In Piotr Wojciechowski’s novel anything can happen, or almost anything. A candidate for Tsar of Russia ends up as a chef at a Viennese restaurant. A female agent working for Polish intelligence who has trained for the role of future tsarina turns into a homeless dealer in Asian rip-offs of designer-label underwear. Demoted from an American military academy, a Polish officer ends up on a military scientific programme that aims to manipulate time and biology. A dead girl is brought back to life thanks to medical experiments… And those are just a few of the surprises Wojciechowski has in store in his lengthy novel, Wait for the New Moon. The basic plot belongs to the genre of political fiction. The action flings the main characters from one end of the world to the other and is set in the near future; the situation in Russia is getting more and more unstable, so the West, in cooperation with the United States, decides to intervene. The analysts come to the conclusion that the situation in the East can only be dealt with by restoring the monarchy. Then the intelligence operations and political games begin, and some more or less fantastical, more or less emergency solutions are planned. Two Poles, Michał and Ludka, who are the main characters in the novel, are mixed up in political espionage. They used to be a couple, but since they split up life has lost its joy and meaning. The book is not just a sensational variation on the theme of the world’s future and complicated relations between Poland and Russia, but perhaps primarily the story of young people who, despite being dragged into the merciless machinations of history, are looking for a purpose in life and some good old happiness. This book is a sort of “two for the price of one”, and will be enjoyed by the kind of compulsive readers for whom the priority is some lively action full of twists and turns, as well as those looking for something deeper in a novel.
- Robert Ostaszewski
It was a tough day. An August heatwave, filling in all sorts of forms at the consulate, a conversation with the secretary and a conversation with the consul. The secretary was a fat apparatchik nearing retirement, with bloodshot eyes, no doubt the aftermath of carousing. The consul was tall, young, slender and balding with fair hair and gold-rimmed glasses. Polite and competent in Polish, he expressed himself in beautiful Russian once they had switched to it. Both went according to the same scenario for a pleasant conversation. Some banal questions were repeated over and over again, and so were complaints about the Polish media. Why should she care if there had been some provocation, that flags with hammers and sickles had been thrown to the floor in a museum? Trodden on or not? Was she supposed to say you could wash the floor with all the flags in the world as far as she was concerned? The Polish or the Russky flag, so what? Soviet soldiers had hammers and sickles on their helmets, they died for Poland. I’m sorry, when was that? That sort of prehistory didn’t take her in, but she wasn’t going to stick her neck out over it here. Dimitri. Dimitri. Dimitri. That was her mantra, and Dimitri would have a view on the matter. She recalled their recent conversation in the café on Bednarska Street. Before that they had walked about the Old Town and seen traders selling Russky souvenirs, hats with earflaps and red stars, matryoshka dolls and badges.
Then they’d drunk iced coffee.
Dimitri said the Bolsheviks were the leprosy of Russia. But even so it was sad to see the flags the poor Russians had died under lying on the ground next to watermelons and books on the Kama Sutra. Those red banners with the hammer and sickle seemed eternally victorious, but now you could buy them in second-hand shops, even at street markets along with fake hats from Budyonny’s cavalry, busts of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union medals. Where was the pride? Where was the greatness?
The new Russkies are not new Russkies, they’re a new Golden Horde. That’s what he said, but he didn’t explain why, or what the Golden Horde was.
That’s what he said, and she felt he was being sincere with her, and that it would never enter his head to try and make some sort of good impression on her, a “grand Russian” impression or anything like that.
Here a good “grand Russian” impression was being made. At the end of her interminable visit to the consul she discovered that in a few hours time the next diplomatic ordeal lay ahead of her – her meeting with Sergei Kovalyov, the former human rights spokesman, had been arranged, as well as a meeting with the monarchists whom she had not managed to see in Russia.
Ludka listened to this quite calmly; it was a matter of training by now.
“May I please ask, just for clarity: in what capacity am I to meet with them?”
“As Ludmila Pavlovna Godunov, daughter of a representative of a historic family and victim of communist repression,” replied the consul. “After all, I agreed to receive you purely because you are the daughter of Pavel Andreyevich. Russia has to know and respect its own history.”
The consul showed her out as far as the splendid staircase, and there he suddenly stood so close to her that she thought: “He wants to kiss me.”
“It looks as if the fate of democracy in Russia is sealed,” said the consul sotto voce. “It’s only a matter of months, that’s what the experts claim.”
Straight after, at her debriefing with Colonel Zacharias, Ludka had to relate in detail what had happened at the Embassy. Afterwards, as if to illustrate the remark about the fate of democracy, Zacharias showed her a review of television reports about Russia. They were supposed to be the latest news, but Ludka thought she had seen some of them before, more than once, and was now seeing them for the second or third time.
CNN: Following a round-up of profiteers at street markets dozens lie dead. Tanks are destroying barricades erected by hunger-striking demonstrators. That was an old one. Euronews: A hit squad of Cossacks from Krasnodar in dress uniform enters the Duma, with fur hats, medals and sabres, and attacks the liberal deputies with whips. Also seen before, about a month ago. BBC: At a rally outside a church representatives of the monarchist parties are making speeches, including the All-Russian Monarchist-Nationalist Party and the Russian Constitutional Monarchist Democrats Party. There’s a scuffle between supporters of the two parties. They’re hitting each other with placard poles. Someone is running around the square with a portrait of Stalin on a stick. Deutsche Welle: A crowd of Cossacks in traditional costumes comes rushing through defiles filled with the scrap of gigantic lorries, on foot and on horseback. Atamans with sabres bared are urging them on. Cossack patrols are stopping coaches and Mercedes Benzes on the highways. Requisitions, scuffles, a car pushed into a hedge is on fire. Then came reports on the fate of the nuclear submarine fleet, about the base at Andreyevka near Murmansk, about silos full of nuclear waste material, an officer who enabled the French crew to film their report, and interviews with some lorry drivers from a nuclear scrap yard; the commentary was rounded off with the fact that the officer had been killed in an accident.
They were a bit late for the ministerial residence on Foksal Street, but it even worked out quite well. They waited in the bigger drawing room; behind the door they could see the blue one, with a catered reception on the tables. In a steel-grey jacket and a black skirt Ludmila looked very official; only her hairdo and low-cut blouse were more youthful. She went in standing straight and looking serious, as if she couldn’t hear the ripple of applause coming from the monarchists’ direction. After the presentations she stepped confidently up to the table with the microphones, and only once she was there did she allow herself a welcoming smile.
She tapped on the microphone.
“Hello, is it working? Good. In a moment I’ll answer your questions, on matters that do not demand my discretion, of course. But to start with I’d like to ask you a question. From a highly placed representative of the Federation authorities – I can’t help you to identify him… – from someone who is well informed I have learned that the fate of democracy in Russia is sealed, and moreover the experts are in agreement on this issue. It’s a matter of months, I was told. Can one of you perhaps explain how this should be understood? Is the fate of democracy in Russia going to be better now, or worse? Is democracy going to disappear, or is it going to flourish? Anyone? Yes please, Professor Yegorov. And after you Ataman Ismailov-Bucharski will speak.”
Malik and the lieutenant who took care of Ludka’s English were standing in the doorway in the uniforms of the marshal’s guard.
“Would you have thought it, Mirek? She reels it off fantastically…”
“Our Ludka is good. Just over a year’s training, she kicked up a bit, but we got a result.” However, he didn’t think “our Ludka,” but “my Ludka”. He knew he had the right. He had worked hard and taken trouble. None of the overtime or special bonuses could be as good a reward as he was getting now.
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones