22 July 2008

Dwoje biednych Rumunow mowiacych po polsku, by Dorota Maslowska

I'm sorry to say that this book will probably never be translated. And even if it is, I doubt it'll be done well. Maslowska has an absolutely fantastic style, a marvelous way of rendering vernacular Polish that I think, really, is just untranslatable (I consider the translation of another of her novels, whose English title is Snow White and Russian Red, to be an absolute disaster). It's horrifically vulgar and wonderfully musical, tender and appalling and absolutely delightful. For those who know Polish, a sample (apologies, I don't know how to render Polish characters on here):

Albo daewoo tico. To jest woz. Panie, jak my powiemy w Rumunii, ze tym jechalismy, to hooo. Krewni nam szalas podpala z zazdrosci. Seiczeto. To nie jest samochod, to jest religia. Ludzie popierduja tu jakimis pan widzi. Tego, kurwa, wysciguj go, ja pierdole! Jak pizda, no jak pizda, masz samochod z takimi mozliwosciami, a wleczesz sie nim jak kurwa w kislu. 

For all its horrific vulgarity, it's a brilliant book. Maslowska is an absolute virtuoso, playing with conventions of genre and time, dropping in allusions to other literary works, all in a seemingly effortless way. But her subjects, as per usual, are scum. Their marvelous language is essentially their only redeeming factor. They're lowlifes, drugged out scum who do truly awful things. It reminds one of Irvine Welsh, whom Maslowska is often compared to, or Bret Easton Ellis, but actually, I think Maslowska is a far more interesting writer, precisely for her daring experiments in form, which are more akin, I think, to Beckett and Gombrowicz. She's generally known for her curious capitalist apocalyptic vision, and bizarre phantasmagoria - one never knows what's actually happening and what is hallucination, or if the characters are inhabiting a fictional space where there simply isn't a difference, but this text also, in a quite fascinating way, plays with time as well. It's written as a play, though, given precisely this hallucinatory aspect, it'd be nearly impossible, I think, to stage, but there's a fantastic scene where the characters are actually speaking at different moments in time. The two main characters, Dzina and Parcha, are speaking to a driver. The driver, however, is actually speaking to the police and reporting his conversation with them. It's brilliantly executed, like I said above, in a seemingly effortless and natural way.  

The story is curious, too, in that it purports to be the adventures of two Romanians (the title translates as Two Poor Romanians Who Speak Polish), who turn out, possibly, to be two Polish druggies. In other words, it begins as a caricature of a crude ethnic stereotype, and turns out to be a caricature, kind of, of two Polish lowlifes. The irony, however, is impossible to locate reliably. It's a tantalizing book. 

No comments: