Dorota Masłowska

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  • photo: Katarzyna Malinowska / Lampa i Iskra Boża

was born in 1983. She is the most popular author of the younger generation, and is sometimes known as the enfant terrible of Polish literature. Her first novel was acclaimed in Poland as the literary sensation of the decade. It sold in huge numbers and attracted several foreign publishers. So far it has appeared in nine foreign languages, including an American edition, with further translations now in progress. In 2002 Masłowska shook up Polish literary life with a best selling novel that she wrote while studying for her final school certificate. Snow White and Russian Red takes a cold, hard look at the life of some confused young people from a housing block, who live from party to party in a world of drugs, sex and a nonsensical outlook.
Overnight the novel caused a literary scandal and became the cult book of a generation. The story is narrated by the main character, Nails. He and the other characters, Magda, Angela, Arleta, Natasha, Kacper and Lefty are teenagers from a small town in Poland in the era of rapacious capitalism, doomed from day one to end up on the dole. Their morality, notions and beliefs about the world, consisting of a mixture of fashionable clichés gleaned from the television and colour magazines, but also some radical slogans from Internet blogs, are as comical as they are sinister. They speak a bastardised version of Polish, yet it is full of energy, like a carnival of ignorant nihilists. The action takes place the day before and the day of a folkfest called “No Russki Day” (the festival is a declaration of “war” against the “Russki” traders who keep coming to the town, creating commercial competition for the townspeople, and especially for local boss and politician Zdzisław Sztorm, who owns a Polish sand company and a wholesale business selling construction panels). Although the novel largely develops in a narcotic trance, by this token it becomes a ludicrous social satire, rather than just a Polish version of Trainspotting.

Masłowska’s long awaited second novel, The Queen’s Peacock, is designed in the first place to settle some scores. In it she refers to some personal experiences, bitter ones on the whole. A nice teenager from the provinces at the time of her debut, Masłowska has had a first-hand taste of what it is like to get caught up in the media machine and fall into the clutches of con artists who treat literature like a kind of show business, and a young author like a puppet with no will of her own. Not surprisingly, the main character in her new book is a fading pop star, a silly singer who is manipulated by the media and by a revolting oik. The supporting characters are equally grotesque and unintelligent. The story is set in modern Warsaw, and features a scathing send-up of the Warsaw glitterati, the cynical, spoiled world of show business and the media. And as Masłowska has also put herself in the novel, she even turns the satire on herself, using it not just to settle scores but to demonstrate her own self-educational attitude.

However, what she says in this novel is nothing to how she says it. As before, the strength and value of the book are determined by her stunning style and, more broadly, the boldness of her linguistic creativity, because The Queen’s Peacock is written in the rhythms and rhymes of a hip-hop song. This form is unique – it’s vulgar, primitive and plebeian, designed to seize and shout out the simplest truths. Masłowska has exploited, or rather radicalised this deformed speech, full of linguistic perversions and grammatical errors. Here this language becomes the equivalent of reality, a distorted, monstrous mirror, in which the world in 2005 sees itself reflected.

Bibliography

  • Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną, Warszawa: Lampa i Iskra boża, 2002.
  • Paw królowej, Warszawa: Lampa i Iskra boża, 2005.
  • Dwoje biednych Rumunów mówiących po polsku, Warszawa: Lampa i Iskra boża, 2006.
  • Między nami dobrze jest, Warszawa: Lampa i Iskra boża, 2008.
  • Kochanie, zabiłam nasze koty, Warszawa: Noir sur Blanc, 2012.
  • Jak zostałam wiedźmą, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2014.
  • Więcej niż możesz zjeść. Felietony parakulinarne, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2015.

Translations:

Croatian:

  • Poljskom šakom u rusku bulju [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Emilio Nuić, Zagrzeb: Hena com, 2015

Czech:

  • Červená a bílá [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Barbara Gregorová, Praha: Odeon, 2004.
  • Kralovnina savle [Paw królowej], tłum. Barbara Gregorová, Praga: Fra, 2008

Dutch:

  • Sneeuwwit en Russisch rood [Wojna polska-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Karol Lesman, Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2004

English:

  • Snow White and Russian Red [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Banjamin Paloff, New York: Black Cat, 2005.
  • A Couple of Poor Polish-Speaking Romanians [Dwoje biednych Rumunów mówiących po polsku], trans. Paul Sirett, Lisa Goldman, London: Oberon, 2009

French:

  • Polococktail party [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Zofia Bobowicz, Montricher: Noir sur Blanc, 2004; Paris: Points, 2006
  • Tchatche ou crève [Paw królowej], trans. Isabelle Jannès-Kalinowski, Editions Noir sur Blanc, 2008
  • Deux pauvres Roumains parlant polonais [Dwoje biednych Rumunów mówiących po polsku], trans. Kinga Joucaviel, Touluse: Presses universitaires du Mirail, 2008
  • Vive le feu [Między nami dobrze jest], trans. Isabelle Jannès-Kalinowski, Editions Noir sur Blanc, 2011
  • Chéri, j’ai tué les chats [Kochanie, zabiłam nasze koty], trans. tłum. Isabelle Jannès-Kalinowski, Editions Noir sur Blanc, 2013

German:

  • Schneeweiss und Russenrot [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], Köln: Kiepenheur und Witsch, 2004.
  • Die Reiherkönigin. Ein Rap poem [Paw krolowej], trans. Olaf Kühl, Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2007.
  • Liebling, ich habe die Katzen getötet [Kochanie, zabiłam nasze koty], trans. Olaf Kühl, Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2015.

Hungarian:

  • Lengyel-ruszki háború a fehér-piros lobogó alatt [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], Budapest: Európa K., 2003.

Italian:

  • Prendi tutto, Milano: Frassinelli, 2004.

Latvian:   

Starp mums viss labi [Między nami dobrze jest], trans. Zane Štala, Ryga: Mansards, 2016

Lithuanian:

  • Lenku ir rusu karas [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Vytas Deksnys, Kowno: Kitos knygos, 2007

Portugese:

  • Branco neve, vermelho Rússia [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Marcelo Paiva de Souza, Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2007

Russian:

  • Polsko-russkaja vojna pod belo-krasnym flagom [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Irina Lappo, Moskva: Inostranka, 2005.

Slovak:

  • Sneh a krv [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], Bratislava: Ikar, 2004.

Spanish:

  • Blanco nieve , rojo Rusia [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Joanna Orzechowska, Barcelona: Mondadori, 2005.

Ukrainian:

  • Polsko-rosijska wijna [Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną], trans. Larysa Andiejewska, Charków: Folio, 2006