a company called Belzekom that kills lots of people and causes the rest to lose their jobs).

Sieniewicz uses the tried and tested genre of the political novel, referring to the tradition in Polish fiction represented by Juliusz Kaden-Bandorowksi’s General Barcz, Stefan Żeromski’s Early Spring or Zofia Nałkowska’s Teresa Hennert’s Love Affair. The style of this genre is usually very direct, though curiously Sieniewicz poeticises his narrative, sometimes making its language richer. Compared with many contemporary works that lack ideology, this book, solidly written and intellectually mature, is likely to make a major contribution to the debate about Poland as it enters the European Union and about the situation of young people, especially those who live in places that don’t offer much opportunity for self-fulfilment.

Bibliography

  • Prababka, Olsztyn: Portret, 1999
  • Czwarte niebo, Warszawa: W.A.B., 2003
  • Żydówek nie obsługujemy, Warszawa: W.A.B., 2005
  • Rebelia, Warszawa: W.A.B, 2007
  • Miasto Szklanych Słoni, Kraków: Znak, 2010
  • Spowiedź Śpiącej Królewny, Kraków: Znak, 2012

Translations:

  • Židovke ne poslužujemo! in an anthology: Orkestru iza leđa : antologija poljske kratke priče, Zagrzeb: Naklada MD , 2001