Wit Szostak

This writer was born in 1976. He studied philosophy, and has a day job as a college tutor. He has written a series of fantasy novels about the Dragon Mountains, including Whirlwinds of the Dragon Mountains, Ragged Ridges and Ramblings of the Toad, and a work of fiction called Dances for the End of the World. His so-called Krakow trilogy won him acclaim, and includes the novels The Chochółs, Dumanowski and The Fugue. The final part of this trilogy was nominated for the Nike award, and the previous book was the basis for a radio play directed by Jan Klata and produced on Radio Kraków. The first part of the series, The Chochółs, is set in a Kraków tenement which has been rebuilt, and now resembles a labyrinth; it becomes a family enclave, where the representatives of several generations function alongside each other. The person who consolidates this world is the grandmother. Her death brings this order to an end, and proves tantamount to the collapse of the entire family. The Chochółs’ life is turned upside down by various events and stifled emotions. Hidden secrets gain more and more layers of mystification. In turn, Dumanowski offers an alternative version of Polish history. In Szostak’s interpretation the Free City of Kraków was not absorbed into Austria in 1846, but preserved its independence. In the late nineteenth century the city’s Mayor was a man called Józafat Dumanowski; the personification of romantic myth, he had a strong influence on all those he encountered (including Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki and Adam Czartoryski), and thus changed their destiny. So when The Fugue was published, it was greeted with extreme interest. This book consists of a set of stories linked by the character of Bartłomiej Chochół, as at the end of his life he tries to understand who he is, and to tell his own life story. He starts it eight times, but on each attempt he produces a different version of his personal biography. One time he is the last king of Poland in hiding, another time he is a child reminiscing about his grandparents and playmates. He is also a “failed national hero”, whose closest relatives, busy with their own daily affairs, take no notice of him. These stories are about the passage of time, old age, the trials of loneliness and the impossibility of getting to the truth. Seeking oneself, or rather putting oneself into words, depends among other things on constantly returning to the past, on endeavouring to amend one’s own life story. Because of old-age dementia, which has the effect of muddling fiction and reality, individual phrases or scraps of the story are repeated, and so the past overlaps with the present. A fundamental question which Szostak asks in The Fugue is this: can one actually tell the story of (or give voice to) one’s own life?

Bibliography

  • Wichry Smoczogór [Whirlwinds of Dragon Mountains], Warsaw: Agencja Wydawnicza RUNA, 2003.
  • Poszarpane granie [Ragged Ridges], Warsaw: Agencja Wydawnicza RUNA, 2004.
  • Ględźby Ropucha [Ramblings of the Toad], Warsaw: Agencja Wydawnicza RUNA, 2005.
  • Oberki do końca świata [Dances for the End of the World], Warsaw: PIW, 2007.
  • Chochoły [The Chochółs], Warsaw: Lampa i Iskra Boża, 2010.
  • Dumanowski [Dumanowski], Warsaw: Lampa i Iskra Boża, 2011.
  • Fuga [The Fugue], Warsaw: Lampa i Iskra Boża, 2012.
  • Wróżenie z wnętrzności, Warszawa: Powergraph, 2015.