Zośka Papużanka (born 1978) is a theatre studies graduate and works as a polish language teacher. She is currently studying for a doctorate in literature. A Domestic Charade is her literary debut.
On, novel, Znak 2016, 288 pages, ISBN: 978-83-240-3610-3
“Snotty does not belong anywhere. He suits no one. He does not suit you, me, all of us. He is neither “normal” nor “retarded”; he goes to a regular school but he stands out; he goes to church but there is no place for him. Written with a great tact and respect, “He” is a guide to a different sensibility, a separate world presented against the background of the masterfully recreated realities of late communist Poland and nascent capitalism. The realities in which Snotty does not belong either.”
A Domestic Charade
Szopka, novel, Świat Książki 2012, 208 pages, ISBN 978-83-7799-824-3
Rights available: World
This story is like a tightly coiled spring. It is composed of short scenes which tell the story of life in a Kraków family over a few decades. It is full of tension and conflicts; in essence there is a lack of mutual understanding so fundamental that it begs a question that haunts the reader throughout the book – how does this family carry on, why doesn’t it fall apart? Of course there are hints throughout the novel, which lead us towards a number of different answers to this question, but none is entirely convincing: perhaps the sacrament of marriage keeps the family together; perhaps it is weighed down by past events and becomes – at least for the husband – a form of penance; perhaps it is the attraction of opposites and so on. However nothing is fully explained and we are not dealing here with a straightforward journalistic report about a hellish experience of family life. This is simply great literature, and serious literature at that. It is written with verve, intensity and great literary skill. Zośka Papużanka uses language boldly; she freely engages in word play; she has an ear for the particular speech of different individuals, which brings the characters to life better than any narrator’s description could do. She does all this superbly and her discernment in planning the story is admirable. I suspect she was guided by something you might call “authorial self-restraint”, so instead of constructing the expansive narrative which this subject seems to call for, instead of giving us a protracted family saga, she records episodes from various periods in the family’s life in an almost telegraphic style, changing the point of view and the narrator, along the lines suggested by the first paragraph of the novel. This work could be seen as the essence of a novel, a “concentrate” as it were, which would have to be diluted by “adding water” if you wanted to turn it into an ordinary novel. I doubt such dilution would improve the book, as it might well weaken the powerful impact it has on the reader – as it stands this novel pulls no punches.