Saturday, 25 May 2013

"Baczyński"



It is not easy to write a review of a film such as Baczyński and not get tangled in pathos and big words. The WW II is a topic still alive in modern Polish cinema, but it is also a very ungrateful one. Each and evey attempt to picture it entails a wave of radical opinions, both positive and negative. Fortunately, the creators of Baczyński have found an individual approach to this tricky topic and have portrayed the life of the great Polish poet Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński, who fought and died in the Warsaw Uprising, from an interesting and artistic perspective.

Kordian Piwowarski's film has moved me deeply. In this case minimum of means resulted in reaching the maximum effect. Hearing Baczyński's poems read by young Poles to celebrate his 90th birthday anniversary, the viewer knows how do the characters in the film feel. The dialogues are rather scarce but they are entwined with beautiful, artistic pictures. Add to the whole the remarkable Mateusz Kosciukiewicz in the leading role and we end up with a little masterpiece.

The film has also educational merits. Is is a fictionalized documentary and I am sure it would perfectly fit to the curriculum of Polish or history lessons. There are dates, names, archival photographs and genuine film footage from the time of war. Everything is served in a very dense and approachable way. Such films teach more than a standard textbook.

Some critics argue that the young actors do not feel comfortable in this historical-war convention, but I have to disagree. Kościukiewcz, as well as Katarzyna Zawadzka, have created a full scale characters. Let us not forget that the film lasts for 70 minutes, so in my opinion the creators of Baczyński deserve a big round of applause.

Original title: Baczyński
DirectorKordian Piwowarski
Cast: Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Katarzyna Zawadzka
Polish premiere:15.03.2013

Friday, 24 May 2013

Destiny is hidden in your dreams




Agnieszka Lingas-Łoniewska


Szósty
(The Sixth)


Polish Publisher: REPLIKA
Zakrzewo 2012



On the sixth day God created man – a man and a woman
On the sixth day… I will take your life because I am your god




Have you ever thought what role in your life the destiny plays? Does it even exist? Or maybe one day people created the word “destiny” to avoid responsibility for managing their own fate?

Inspector Martin Langer does not certainly believe either in destiny or in dreams until he finds out that somewhere there is someone who planned his life carefully. At the time, when we meet Martin, the man is thirty-two years old. He is the chief of the Criminal Investigation Group of Silesia. All his attention is focused only on his job. He also lives in an unhappy relationship with a younger model – Angela. The girl is interested only in herself. For her the most important thing is her job. This situation is very similar to Martin’s one. She does not seem to be interested in her boyfriend’s life at all. Angela is a so-called “young lady from a good family”. Angela’s father is a millionaire who tries to fulfill all her desires while Martin’s life has never spoiled him and he had to achieve everyhthing on his own. So, such a relationship may not be successful.

One day while jogging Martin loses his consciousness. He is taken to the hospital with a diagnosis of pectoris. His condition is quite serious, but not life-threatening. Langer’s elder brother – Michael and his wife are watching at Martin’s bed all the time. At the time of the fall, Inspector Langer suffered from a serious head injury. That is why now he is unconscious and staying in ICU.

On the next bed there is a man, Jack Szymczak. He is also unconscious, but his doctors do not give even the slightest chance of survival. Returning from the short honeymoon, both he and his wife involved in a serious road accident. To save Alice, Jack sacrificed himself. He preferred not to survive a collision with a lorry than lose his Ali. Although he is dying, he is not going to cease to care about her.

Six years later Martin Langer is no longer the head of the Silesian section of the Investigation Group of Silesia, but now he stands on its head. Still the work is the most important thing for him. Despite the warnings of doctors, Martin is still working intensively. His relationship with Angela continuous, but over the years, nothing has changed between them. Furthermore, Martin is haunted by dreams about the unknown woman who every time when she comes to him, says the same sentence: “I have been waiting for you, Martin”. The woman has light hair and beautiful green eyes.

Now Inspector Langer works on a very difficult case. He tries to find a serial killer who is prowling in Silesia. His victims are green-eyed blondes. He abducts the women and then kills them on the sixth day after the abduction.

