Jerzy Sosnowski wrote another thought-provoking book, teeming with metaphysical, or rather – cautiously – spiritist investigations. We encounter a modern Warsaw intellectual in mourning after the death of his beloved wife. Influenced by his former readings and his youthful fascinations, he adopts the spiritist thought of Young Poland as his own. The protagonist not only finds consolation in his faith in reincarnation, but is convinced that the new woman in his life is the very one he had met a hundred years ago in Pornic. The very same French town, except in 1899, is the site of a meeting between Tadeusz Miciński and Stanisław Przybyszewski, friends since their college days in Berlin. They are both going to participate in a philosophy seminar organized by a celebrity of the time, Wincenty Lutosławski. There is also a motif of a letter, discovered recently and mailed in the 1960s to a certain literary magazine as an entry in a contest on ‘What Poland will be like in the year 2000.’ A certain girl described the reality precisely as we know it today...
It is notable that nothing in Jerzy Sosnowski’s newest novel exists on its own. Each motif unfolds in the light of earlier or later developments. It is not so much a question of literary intricacy, as of an overarching thought taking shape within the novel and remaining in strict relation to its title. For Sosnowski is telling us that all fundamental philosophical problems and the most nagging moral dilemmas that men ever had to deal with, are like jellyfish observed by the protagonists in Pornic: they seem to vanish in the depths of the ocean, but resurface inevitably. This is the function of the rip current. Hence, there is no such thing as progress; and the triumphal advance of reason is equally an illusion. Half-sensational, half-fantastic, and doubtless shocking fictional techniques elicit such conclusion.
“If you must waste your time on something of the sort, make sure it holds water. Over there, can you pass the beige folder?”
He stood up obediently and walked over to the desk. It took him a while to determine what his father meant by “beige.” In the end he picked up a stack of papers held together by a rubber band between dirty-white cardboard covers. A flourish script on top read: “Editor Leon Ratajczak. Contest – discarded works.”
“When you were a baby, in collaboration with the Little Flame, we held a children’s drawing and writing contest on the topic: ‘How do I imagine Poland in the year 2000?’ The results were announced on the millennary of the Polish state (1966). Later we published a book. You remember it, don’t you, it was in your bedroom. Here are the other entries; I came across the folder last week. I glanced through it, out of curiosity: future painters and writers would sometimes make their debuts in such contests. Promotion of young talents functioned pretty well back then, unlike now.” The father paused, no doubt expecting his son to protest. “Above all, of young talents in the country.” Antek kept silent. “Now, my son, why don’t you open it and take a look at the third piece.”
Antek looked. Round child’s letters written in a ruled exercise book spelled: Dębica, January 15, 1966
In the year 2000, Poland will be very beautiful. Everywhere there will be parks and gardens. Children will drink a very healthy lemonade. And eat cakes. Be sides, cakes will be medicine. At scool we will learn in our sleep. And we’ll fly helikopters and everyone will have his helikopter. Airports will be on house roofs. And everyone will be smiling for instance when mummy will say that a child is noghty, she won’t make her stand in corner, and when daddy, there will be no spanking even if she gets an F. But when we sleep well, there will be no F (Fs). At that scool. And for vacation we will go to the moon for the whole too months. I send warm greetings to the whole editorial bored. – Basia Maczek, 11 years old. “I don’t see why you had me read this. Who’s Basia Maczek?,” asked Antek when he finished.
The father turned abruptly. It seemed that he had composed his face with pride that now, at his son’s question, he suddenly had to renounce.
“What did you pull out? The third, not the fourth. The previous one!”
Antek obediently flipped the page. Dear “Little Flame,”
I know what Poland will be like in the year 2000. First, we will be capitalist. For everything will have changed in the world, and Germany and America will be our friends. There will be elections in Poland as in the West, and not like now when, as my dad says, it makes no difference if you vote or not, the result will be the same. And the Soviet Union will suffer great poverty, and a large submarine will sink, and, it seems to me, there will be no Soviet Union.
Everyone is going to love the Pope, who is going to be a Pole. On the other hand, an African is going to be a Polish soccer player, and everyone will love him, too. It’s not true that we’ll be flying in saucers and live on the moon. And there won’t be that many robots – those that can walk. But everyone will carry a telephone around, from which he can call at any time and take care of everything. And on TV there will be tons of various programs, perhaps a hundred. Even more than on the radio. And at homes I see such little boxes, something like electronic brains; and these brains will be able to perform a lot of tasks, for instance send letters to one another, and play games with children, and solve problems, and memorize encyclopedias. But the houses will look pretty much as today. My village won’t change much at first sight. There will be a horrible cow disease in the whole world. And both animals and men will be dying from it. And black people will be persecuting white men in Africa. And out of one animal they will be able to make a dozen, all alike, just as photo reprints. Children will be running away from their homes and consume poisons worse than vodka, and no one will be able to do anything about it. For they will like it even though it’s a poison. And people will be sad and often lonely, and everything will be somewhat horrifying, although hardly anyone will notice. And on the radio and at dance parties they will be playing weird music. Such monotony. It seems I can almost hear it. I don’t like it. But they will like it then. And everything I said here is real, I haven’t invented anything, just so you know. – Jorline from Jeguieste. Antek finished reading and remained silent for a moment. Just as during a radio broadcast, when events contradict the script, he was trying to choose a good one among the few phrases that came to his mind.
“Dad, is this a joke?,” he finally asked. But seeing his father’s face, immediately added: “Where’s the envelope? The address?”
The elderly man, leaning with his elbows on an uncluttered corner of the table, tapped a medicine box with his finger.
“Ah, my son,” he nearly whispered, “it’s been thirty years… But then,” he lifted his head and was now smiling, “you are a journalist, aren’t you?”
Translated by Ela Kotkowska