I love the poetry of Poland: Czeslaw Milosz, (and his eyesbrows;) Wislawa Szymborska and Tadeusz Rozewicz. And so, I'm really excited about a new translation of Jerzy Pilch's A Thousand Peaceful Cities, by David Frick. The book is a story of a boy's coming of age during the Occupation. It's about Love, Politics, Religion, and Drinking. Open Letter Books shared a pre-release excerpt - I've already purchased two copies. I love this visual narrative:
"The parchment map of the sky slowly took on life. Streams of deep blue air flowed across it. Golden sand poured from the planets. Within the large constellations you could hear music. I awoke in the middle of the night, and in the dark, gropingly, I recorded in my notebook the word “occupation,” which in a moment someone would whisper in the depths of the sleeping house.
In those days I never parted for a moment with my pencil and notebook. The desire, stronger than anything else, to record words and sentences that had just been or would in a moment be uttered, directed my every step, waking and sleeping. I would place the notebook and pencil on the nightstand, and when the golden-black grandfather clock in the entryway rang out the most terrible of hours, two or three in the morning, when the Antichrist himself touched my featherbed with a wet wing, when during every season of the year an infernal silence reigned, I would reach for notebook and pencil and record the word or sentence that brought relief. “Ocupation,” I wrote, but I didn’t feel relief or consolation. From the kitchen came noises unusual for that hour. Someone was moving a chair. Someone knocked delicately, probably at the window, since the panes rattled. Someone said something. Somebody answered. I lit the lamp, and Mr. Trąba’s voice became more distinct, as if intensified by the light. To this day I am absolutely certain that, throughout my entire childhood, I was awakened from sleep either by Mr. Trąba’s voice, or by the sound of the Wittenberg bells in the church tower.
A few minutes before six in the morning, Sexton Messerschmidt would climb the wooden steps, and in the gray dawn of the fall, in the winter darkness, or with the summer radiance piercing the shutters, the cast-iron caps would begin to move more and more forcefully. In the morning, the sound of the bells was delicate like the slowly rising eyelid of a Lutheran confirmation-class girl. At noon, it possessed the fullness of the fire roaring under Evangelical stovetops. And at twilight, it was mannerly and pliable like the mixed forests on Buffalo Mountain."