In this way a senior midshipman, Alice Szymczak appears in Martin’s life. The woman is a police profiler, whose task is to create a psychological portrait of the killer. When Martin meets Alice for the first time, he is sure that the woman, standing in  front of him, is the same that he can see in his dreams. At this moment his consciousness is reaching the meaning of these strange hallucinations which have been visiting him for many years. As you know, it began when he was lying in the hispital. And thus the mad race against time to save another green-eyed blonde from death begins. Apart from that the passionate feeling also breaks out between Alice and Martin. However, both are convinced that their acquaintance is not incidental, they do not give vent to their passions at once.

If you want to know what will happen to this police couple and whether Martin will manage to save his beloved against the death from hands of the psychopath, you must absolutely read The Sixth! Certainly you will not find out about it reading my review.

The Sixth is the first novel of Agnes Lingas-Loniewska I read. I remember that I was waiting for that moment for a long time. I do not regret any moments I spent with this book. As a reader, I received everything what I expected. The novel kept me in suspense from the first page. I still wondered what would happen next and who would be a real psychopath who brutally murdered green-eyed blondes. Unfortunately, I was unable to predict the real killer, so this fact means that the plot of the novel is constructed fantastically. Think, if the reader knows who is the murder after reading a few chapters, what sense is to read next ones? In this situation the novel would be very boring. It this case it is not! We can only guess who is a psychopath but we have to wait for the final solution of this mistery until the end of the book. In addition, the action is still rushing forward. It is very dynamic, which makes that the readers have the impression that they are participating in it with the book characters. The author uses easy and fluent language. This fact causes that the book is read very well. The reader is not tired and he/she does not have to wonder what the author meant while writing. In this book there is no shortage of vulgar words but these are not used by chance. You must know that if you want to show the reality of a specific human environment, sometimes you might need to use some vulgar words. It is normal, so we should not be upset because of that.

Once Terence said: “I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me” (Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto). While reading The Sixth I often thought about this sentence. Why? Because I observed that most Polish writers are afraid of describing sex scenes in their books. Sometimes they do not decide to do it even where this kind of scenes are needed. I am sure that Agnes Lingas-Loniewska does not belong to the group like this. I think that it is one of her books’ advantage. Thanks to it, the story is very authentic and described in a professional way.

Finishing I would like to add that in my opinion The Sixth is the perfect thriller which should be filmed one day. I hope it will happen soon. You must know that The Sixth is not the only book of Agnes Lingas-Loniewska. The author is very talented and she releases the new book in short periods of time. So, I hope that one day someone will translate each of her novel into English.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

"Honey, I killed our cats" Dorota Masłowska

Polish publisher: Noir sur Blanc, 2012
I have not read Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną (in the UK published as White and Red, US: Snow White and Russian Red). I just could not manage. After reading first chapters I noticed that here in front of me is a bit weird, although original work of art. There might have been some message behind it but I was discouraged by its difficult language.

When Honey, I killed our cats appeared, the headlines screamed about Masłowska's great come back. I thought that maybe I should give her a try. Besides, the book is only 156 pages long, so if the situation from White and Red reappeared, the nightmare would soon be over. So I have started reading and... was very positively surspried!

The plot is not particularly complex or breathtaking. There are two entirely different friends, Farah and Joanne. Farah is a well-mannered lady, who works in an office, attends yoga class and reveals an unhealthy attachment to antibacterial gel. Joanne is a simple hairdresser and a vegetarian, but she has no problem in swallowing a fat kebab once in a while. Both ladies derive from different backgrounds, but it only helps them get along even better. However, a man in love with Joanne stands on their way. Their friendship will be subjected to the hardest trial.

As I already mentioned before, the plot is not very sophisticated. But the most important thing is how Masłowska tells it. Honey, I killed our cats is composed out of  clever descriptions, amusing comparisons and ironic comments. By revealing an extraordinary sense of observation the young author provides the reader with a cynical vision of the world in which we live in. World of Facebook, billboards, healthy lifestyle and ecology. Witty and humorous narration uncovers the sad truth about contemporary life: filled with paradoxes, hipocrisy and loneliness.

Masłowska plays with her role as the author, depicting herself as a writer without inspiration. We are witnessing her creative process, difficult at first but later on formed by small things: an accidental meeting in a lift or a cat laying on the street. In Honey, I killed our cats Masłowska proved that she is a talented and mature author, who has a lot of distance to the world around her. I cannot wait to read her next book.


