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The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy

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This anthology of fiction traces Polish literature's extensive and continuing dialogue with the Devil. In nineteen selections from eighteen authors, editor and translator Powoga collects the best representatives of this tradition from the past century. This anthology of fiction traces Polish literature's extensive and continuing dialogue with the Devil. In nineteen selections from eighteen authors, editor and translator Powoga collects the best representatives of this tradition from the past century.


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This anthology of fiction traces Polish literature's extensive and continuing dialogue with the Devil. In nineteen selections from eighteen authors, editor and translator Powoga collects the best representatives of this tradition from the past century. This anthology of fiction traces Polish literature's extensive and continuing dialogue with the Devil. In nineteen selections from eighteen authors, editor and translator Powoga collects the best representatives of this tradition from the past century.

30 review for The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nate D

    Devilish stories from Catholic Poland. Not sure if this is truly the predominant thread in Polish anti-realism (No Konwicki? No Lem? No Witkacy?), but this sort of darkly-transmuted national religious identity is the editor-translator's focus area and definitely a culturally interesting one. Co-existence (Slawomir Mrozek) :: A short fable about a diabolical house-guest. The Lady with the Medallion (Andrzej Szczypiorski) :: A gothic-decadent encounter with death, as recounted to modern and skeptica Devilish stories from Catholic Poland. Not sure if this is truly the predominant thread in Polish anti-realism (No Konwicki? No Lem? No Witkacy?), but this sort of darkly-transmuted national religious identity is the editor-translator's focus area and definitely a culturally interesting one. Co-existence (Slawomir Mrozek) :: A short fable about a diabolical house-guest. The Lady with the Medallion (Andrzej Szczypiorski) :: A gothic-decadent encounter with death, as recounted to modern and skeptical police interrogation. The Greater Punishment (Marek Huberath, 1990) :: Impressive and harrowing novella length treatment of horrific afterlife. The almost viscerally uncomfortable descriptions bleed into surrealized echoes of all-too-recent interrogation and holocaust, but then it becomes increasingly clear that it's all in the service of a disagreeable polemic. A visionary and elaborately-wrought polemic, sure, but there's no escaping that it's essentially the literary equivalent of a Hell House. God, actually the exact equivalent, the more I think on it. Formidable but terrible, ultimately interesting and frustrating. Father Faust (extract, Tadeusz Miciński, 1910) :: pre-WWI heterodox thought and gothic-tinted stories-within-stories, it seems. So perhaps, along with the similarly Polish Saragossa Manuscript, a reference point ofr the sort of thing Rosendorfer was attempting to recreate in The Architect of Ruins, which this seems to resemble promisingly, at least as far as a fragment of an untranslated novel can ever suggest its whole. Strange Street (Franciszek Mirandola) :: A brush with the marvellous lurking just beside the ordinary, a missed connection to a parallel track forever regretted. *The Vampire (extract, Władysław Stanisław Reymont, 1914) :: Another to hope against hope for in eventual translation. In this excerpt, dislodged from his life by a mysterious letter, a poet takes to the London streets under increasing dislocation and confusion, until, following his fiance(?) on an unexpected train ride, he is brought into a a black mass rendered with incredible vividness. I would really, really love to get more of the story around this, but it seems that only his four-volume nobel-prize-winning The Peasants has seen Enlish print, and that only in a pricey and long-out-of-print finely-bound set. ...a lapse of some time occurs... The Shadow of Queen Barbara (Lucjan Siemienski) The Head Full of Screaming Hair (Jan Barszczeeski) I Am Burnin' (Henryk Rzewuski) All the above were read before I took a break, so they run together a bit, but all occupy a territory of fairytale (especially the first, if I recall) and ghost story (particularly the latter two). Poland seems to have a knack for the conversational ghost story, but none of the plots of these were all so memorable. *The Grey Room (Stefan Grabiński) *The Black Hamlet (Stefan Grabinski) Not so here -- Grabinski writes so vividly and originally that these similarly turn-of-the century (of the 20-th) immediately stand out. He's got a great sense of dread and an absolutely burning sense of place and of the menace attached to a place that cements these as fantastic pieces. Plus, he has a knack for placing horror not outside society, in nature and the unknown, but close to home, in the backwash of modernity and the detritus of technological convenience. Incidentally, Grabinski is in that narrow minority of writers here who hae actually seen English translation. So far it's just three of six books of stories, and a collected edition drawing from several from Dedalus. (The Dark Domain, read it!) But what of his four completed novels?! The Gentleman with the Goatee (Kornel Makuszynski, 1916) :: Also nearly turn of the century, but a strangely immediate and familiar comic voice, very effectively pulling me in, perhaps sibling to other slavic-region sarcastic narrators. It turns a little obvious, and annoyingly hammy in a "please! take my wife" kind of way, but then somehow throws on a satiric resolution of some note. *Dinner at Countess Kotlubay's (Witold Gombrowicz) The inimitable Gombrowicz, of Ferdydurke fame, presents the monologue of a starstruck member of bourgeoisie desperate to fit in at an aristocratic dinner, despite the increasing signs of, first, mediocrity and