There are things than cannot ever occur with any precision. They are too big and too magnificent to be contained in mere facts. They are merely trying to occur, they are checking whether the ground of reality can carry them. And they quickly withdraw, fearing to loose their integrity in the frailty of realization.
The night behind the door was leaden–close, without a breeze. After a few steps it became impassable. One walked without moving forward as in a dream, and while one’s feet stuck to the ground, one’s thoughts continued to run forward endlessly, incessantly questioning, led astray by the dialectical byways of the night. The differential calculus of the night continued. At last, one’s feet stopped moving, and one stood riveted to the spot, at the darkest, most intimate corner of the night, as in front of a privy, in dead silence, for long hours, with a feeling of blissful shame. Only thought, left to itself, slowly made an about turn, the complex anatomy of the brain unwound itself like a reel, and the abstract treatise of the summer night continued its venomous dialectic, turning logical somersaults, inventing new sophisticated questions to which there was no answer. Thus one debated with oneself through the speculative vastness of the night and entered, disembodied, into ultimate nothingness.
I lead a life much below my level. Beyond the books, which trickle in slowly (I have to read what I can get, not what I have a mind to read), I have nothing to sustain my inner life; and everything around me exudes an indescribable [tedium] … which presses down on me too with its brutal weight. Nothing on the order of a stroll with a dear person, not [even] one hour of quiet and serene contemplation–all is tainted by mundane worry and staleness. I take it that productive creators fence themselves off from their environment by a certain regimen of living, a certain organization of their daily routine that does not allow the workaday banality, humdrum job, and the rest of it to get to them. I badly feel the lack of such a regimen, my incapacity to subject myself to such a discipline. One must, for instance, fence off one’s inner life, not permit the vermin of ordinary cares to infest it.
The Doll by Bolesław Prus (historical fiction: 19th century)
The Fictions/The Crocodile Street by Bruno Schulz (magic realism)
The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman (non-fiction: WWII; escaping from Warsaw Ghetto)
Who Was David Weiser? by Paweł Huelle (historical fiction: post-WWII)
On the Road to Babadag by Andrzej Stasiuk (contemporary)
A World Apart by Gustaw Herling-Grudziński (non-fiction: WWII; memories of a Gulag survivor)
Wedding by Stanisław Wyspiański (play; pretty heavy symbolism)
The Peasants by Władysław Reymont (historical fiction: late 19th century; Nobel prize winner)
The Shoemakers by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (play; magic realism)
Short stories by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (especially Friends & Lovers of Marona, if you can find those)
Like Eating a Stone by Wojciech Tochman (non-fiction; civil war in Bosnia)
Story For a Friend by Halina Poświatowska (kind of an autobiography)
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (historical fiction: Roman Empire; beginnings of Christianity; Nobel prize winner)
The Trilogy (With Fire and Sword, The Deluge & Sir Michael) by Henryk Sienkiewicz (historical fiction: 17th century; respectively: the Khmelnitsky Uprising, the Swedish invasion, also known as the Deluge & war against Ottoman Empire)
Solaris by Stanisław Lem (sci-fi)
The Stranger by Maria Kuncewiczowa (psychological)
Czesław Miłosz (poetry; Nobel prize winner)
Wisława Szymborska (poetry; Nobel prize winner)
Tadeusz Różewicz (poetry)
Zbigniew Herbert (poetry)
Books that haven’t been translated into English (yet):
Dobry by Waldemar Łysiak (historical fiction: PRL)
Taksim* by Andrzej Stasiuk (contemporary)
Drach* & Król by Szczepan Twardoch (historical fiction)
literally anything by Miron Białoszewski (mostly poetry and diaries)
Czterdzieści i cztery by Wojciech Piskorski (fantasy/historical fiction)
Gnój by Wojciech Kuczok (contemporary)
Najgorszy człowiek na świecie by Małgorzata Halber (contemporary)
Kobieta nie-doskonała by Sylwia Kubryńska (contemporary)
Inne pieśni by Jacek Dukaj (sci-fi)
Śmierć w Breslau by Marek Krajewski (crime story/historical fiction)
Jeżycjada by Małgorzata Musierowicz (contemporary, YA)
Tango by Sławomir Mrożek (play, contemporary)
Siekierezada by Edward Stachura (magic realism)
Akademia Pana Kleksa by Jan Brzechwa (kids lit)
Wakacje z duchami by Adam Bahdaj (YA; detective story)
Pan Samochodzik i templariusze and the rest of the series by Zbigniew Nienacki (YA; detective story)
Kamienie na szaniec (non-fiction: WWII)
*available in German
These are some of my favorites. Feel free to reblog and add yours!
The passersby, bathed in melting gold, had their eyes half-closed against the glare, as if they were drenched with honey. Upper lips were drawn back, exposing their teeth. Everyone in this golden day wore that grimace of heat- as if the sun had forced his worshipers to wear identical masks of gold.
I heard Ward Schumaker talk tonight at a Colophon Club meeting. He spoke about books he’s illustrated and books he’s made by binding together painted sheets. Some of them were displayed. His books riff on other books, but mediated by dreams. Several transcribe dreams directly. At one point, discussing the tragic fate of the writer Bruno Schulz, he started crying. Schulz was murdered for being Jewish, but also to settle a beef between two Nazis who were protecting Jews they found useful. He was a brilliant writer. Crying is apt.