How to be Loved

Janusz Głowacki
How to be Loved
  • Świat Książki
    Warszawa 2005
    168 pages
    ISBN 83-7391-962-7

Ever since his debut Janusz Głowacki has been a rather exceptional figure in our literary life. He has never tried to save the nation, the motherland or society with any grave solemnity. Practically everything he writes, even the blackest tragedy, is bordering on a joke. Reading his work always makes us laugh or at least snigger. We only start to think after a slight delay. When Off the Top of My Headwas published, in an internet chat with his readers he typified his approach to literature as follows: “I think life is absolutely full of absurdity, and that it’s easier to demonstrate something important and serious through jokes. Jokes give us something to think about. We shouldn’t ignore them. ”But Głowacki has undoubtedly perfected this formula thanks to his newspaper columns, which have come out not all that regularly in the weekly Kultura. It is in these columns that he has proved tireless in his pursuit of the absurdities and idiocies typical of the leading system of the time. The thinking behind his columns was as simple as it was revealing. Roughly speaking, as he writes in the introduction to this collection, the idea was “to madly overpraise something dreadful as a way of poking fun at it – to kill something that’s desperate for attention with kindness.” I started reading Janusz Głowacki’s columns in my early youth, and thus at the time when, to use the author’s phrase, “my absorption capacity did not exceed 0.25 litres a day”. When the seemingly unshakeable foundations of the system began to wobble dangerously, I was afraid Głowacki’s career as a columnist would come to a sudden stop and go up in flames as soon as his main subject ceased to exist in Poland, i.e. lunatic socialism. I don’t think I’ve ever been more mistaken. Because when the system came crashing down, Głowacki’s columns did not change in the slightest. It turned out that the absurdities he described, just like sex and alcoholism, are not limited to a single country or a single ideological and economic set-up. In fact, absurdity is international. It’s true that in the turmoil of history some of the joint originators of the awfulness and ludicrousness of real socialism have sunk into oblivion, but the world can’t bear a void, so now in their place we find all those absurdities and fears we only knew from the press before, and from stories told by those lucky enough to break away for at least a while to the so-called West. And so omnipotent mass culture has turned out to be just as comical and dreadful as the mundane system we had to grow up in; we find that here too idiocy follows upon idiocy with great persistence, and that a world where Princess Diana and Mother Teresa are equally legitimate icons, is not and cannot be entirely normal. And Głowacki was probably the first Polish writer to notice this, doubtless assisted by the years he spent in the homeland of Ronald Reagan and Mickey Mouse.

- Antoni Pawlak, Gazeta Wyborcza 12/04/2005