tepidity, then utter barbarity. Father's Experiments (Bruno Schulz) :: An extract from a longer story that I believe occurs in full in Street of Crocodiles, but excellent to revisit nonetheless. The study of the simple mechanisms at the heart of human existance, and the somewhat chilling reductive content to be found in them. I should go back and re-read some Schulz stories. Regularly. *Mother Joanna of the Angels (Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz) :: An extract, but by all indications a majority of the otherwise untranslated novella covering a case of mass possession in the 17th century. Shares its source material with Huxley's "The Devils of Louden" and Ken Russell's notorious film "The Devils". This particular version also became an excellent 1963 Polish Film School production, adapted elegantly for screen by (notably absent here) post-war novelist and filmmaker Tadeusz Konwicki. Alone, the story maintains its moral ambiguity and conflictedness, as its devout exorcist protagonist becomes increasingly mired in doubts about the actual existence of supernatural evil, and personal contradictions. *The Legs of Isolda Morgan (Bruno Jasieński) :: Pretty fantastic story of a power plant manager losing his mind to the machines that surround him, by the Polish Futurist later deported from France for his socialist incendiary I Burn Paris. Which I now quite want to read. This one abounds in macabre images of modernity (a little like Grabinski for it) and interesting stylistic decisions. The White Worms (Wiktor Woroszylski) :: A peculiar story of local and foreign devils making arrangements for souls against the backdrop of WWII and the Polish resistance. Builds into itself out of some pretty fantastic curse details. The Dragon (Andrzej Bursa) :: Journalistically succinct and unbiased account of a journalist encountering a human sacrifice in the socialist-realist 50s. Intrigued about the body of work Bursa may have managed to get out by his death at just 25 (congenital heart failure), including the delightfully titled (and in English print!) Killing Auntie. *The Golden Galley (Jacek Dukaj :: Rapidly apocalyptic science fiction about angelic intelligence organizations attempting to deal with a 3000-kilometer-long sailing ship that suddenly appears in outer space, written by a (then) fifteen-year-old. Actually pretty great, and full of highly original details of angelic and occult powers. Is this actual Catholic sci-fi? Seems more likely to be a deft and cynical appropriation and reimagining. Dukaj is the author of a huge number of subsequent untranslated sci-fis, looks like. Final evaluation: These Dedalus anthologies are fantastic and essential, and this is another excellent example, with 150 years of weird and inventive literature that would go largely untranslated and even-less-known otherwise. Though, granted, there's only one other review of this one on GR, so this alone probably isn't going to go too far in getting more of these authors noticed and translated, but it's certainly an exceptional start.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Excellent collection of short tales centering around the devil. Nearly all were exceptionally good and this anthology was (in my opinion) far better than the Finnish one, at least I enjoyed it far far more.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I found this copy in the shelves of my old room at my parent's house. From the cover, which looks like a couple of kids, one of whom isn't wearing a shirt, possibly isn't wearing any pants, either, watching a bunch of turkeys, I thought, "Sure, why not?" figuring the odd cover a harbinger of odd stories inside. The introduction tells you, right up front, that these stories, this Polish fantasy, is chiefly, if not exclusively, about the Devil, in all his forms. And in the intro the translator and I found this copy in the shelves of my old room at my parent's house. From the cover, which looks like a couple of kids, one of whom isn't wearing a shirt, possibly isn't wearing any pants, either, watching a bunch of turkeys, I thought, "Sure, why not?" figuring the odd cover a harbinger of odd stories inside. The introduction tells you, right up front, that these stories, this Polish fantasy, is chiefly, if not exclusively, about the Devil, in all his forms. And in the intro the translator and editor Wiesiek Powaga compares one of the stories to Flann O'Brien's *The Third Policeman*, and I'm always a sucker for a Flann O'Brien comparison. The collection starts off so well, too. "Co-Existence" by Slawomir Mrozek is a great funny little story about the devil coming to visit a vicar. On the merit of this story, alone, I took the book back with me and dove in. It's not the only good, if not great story, but there certainly a lot of stories that drag. I really enjoyed Marek S. Hyberath's "The Greater Punishment," Stefan Grabinski's "The Grey Room," Kornel Makuszynski's "The Gentleman with a Goatee," "The Legs of Isolda Morgan" by Bruno Jasienski, "The White Worms" by Wiktor Woroszylski, and "Dragon" by Andrzej Bursa. They offered good, crisp story telling and funny little twists on some familiar themes of love, longing, and punishment. Where some of the other stories didn't do it for me (like "Dinner at Countess Kotlubay's by Witold Combrowicz) they seemed like stories which could have been told by anyone, and didn't necessarily have an interesting Polish twist or too much in the way of originality. Where the editor raved about the vision of "The Golden Galley," the final story in the collection, I found it a bit boring, overly enamored with its own vision of the future/alternate universe. So you'll certainly find some gems in here, but you'll also find yourself bogged down in some fairly pedestrian stories (NB. this isn't _The Best of Polish Fantasy_, it's _The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy_ for a reason), like a deal with the devil where maybe the more ineffective stories are like penance for the brilliant ones.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Muntz

