"Maria’s Morning" is a cycle of short stories about life itself. The stories we read here are told alternately in the first and third person. When the characters talk, we are in the middle of the action, without being able to fully understand; when the narrator distances herself from the characters, the cruelty of their relationships is enhanced, but that distance does not help us to understand. We have come, then, to a world of simple events but obscure meanings.
The conventionality of the settings shows us that the author did not intend to draw up an exact picture of a particular time. More essential than historical scenery are experiences. In the first story we meet several persons of the female sex that will return in the next pieces: a little girl who rips an earthworm in half while she’s playing; a young woman desperately trying to fit in who throws her cell phone out the window; a desperately lonely young woman who commits suicide by drinking drain cleaner. In the next story we meet Maria, the daughter of some poor woman, a little unkempt girl, smelling, mentally handicapped, rejected and held in contempt by her class. We watch her skip school and go off into the woods nearby, where she is raped. That experience returns in the story “Medulla.” The main character of that story, a grown woman, the mysterious Leda, could be the continuation of that raped girl: her employer fired her because he wanted “some thing she didn’t have, he wanted to drag something out of her—wanted to take something away from her—but in the place he penetrated, in the place where he was looking, all Leda had was a void.”
The narrator of the last short story is all the other characters in one; she tells us that she is “many women, but none of them permanently.” Names are thus transient, identity unstable—while experience of the physicality of life is shared.
On finishing these stories, we have a feeling, some idea, rather than any certainty. We have a feeling, then, that we have read some straightforward stories about the trauma of encountering life itself. It is senseless; it is not fated to turn out happily. Instead it is exposed to a force that will not improve anything, that will not clarify anything. The center of that experience is the female body, as at the center of empty life itself there is the stone of death.
Julia Fiedorczuk (born 1975) is a poet, translator, author of short stories, and assistant professor at the English Institute at the University of Warsaw