In Red

Magdalena Tulli
In Red
  • W.A.B.
    Warszawa 1998
    123 x 195
    ISBN: 83-87021-60-1

Magdalena Tulli, the author of the famous debut work Dreams and Stones, the winner of the Koscielski Prize, has written her subsequent unusual story. In Red is the story of an unreal town after the Swedish invasion, which after the war experiences accelerated development, then crisis, for it to fall into violence, chaos and genocide at the end. Its inhabitants suffer, love and hate... even after death.


He who has already been everywhere and seen everything, ought to finally go to Sciegi. Simply get into the sleigh and as long as sleep doesn't overcome, rush down the middle of the empty plain like a little piece of white paper, boundless as life. Sooner or later that someone - maybe a travelling salesman with a suitcase full of sample products - will see the great prisms of snow, stretching along the streets in the four corners of the world towards an empty, frozen emptiness. He will see columns of frozen icicles, supports of snowy caps sunk in the darkness of winter sky. He will draw into lungs air sharp as cutthroat razor slicing feeling from breath. He will value the pluses of climate always free from spring wafts of anxiety, from the idleness of summer heatwave, from misty sorrows of Autumn. The frost will appeal to him, that preserves feeling and substance, protecting one and the other from the rot of decomposition. Winter in all the days of the year and darkness, which softens contrasts, smoothes the sharpness of edges. The gloom broke up in Sciegi for a short while at dinner time. Before soup a pink dawn lit the sky, by the second course the sun cast several slanted rays over roofs and after desert, dusk was setting in for good. For the stars in the nearby sky, movement and flux was foreign, the same as for the gas lanterns which kept their place in the constellations. In spite of this between the black of sky and the white of snow things stealthily crept by: puffs of wind, small snow avalanches slipping from steep roofs. Lack of movement was therefore not absolute, darkness was not complete. In this place, with unwilling desire speech tussled events, to regulate their pace, to limit the effect of injury which movement and change carry. In the darkness the enterprise of the company Loom and Son, the plants of Strobble and the factories of Neumann grew and mixed with the affairs of the Swedish garrison. On the frozen into stone emptiness, where howled only the winds blowing from Russia, Austria and Germany, it remained amongst daily routine, necessary only for army ceremonies. It's necessary to recognise the very fact of its existence as a sign of particular Sciegi success, considering that a Swedish garrison was better than a Russian, Prussian or Austrian one in every respect, as is a Swedish annexation better than other possible annexations. The officers' mess, barracks, stables, riding school and powder magazine emerged beyond subsequent turns, unexpected like sudden twists of fate; as well as a training area covered in trodden and now slippery snow, after which - if it was necessary, one would jump like a frog to the very end into a full trough. Gwardyska street therefore assumed shape from the winding melody of the last post, played every night on the trumpet. The golden sound of the trumpet surged high and drifted over the roofs of buildings. But on the other side of the market square it fell immediately to bottom with the weighted flight of a stunned bird. There meanwhile, in the factory area, boys in fur caps were throwing snow balls at everything, which managed to raise itself above ground. The factory siren carried itself low, just above the ground, howling every morning on one note, able to express only the endlessness of the dark, which came from the gully over Fabryczna street through all the hours of the day and the night. The howl of the siren struck against the barrack wall of raw brick like peas against a wall. Gwardyjska and Fabryczna streets led away from each other in opposite directions of the world.

Translated by Ryszard Reisner