    I didn't actually read this anthology (which should probably be called something closer to "Satan in Polish Catholic Fiction", from what I can tell), but I did hunt it down for "The Golden Galley" by Jacek Dukaj, which was absolutely brilliant. I'd place him somewhere in high-concept science fiction between Stanislaw Lem and Neal Stephenson... which is especially impressive considering his story in this anthology was written when he was 15, and was the first thing he ever sold. Would love to see I didn't actually read this anthology (which should probably be called something closer to "Satan in Polish Catholic Fiction", from what I can tell), but I did hunt it down for "The Golden Galley" by Jacek Dukaj, which was absolutely brilliant. I'd place him somewhere in high-concept science fiction between Stanislaw Lem and Neal Stephenson... which is especially impressive considering his story in this anthology was written when he was 15, and was the first thing he ever sold. Would love to see more writing from Dukaj, who seems to be one of the biggest SF authors in the country and had a book scheduled to come out in English in 2012 (Ice) that's apparently just disappeared, which is really a shame. Next to Sapkowski it seems like Polish has been producing some amazing genre writing that just isn't making it to the rest of the world. (Also Whitold Gomriwics and Bruno Schulz are in this anthology, who I love.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    This was an outstanding anthology. The stories range from the Romantic era to the Post-Communist era (although they are not presented in the book in chronological order.) Some of these stories are very grim ("The Greater Punishment" by Huberath) and some are very funny ("The Gentleman With the Goatee" by Makuszynski). They were very interesting, and I didn't think readers needed a background in Polish history to understand them (although such a background would help you get more out of them.) Str This was an outstanding anthology. The stories range from the Romantic era to the Post-Communist era (although they are not presented in the book in chronological order.) Some of these stories are very grim ("The Greater Punishment" by Huberath) and some are very funny ("The Gentleman With the Goatee" by Makuszynski). They were very interesting, and I didn't think readers needed a background in Polish history to understand them (although such a background would help you get more out of them.) Strongly recommended to anyone interested in horror and fantasy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    So excited to find this in a local library and would love to get a copy of my own. It's a collection of short stories by Polish authors, translated into English. The stories range between folk lore, ghost stories, magical realism, sections of novels, experimental and one almost sci-fi type of story. My favorites were "Co-existence", about a devil who moves in with a priest, "Father Faust" about a priest with an interesting past, and "The Gentleman with a Goatee", about a man who meets an unemplo So excited to find this in a local library and would love to get a copy of my own. It's a collection of short stories by Polish authors, translated into English. The stories range between folk lore, ghost stories, magical realism, sections of novels, experimental and one almost sci-fi type of story. My favorites were "Co-existence", about a devil who moves in with a priest, "Father Faust" about a priest with an interesting past, and "The Gentleman with a Goatee", about a man who meets an unemployed devil.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stas

    Not surprisingly, Slawomir Mrozek's story 'Co-existence'is fantastic. It almost literally sneaks up on you. The only other absolutely striking story so far is "Strange Street" by Franciszek Mirandola. If his other stories are anywhere as good, it is a complete shame they are unavailable in English. His sensibility is midway between Kafka and Bohumil Hrabal, I'd say. Closer to Miroslav Krleza than to Danilo Kis. Not surprisingly, Slawomir Mrozek's story 'Co-existence'is fantastic. It almost literally sneaks up on you. The only other absolutely striking story so far is "Strange Street" by Franciszek Mirandola. If his other stories are anywhere as good, it is a complete shame they are unavailable in English. His sensibility is midway between Kafka and Bohumil Hrabal, I'd say. Closer to Miroslav Krleza than to Danilo Kis.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Darlington

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michal

  10. 4 out of 5

    David Mckinney

  11. 4 out of 5

    Muriel

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yakface

  13. 4 out of 5

    Phoenix Rises

  14. 5 out of 5

    Egaeus Press /

  15. 4 out of 5

    Iain Dimond

  16. 4 out of 5

    Krzysztof

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matt Davies

  18. 4 out of 5

    Olga Wojtas

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Vanezis

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  21. 5 out of 5

    Damien Leri

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Doherty

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lea Bech-Sjøthun

  25. 5 out of 5

    Linda Lunceford

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  27. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kat

  29. 5 out of 5

    Yoguul

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tom Benn

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