The year is 2008. A special zone called Huta [Foundry] has become the model district of post-modern Poland, maybe even of Europe. The old industrial areas (based on actual districts of Katowice) have been adapted into elegant condominiums, a gorgeous district inhabited by successful and cultured people, academics and artists. The novel's Foundry is a sort of combination between Krzemowa Valley and Greenwich Village. International state-of-the-art technology concerns have their headquarters here, it's swarming with artistic clubs and galleries. What's more - all the Utopias of the civic society have been realised in Huta, every resident is happy, creative and free from the hell of consumerism. But the fantastical (futuristic) crosses paths with the dystopian here. Huta is also a ghetto, an artificial mini-city fenced off by a high wall and monitored by hundreds of cameras. On the outside remains Upper Silesia, and beyond - the Poland that didn't make the grade.
It is against a backdrop of this sort that we encounter our main protagonist, Tomasz, a young sociology doctoral student who has stumbled onto the trail of a university conspiracy, and later becomes a worker at a mysterious Institute and takes part in special services duels.
The social experiment named Huta has its basis in scholarship. Everything started from the philosophical and sociological writings of a contemporary of Hegel's, Kaspar Kuhn, who not only created a narrative to compete with Marx's about the logic of societal development, but also developed the bases of prognostic statistics, indispensable algorithms etc. This is, parenthetically speaking, a fiction within a fiction: on the one hand Kopaczewski has invented Kuhn along with his stormy biography and subversive academic legacy, and on the other - as it turns out in the work's conclusion - the German philosopher is also an invention of the novel's protagonists, brilliant, rebellious and eccentric scholars of the Silesian University. The author of Foundry plays splendidly with academic discourse, and the reader along with it. And this is what is best and most unique about this novel.
- Dariusz Nowacki
The move from Chorzow to Huta took two hours. I took my clothes and books in a taxi. Everything I owned fit into the back of an Astro station wagon. In fact, I still don't own any more. I haven't bought anything since then. Possession is unfashionable in Huta. It’s bad. Possession is redundant in Huta. What do you need a washing machine for when there's Cleanicum, or a television when there's Teledromat, why should you have dvd's when you've got a card at Casablanka, why get a coffee machine when you live over a Coffeeholic. Why get a car when you live in Huta?
In the evening, when I'd unpacked in my new apartment, a neighbour came knocking. A familiar face. From the meeting. A writer, the social activist who was always badgering Joachim to fill in forms. "Hi," he began shyly, having a suspicious look around. "I'm your neighbour. From across the hall. I wanted to welcome you."
He had two beers with him, one already started. I let him in.
"Like it here in Huta?" You could hear from his first words that he hadn't come to talk about how I was feeling. We sat on the couch. He gave me a beer. It was warm.
"It's okay. And you?"
"Less and less. They keep tightening the screws. They say there's a six-person waiting list for my apartment. People with prizes for films, books and other stuff. But that's bullshit, because we all know that the apartment limit for artists has been reached for this year." My face looked surprised. "Yeah, they have limits for all the desired social groups. I know, because I've got an acquaintance in the district council. They've even given out the scholarships already, so why the scare tactics? Everything is supposedly so open, everything discussed in public, but when it comes down to it they blackmail you. Everything is supposedly open and tolerant, but then what did they build the wall for? Supposed to be a monument that needed to be restored, but everybody knows there used to be a wire fence between here and Załęże, not a wall. And the pedestrian footbridge to Silesia Center? They were afraid that people would start to shop at the mall, because it’s cheaper, so they refused to build one. Apparently the residents rejected it by referendum, but what’s with this voting by home computer. If somebody hasn’t got one, they can’t vote. And they couldn’t care less if you haven’t got one. I had some hard times and had to sell mine. Then they say that I do nothing to improve Huta’s image. They’re not going to keep some drifter who can’t write anything new. I must sound like a drifter, huh?
“No.” He sounded like a drifter, looked like a drifter, had a drifter’s gestures. “Want to buy some clothes?” He lit a smoke. “All name-brand. They’re sending it today. We have similar builds.”
He was hunched and skinny, had neither a chest nor an ass. He looked like a drifter.
“Maybe some other time. I’ve got my move to be thinking about. And my work.”
“You got work in Huta?” I nod yes. “Where?”
“At the Historical Institute.”
“Their boss is in the council too. You did well.” He started to fidget, finally got up. “Okay, time I went. Good to meet you, neighbour. See you.”
He left. Without introducing himself. Nor I to him. I had already laid down when he knocked once more. Again with beer. Again warm.
“You know how they fix it so Huta has such good press?” he asked when he had installed himself on the couch.
“No. I haven’t wondered.”
“They let the television stations in. Or even give apartments to the most popular journalists. Everybody wants to live in Huta. And those television and press louses are even ready to pay for it. And twice as much as the normal residents. Like you or me. Everybody wants to be an artist, or at least live like one. I don’t know how artists live, but those guys who pay a couple grand for an apartment must know for sure. Only the ones from the tabloids and the Catholic-nationalist papers don’t get apartments. But they still write applications. Their critics go easy on Huta. That shows what direction the district’s moving in. And do you know where this Scandinavian month came from?”
“It’s Scandinavian month ?
“You haven’t heard them nattering on the streets?”
“That’s right, I have been hearing more Germanic languages.”
“Two months ago they started up new connections from Balice and Pyrzowice Airports to Scandinavia. This fashion for music and films from across the Baltic is no coincidence. Nor is the Strindberg retrospective. Everything in small doses, of course, so that it doesn’t devalue. To get the snobs revved up. They even suggested that I write a play. Whose action takes place while some friends are screwing together Ikea furniture.”
“Good idea.” I even smiled. “And so? Did you write it?”
"Wel-l-l-l...” he started to fidget with his whole body, “I didn’t want to at first. Then I thought it could be a good setting. But they started putting on the pressure. Who do they think I am? A scribbler for that ass down the corridor? What’s his name?”
“That guy, the last door down on our floor. He sings on television, he’s got a big hit now. “I’m Flying up into the Blue Yonder,” something like that. Acts in a TV series. Justyna, a friend of mine, says that they rented him his apartment, because the kid badly wanted to be an artist, a real one he said, and they’re hitting him up for some serious money to live here, but he likes it. And since he’s in that Fakt tabloid almost daily, Huta’s getting some free PR. He’s a simple kid.
He sat till the can was empty. His griping was un-Huta, his stories were un-Huta, he had an un-Huta pessimism in him.
Translated by Soren Gauger