Ostrogski Palace

Tomasz Piątek
Ostrogski Palace
  • W.A.B.
    Warszawa 2008
    310 pages
    ISBN: 978-83-7414-411-7
    Translation rights: W.A.B.

In contrast to this author’s other works, "Ostrogski Palace" is not a classic novel. This work is both a book and a scrapbook, in which the writer has included all sorts of texts covering various styles and genres. Three elements intertwine here: reminiscence, essay and the fantastic. The area most expounded concerns matters connected with the author's biography, especially his thoughts concerning heroin addiction. These notes are arranged in the form of a kind of "drug addict's diary”. The autobiographical hero backslides every now and then and has no illusions about ever being able to finally break his habit. Tomasz Piątek (as both the narrator and hero of "Ostrogski Palace" is also called) outlines his own special philosophy concerning his habit, tending to believe that drug addiction is in a way encoded in his personality, that it is his spiritual heritage, which he simply cannot get rid of. The book’s discourse consists of miniature essays sparkling with digressions and covering such subjects as history, art, theology, and advertising in both theory and practice). Finally, on the creative level, we find minor plots or rather fantasies, whose common denominator are secrets concerning the title’s palace, located in Warsaw. Expressing his opinion on many different subjects (from the Decalogue to Beethoven) and richly sprinkling his text with anecdotes and imaginary events, Piątek is the whole time telling us about himself and coming back again and again to issues that he finds of particular interest, namely the conflict between matter and feelings, chaos and order, and above all the prospect of searching for another, alternative life.

- Dariusz Nowacki


Communist gay meets pious count

On the one hand, everyone tells you that man has lots of different rights. The gentlemen from the UN and those from the international association of psychologists will tell you that man has the right to life, food, drink, clothes, work, wages, a roof over his head, freedom, love, care and security. But on the other hand, there are those who will tell you that in reality, man has no rights, that no one owes him anything and if he gets anything at all, then he should see it as a favour. The Protestant Martin Luther and the Catholic aristocrat Joseph de Maistre will tell you that. And it will also be said by someone, who de Maistre would consider exceptionally degenerate (even more that that lump of meat in the shape of Luther, born to a cow, as he was described by some sixteenth-century French Catholics, terrified by the Reformation), and so the ultimate monster, i.e. the communist homosexual Pier Paolo Pasolini. And exactly what Pasolini said is: Those fighting for their rights have a certain charm. Those fighting for another’s rights have more charm. But those who are unaware that they have any rights at all have the most charm. Anyone aware of his rights is bourgeois. The revolutionary who informs a people of its rights thus falls prey to a tragic paradox - instead of creating autonomous entities voluntarily uniting to freely produce poems or shoes, he creates a gang of petite bourgeoisie just as egotistical and predatory as the great bourgeoisie, but more despicable, due to their smallness and their role as poor seconds. One could say that Pasolini was probably right. Where Communists came to power, they only gave people a few rights, but for all that, as the Communists themselves would say, those powers were to a radical extent broadly conceived. The right to laziness, drunkenness and a specific passive thievery. It’s true that in order to ensure this didn’t send the population totally over the top, the Communists executed thousands by firing squad and murdered millions of others in Gulags. But that didn’t help. Because the result of all that communism was that the petite bourgeoisie overthrew it, creating on the rubble an ideal, downright brilliant (from the satiric point of view) caricature of classic bourgeois capitalism: Eastern European capitalism, supposedly capitalism like any other, but squarer, sharper-edged, more unnatural and forced.
But to return to the main issue: the question of whether people have a right to something or not seems unsolvable. On the one hand, influential humanists and our own compassion (and let's not deceive ourselves, our egoism also) would have us say that people have a whole mass of rights to a whole mass of things. On the other hand wise men, those on the right like de Maistre, those on the left like Pasolini, and those from heaven knows where like Nietzsche, say that people have no rights to anything – and our conscience often tells us likewise when we take a good look at ourselves. At least mine does. Have I the right to expect anything good for myself? I know that I have caused the death of at least several human beings. I recently had a dream: I am delivered a large manila envelope with the inscription "Tomasz Piątek” and inside are thirty odd post-mortem pictures. In the dream I know that these are people who began taking drugs after reading my first novel Heroin.
So how does one solve this? I am not talking here about the question of people whom I may have killed, because that is a problem I can no longer solve. No, no, I shall not occupy myself with that. Now I shall occupy myself with an abstract, elevated philosophical problem entitled: Has man any right to anything. You could say, nobly, slyly, that I have no rights to anything, but my nearest and dearest do! I grant them these rights, I grant them every right, and good for them. That is the attitude of the true altruist. And yet this noble attitude (according to the principle: I grant every right to my nearest and dearest, but not myself) is sly, because if I claim this principle to be correct then I also ask it be likewise upheld by all my nearest and dearest. And so, my dear mankind, refuse yourselves all rights and grant them to ME. As one may see, this theoretical philosophical altruism is however somehow consistent with the practical attitude in life of someone who has published a book about the pleasures of taking drugs, without wondering whether he is somehow harming anyone – but rather has pushed such considerations aside, down into the darkest pit of his soul, where the scorpions live.

Translated by Richard Biały