Fot. Filip Klimaszewski/ Agencja Gazeta, link 

Dorota Masłowska

  • Polish novelist, journalist and playwright
  • Born 3 July 1983 in Wejherowo, Poland
  • List of published books
  • Read the article about the author

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The last attempts to rescue Poland



Renata Czarnecka

Pod sztandarem miłości. Rok 1794
 (Under the Standard of Love - 1794) 


 Polish Publisher: ŚWIAT KSIĄŻKI
Warsaw 2012



Everyone, who knows Polish history very well, realize that the Republic was occupied even before the second partition of Poland. This military-occupation of foreign powers and the rule of Targowica became extremely difficult for the country, and therefore the population very quickly began to manifest their dissatisfaction and rebel against that situation, trying conspiracies against the occupier. The second partition of Poland was probably the bloodiest event of all three partitions.

What brought that memorable year 1794? Well, in March, the national uprising against Russia and Prussia broke out. The revolt was commanded by General Thaddeus Kosciusko. However, the king, Stanislaw August Poniatowski did not support the struggle of the people, in order to get out from under the yoke of the occupier. In return, on March 19, the monarch sent a letter to Prince Josef Poniatowski, which considered his scared duty “to keep the Russians”. That was not all. When he learned about the nature of the activities of Thaddeus Kosciusko, he immediately recognized him as a rebel, whom he, as an ally of Russia, must combat all forces. In response, on April 2, the King placed his signature on the document against the uprising, which was prepared by the Department of Justice of the Permanent Council. In that document Stanislaw August Poniatowski strongly condemned the French Revolution, while his people called to abandon, and strongly warned against the belief in the help of France.

As a result of hostilities between the army and the people of Warsaw and the Russian garrison occupation on 17-18 April 1794, was captured Russian Embassy and seized the documents, which were irrefutable evidence of treason. They certified that people, who were the nearest setting of the King, took salary from Tsarina Catherine II. From that moment the King became a hostage of insurgents and locked himself in the castle.

However, those fights were just the beginning. The bloodiest ones took place at the time when the troops, led by Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov, enetred Warsaw. The memorable onslaught of Prague reflected echoes among the people of Warsaw for a long time.

This is the historical background of the events which take place in the novel of Renata Czarnecka entitled “Pod sztandarem miłości. Rok 1794” (Under the Standard of Love – 1794). The novel is the second part of the story told in the book: “Pożegnanie z ojczyzną. Rok 1793” (Farewell to Homeland - 1793). The reader again enters the salons along with former Warsaw aristocracy. Once again we are invited to the palace of the Radzivill and Czartoryski. We also meet the representatives of the family of Potocki and Lubomirski. However, just as in the previous part of this story, here on the foreground also the Duchess, Helena Radzivill, extends. She is heard as the loudest woman. Her voice is re-echoed in the palace walls, and the heels of her shoes clatter on the marble floors. She is so real that we can even smell her perfume and hear the rustle of her elegant dresses.

Despite the riots in the streets of Warsaw and the danger of loss of life, which may reach to the end, the Radzivills still remain faithful to Catherine II. Helena still trembles so that none of her family gives a bad word at her warmest friend that in her opinion is the Empress. But is that friendship as strong from the Empress? Probably not, because since after the cancellation of Ambassador Jacob Johann Sievers from Warsaw, Regina of Vilnius has done everything what is possible to sneak in favor of his successor and thus regain the trust of Catherine II. She is still thinking about the preferred edition for the husband of her daughter, Christine, and she knows that only the Empress is able to help her. Of course, as in real life, not everything is going her way. She has a large family, and consequently there is a risk that not all of its members will share her opinion. As in the previous part of this story, so here the aristocracy is trying to live a normal life, though they also think about issues which are very important for their country. For obvious reasons the Radzivills are sympathetic with the Russians and they mainly invite them to their palace.

Besides Helena Radzivill, the reader also meet another woman, who is equally strong as the Duchess. Her name is the Countess Maria Naryshkin (Czatwertyńska). She is not only the nearest friend of Helena Radzivill but also a wife of a Russian. This last fact makes her still trembles for her safety. Maria is also a very beautiful woman, so it is not surprising that she falls into the eye of a Russian officer, who is by no means her husband. Will this love for the married woman in the end meet? Or can bloody unrest in the country make it remains only a dream?

