Paris London Dachau is an intriguing, at times irritating and at times moving, debut of young woman. It is twisted and dangerously brilliant. The story’s hero and narrator, Basia Niepołomska is young, exceptionally talented, original and hopelessly in love. Her love is hopeless because unreciprocated. Abandoned by her lover, she alternates between contemplating the loss, throwing herself into the whirl of parties and gallery exhibits, to sinking into day-dreams of a shared life. Drotkiewicz’s novel is constructed on the principle of free association drawing on her readings and on the buzz of the media. Lectures and elite student meetings, fashionable pubs, cosmetics, clothes labels and designers’ names, TV programs, Björk’s and PJ Harvey’s songs, intellectual props – the entire bustle filling Basia’s post-conceptual postmodernist world which the writer terms “lans macabre.” The clever student’s stream of consciousness outpours a story of emptiness in the life of the most fashionable big-city youth salons and of the dilemma of a woman-creator who, while hesitating whether to be a Virginia Woolf or Anaïs Nin, lays her talent on the altar of sexual-romantic addiction. The key figures of that world appear already on the cover: torn hearts, mascara, chap stick “Bebe” and the title: Paris London Dachau reminding us that, regardless of location, we are not always the masters of our experience of abandonment.
- Pola Olska
Enraged by rationalism
Daily life is unbearable. It’s killing me. That’s why I learned to walk four inches above the ground; spit on common sense , invent games and riddles; not to wear a watch and devote time only to useless things; seek lumps of bitter chocolate under someone else’s tongue; get drunk on my own company. We got drunk together, anyway, drunk with each other: what a symbiosis, my old friend. We hunted lions together on the Grunwald square, chased lizards on the Kosciuszko coast, invented surrealist escapades: in search of strawberry omelets, of colored paper; or to the exhibition of Byelorussian Christmas ornaments, or to a one-man play performed by an middle-aged woman with a perm. We grew up over the pink pudding from Artful Quisine, jumped over conventions and esthetics, pulled each other’s hair. Sometimes you turned around without a word, sometimes you bought me a black Frugo juice, sometimes I bit my nails on a tram stop in order not to cry.
And what happened to that unwritten alliance, formed somewhere over wine and raspberries, in Between-Us, formed some summer afternoon in my bed to the accompaniment of an alosaurus? What happened to the Entente Cordiale, to dreams of power, to T.S. Eliot in the company of your second wife, to the low-budget film from the 70s?
I am asking myself whether all this really happened: walks through a winter city from a pre-war film or from a Prada ad. The Japanese evening at Beata’s, when I undressed before you for the first time on her parents’ couch, and we went to sleep only after the others got up, made coffee, and stared at us without, I don’t know why, taking off our covers. The nightly good-bye’s at the Square of Three Crosses when, as soon as you boarded the bus, I used to shut my eyes and grope my way home so that I would have you and no one but you beneath my eyelids.
And then you woke up one day with an unease lurking under your skin, with an iron grip of responsibility, with a frown on your forehead; with everything that I could have been only guessing long into the night after your last phone call, as I walked from one end of the room to the other; you woke up with everything I could have been only afraid of; with everything I had wished rather happened to me. And that was what I prayed for all night, all day, nights and days, talking to myself: Basia, now “Guardian Angel,” now “Our Father,” I repeated treading up and down Krakowskie Przedmieście where I hoped to see you if only from afar. I prayed as if I were turning a prayer mill, and I was afraid of nothing, then I was afraid of nothing. I would have sold myself to anyone, then, only to save you, curse God above, forsaken Heaven to bring you my love . But this wasn’t a question of love, but of life. My blood boiled out of despair, out of fear that I might make it on time to help you. So I begged our common friends to call you, to make you talk about anything, to bad-mouth one another, to make you move your lips, to give them a proof of life. No one could have been as terrified as I; it was the first of July, someone spilled hot oatmeal on me; sticky and burnt, my fingers clutched the pen and I wrote you my first love letter. Only it wasn’t a love letter, but a Confiteor, a devil’s pact, a certificate, a life-time guarantee.
If you leave me, I will leave with you
And I shattered into countless pieces; to this day I haven’t found most of them, to this day I am like a defective UNICEF puzzle, an open structure; even another Mrs. Kane would have no patience to be putting me together on long afternoons. I broke my spine, I lost my sense of balance, I couldn’t stand on my feet, my legs would slide apart like puppy’s paws, I suffocate with my own smell, with my own breath.
The last round
I don’t feel well lately, you are my chemotherapy and my x-rays, my death in installments, because this is death even if I should continue killing time for next 60 years, you are killing me day by day, you cannot wash it with all perfumes of the world, evening morning. In the meantime…
In the meantime seasons exist, as do spring sales, cucumber season and rhubarb season, the difference of temperatures, the humidity of air, the smell of French fries, film festivals, student enrollment, safety inspections.
In the meantime, Pleasant Patrique is waiting for me by the Empik bookstore, her shopping bag filled with foreign magazines. A red-and-white scarf winds around her neck.
I love that scarf! I admit, mostly because I got it at Gap, confesses Patrique.
I’d like to go to the “Roach” and have some Ukrainian borsht.
I beg you, stop making me laugh! To be honest, I’d prefer a more urban place… Let’s go to Mercer’s! Says Pleasant Patrique, pronouncing c as C. On the highest C.
Patrique flings her large denim bag on the counter top and checks out a drowsy Thome York-like boy:
Can you guarantee that the juice is squeezed from organic oranges?
I guess so.
There’s no guessing! Do you have any idea what it is like to have food allergies? I doubt it!
And after a pause:
In that case, I order a four-cheese brochette with sun-dried tomatoes and basil, and a double latte with ice-cream and whipped cream, Patrique turns around beaming. Isn’t this great, Basia!