A Thousand Peaceful Cities

By Jerzy Pilch.

This novel engendered a very strange phenomenon: I hated it most of the way and reading was a real struggle, but then suddenly about three-quarters of the way through, I absolutely loved the book, the prose, and everything about it. This doesn’t normally happen as your relation to a novel is usually static – or, at least, there is not the degree of polarisation that happened here. As a result, I am going to have to re-read and enjoy the ruminations, rants and absurdity again. This was very different from Pilch’s other novels but in the end perhaps more satisfying. A surreal and interesting journey.

 

 

 

 

 

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His Current Woman

pilchBy Jerzy Pilch

Unfortunately I have now read the sum total of Pilch’s books that have been translated into English. This novel, unfortunately, leaves you wanting more. Pilch is definitely the heir to Gombrowicz’s absurd humour and intelligence. Nothing really follows what you expect here despite the plot summary being something you could imagine a sitcom inhabiting. Kohoutek’s fancy woman arrives to stay at the family home, he hides her and a comedy of errors ensues. Not quite. Kohoutek retreats into remembering his past including some incredible comedic scenes – one involving a runnaway coffin, another regarding his father’s olympian marathons of house painting. The list continues – it is a very amusing book and I laughed out loud at several points: the hysteria of his family and the fact they keep telling each other that they will kill one another. It is almost perfect and even the fact that it is quite short is probably perfect as well; you are given incomplete views of the characters, parts of stories and all of this means that when you finish you still have something to think about. Simple. I don’t know why more writers don’t use this technique. We will now have to wait a few more years until another novel is translated. Hopefully the most recent translation, ‘The Mighty Angel’, is a success so a new release will be sooner rather than later.

Soundtrack: Candi Staton – Another man’s woman, another woman’s man.

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The Mighty Angel

pilchBy Jerzy Pilch

Absolutely brilliant. There’s an intelligence here that rivals Gombrowicz. Pilch is pretty much unknown outside Poland with only one other novel translated (which I am sure I will be reading soon). What makes this so good are the twists and turns of the alcoholic’s mind and the penetrating insight that accompanies it. He reminds me of Erofeev or Bukowski but with more depth. There is a meta-fictional aspect of it that leaps out and surprises you: it isn’t laboured though and instead of meta-fiction it would be better to call it meta-alcoholism. I can’t recommend this book enough. The end was a little unexpected too, which is definitely a good thing. Highly entertaining, imaginative and thought provoking; there’s not much more to be said except that I felt sated at the end – the literary palate was delighted with this little book.

Soundtrack: ‘Burning Alcohol’ by The Stereo Bus.

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