Renata Czarnecka again made ​​something extraordinary. Well, she created a difficult novel in terms of historical background, but on the other hand so addictive that it is impossible to break away from it. Confusing political issues intertwined here with everyday life of the heroes. The reader is well aware what a character feels and what he or she intends to do. Not only Helena Radzivill gives the impression of a woman of flesh and blood. This happens in the case of each character we meet in the pages of the book. When the authoress writes that behind the window of the Radzivills’ palace the thunderstorm has been unleashed, in fact it is. The reader also hears the sound of thunder, the big drops of rain hitting the window frames and quick steps of one of the Duchy’s sons, who has just pulled up in front of the palace in a carriage. On the other hand, when you wander the streets of Warsaw, almost with your own eyes, you can see the crowds of townspeople who are eager for the blood of the traitors.

In front of our eyes the gallows are growing and we can feel the fear of those who are led to execution. Together with Maria Naryshkin and Helena Radzivill the reader can hear the roar of cannon and the clash of arms. We see the bloody people and we catch the ear of their moans, when death is near. The authoress uses a kind of simple words, but they are chosen in such a way that at some point, the reader loses all sense of reality.

In this book there are also scenes of humor, while the overall theme of the novel is serious. This fact undoubtedly varies the plot of the novel. Thus, the readers will find in this book everything that should have a well-constructed novel, which perfectly created characters, feelings of self-preservation tearing them, love, friendship, betrayal, and linguistic situation, and because it is a historical novel, not lacking in it images from Polish history painted with wards perfectly. The authoress took care of the smallest detail, of course, in so far as permitted by the volume of the book. The additional advantage are well-constructed dialogues.

Needless to say that I am very impressed with this novel, like Renata Czarnecka other books I have read. However, in this case there is even difficult historical background that the authoress coped fantastically. Just this fact suggests that I decided to raise scores of this novel, because I realize how much work it costs to write such a book. I fear, however, that the word "revelation" is not enough to express this novel phenomenon. In this context, "outstanding" fits much more.



Friday, 10 May 2013

Hello everyone!



This is a blog about books. It seems that they have always been in our lives. For many centuries they have represented and reflected human culture and constituted an integral part of human life.

The history of books goes back to about four thousands years before our century. Initially, books were hand-written on special boards made of clay, wood and ivory. The second stage was making use of papyrus and, subsequently, parchment. Then there was the era of wood-engraved books. The first half of the 15th century saw the invention of printing and since that time books have become very popular and accessible.

Nowadays, books are indispensable in everyone’s life. They broaden the mind and they are an important source of information and knowledge about the world. They perform a useful service to people, teaching and entertaining them. Furthermore, they communicate the feelings, experiences and provide important evidence of human thought. They also record past events and make history more vivid and alive. Finally, they preserve cultural bonds and this is probably the most significant of their advantages.

Books are helpful in a wide variety of situations. They do not only inform but also protect people from boredom. Whenever we are ill or when we have to spend long hours on a train or bus, books seem to be irreplaceable. We may also take them on our holidays and enjoy the pleasure of getting involved in them while lying on a beach and sunbathing. Sometimes during lonely evenings when there is nobody to talk to, books become a partner of conversation. Furthermore, they may be helpful when one has a serious problem and looks for a possible solution or wants consolation. Books are also a way out for those who want to escape from the real world into fiction and forget about their everyday problems and stresses.

There are many kinds of books that satisfy every age and taste. The first group is colourful books for children; fairy-tales, stories, comics and so on. The second large group is books for grown-ups. They may be roughly divided into scientific books and works of fiction. The aim of scientific books, such as encyclopedias, lexicons, guides or professional books is to inform while works of fiction, such as novels, detective stories, adventure books, sagas, diaries and so on serve to entertain. The great variety of books means that everyone may find something interesting.

Some people say that books are our greatest friends. They are right. Books have served us for centuries and they have never let us down. 

My dear readers, thanks to this blog I would like to promote almost every kind of literature. I am Polish so you will be able to find here books written in Polish. Maybe in this way I will encourage you to read books in this language. You will also meet some Polish writers and their books. I hope that in this way I will promote the Polish literature all over the world. Apart from that I am going to describe books written in different language than Polish, especially in English, Spanish or German. I have always dreamed about writing about books and literature in English. My reviews are going to appear here once or twice a week. For the Polish readers I lead two blogs. One of them is about books (click here) and the second one is about history of my country and the world (click here). 

I hope that you will have a great time visiting me here. The first review will be shown soon. 

If you want to be one of the authors of this blog, just let me know!