"If you count on "moments", this book won't let you down"
"Outstanding courage in describing intimacy"
European Union Prize for Literature 2019
Her and him. Teenagers from the time before Facebook and Instagram. Madly in love, but avoiding the declaration in the form of the words "I love you" like the plague. Crazy over each other. Shifting each others boundaries in learning about young bodies. Testing emotional reactions. Experiencing all "first times" together. The history of their romance happens in the 90s of the last century,
when love letters were written with a pen on a piece of paper, when the photographs were made on film and to make a phone call you had to queue in front of the phone booth. A world free from immediacy, in which waiting accumulated the tension and longing for one another. Her and him. Kids who are not afraid to cross the boundaries, who want to experience everything. Most of all they want to know their bodies. The hotness summer is still going on, even when it is winter and everything else is frozen in January. There is a fever of two heroes, their passion, the power of attraction stronger than gravity. Somewhere in the back of their minds there is end of the world, that is to come with the year 2000, when the comet will hit the Earth and the current civilization will fall anyway.
Him and her. Two people in their forties accidentally meet after years and realize that spark of youthful excitement is to be found in them, and the hope is not lost yet. Somewhere in the everyday reality, between cooking dinners for children and subsequent installments of credit, they begin to meet each other and recollect the memories of youthful passion, which at the same time pushed them towards each other and did not let them stay. They tell each other about themselves from years ago. What she remembers of him, and he of her. Their narrations changed over time, individual pieces created different versions of the same story. The heroes start to wonder what if? And face a new question: what would their life look like up till now and on?
WOMEN OF SOLIDARITY
Świat Książki 2016
They had the best years of their lives ahead of them.
They were in their twenties and thirties and they chose to rebel instead of settling down and living fairly peaceful lives. Those who they rebelled against tried to destroy their marriages. Threatened them with placing their children in orphanages or that something bad would happen to them if they did not agree to collaborate with the secret service.
They were offered relocation to another country on the condition they refrained from activities injurious to the system. The did not refrain from anything.
During the Martial Law, when men were imprisoned, women stepped in their shoes. They would print the independent press, they launched and ran an underground radio station. They did not care about sitting on the board of the Union, they did not care about ranks.
What mattered to them was work and its results. When the Solidarity Radio was broadcasting an illegal programme, lights would be blinking on and off all over the city as this way people showed that they were listening. The underground Tygodnik Mazowsze weekly had a print run of a few dozen thousand copies. Some people called them the “Female Operational Group”…
What kept them going was a belief that the revolution was meaningful, hope for a change, a feeling of togetherness. Their perspective was delivering Poland from the oppression of the Soviet Union. Their objective was freedom and democracy. They were absent at the Round Table talks, however. They let themselves be forgotten when their male colleagues were assuming the most important positions in the public administration bodies after the first free elections. They thought politics was not for them.
They keep fighting till this day but in a different way than they did at the time. Henryka is helping rural families whose income depended on collective farming which was abandoned after the fall of communism. Joanna is a columnist and is critical of capitalism and the mechanisms governing modern economy. Barbara is teaching young women how to be leaders. Ewa continues to be an active member of the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarność. Barbara claims that there are no free women in the free Poland she had been fighting for. Jadwiga is still wondering whether Poland is in fact a free country. When asked where solidarity is to be found today, Henryka answered: “At my house!” Joanna recapitulates: “Solidarity cannot be repeated but knowing that a different world is possible, leaves us hopeful”.
"Mature, masterly prose"
"Two stories, meshing in the existential vicious circle"
Korporacja Ha!art 2013
Three women, two stories, one bloodline. In a drama that is Polish to the bone, a tale of generations corrupt by alcohol, mother and daughter meet. The daughter soon also becomes a mother, her daughter in turn ready to repeat the same scheme… A Russian matryoshka, a set of wooden dolls, one in the other, is the best allegory for this circular story. The interlacing and looping hypertext in turn, is a perfectly fitted narrative formula.
The result – a mature, masterly prose, an existential Moebius strip, that clashes life truth with formal finesse, incorporating into the novel’s discourse digital techniques of word and narrative manipulation.
Matrioszka are two stories, meshing in the existential vicious circle: a mother’s and a daughter’s story, where the generation differences are blurred by the recurring problem of alcoholism in the Polish family. The mother’s story is also the daughter’s, and the latter repeats the former’s mistakes. The title matryoshka, a wooden doll with another wooden doll inside, is a telling allegory of the narrative composition.
Interlaces, returns and repetitions are basic rhetorical tricks of hypertext prose, composed of scattered, but interconnected elements. No wonder the form was so attractive for Marta Dzido’s text, whose looping linearity, circularity and cyclicality is best reflected in a hypertext. A collection of linked websites, where certain words carry the reader from one fragment to the other, Matrioszka is a clear and leader-friendly whole. The two main stories can be read separately and linearly – by launching only the “transparent” links (black arrows), equivalents of page-turning in a book. By using two kinds of special links – green (marking a traverse within a single story) and red (marking a jump from the mother’s to the daughter’s story), the reader is invited to explore the text web woven by the author.
A MARK LEFT BY MOM
Korporacja Ha!art 2006 ENG
It is the year 1956. Hot summer. Two women are sitting in a dispensary under a gynecological clinic. One of them is very young, still a child – nobody would say she's 26, which she actually is. She has an appointment to have a procedure. An abortion. She has two small children, a husband suffering from tuberculosis, and no means to make the ends meet.
The other woman – mature, well-groomed and elegant – is infertile, but keeps visiting the doctor hoping that there is still a chance for her.
They start talking.
The one who is waiting for her procedure says that she can't have another baby, she won't manage, her husband is dying and her strength has failed her and…
The one who can't have babies says: give a birth to this child and I'll take it from you, I'll raise it and love it…
No, it can't be this way – says the one who is waiting for her procedure.
I'll pay – insists the other.
Buy I'll pay you a lot. A lot… - and she draws out her purse and a bundle of money from it – please, take it, take it and think about my proposal, ok?
Please, leave me alone – answers the one who is waiting for her procedure. She stands up and runs away from the dispensary.
Six months later a baby girl is born.
This girl after twenty four years will give birth to another baby girl.
It is the year 2000. The youngest of the three girls is already grown-up. Although she is almost twenty she still looks like a child, nobody would think she is a mother of a few-months old baby girl.
And again it is hot summer, and she is sitting in a dispensary, in a queue to a gynecological consulting room. An abortion costs two thousand zlotys now. Next to her an elegant, well-groomed woman is sitting, but they don't talk.
The girl has an appointment with a doctor who is going to perform the procedure. He has cut down the price to eight hundred, possibly he felt sorry for the girl. She came to him five-weeks pregnant with a three-month baby in a carrycot, saying that the doctor in hospital told her that regular breast-feeding is the best contraceptive method, that hormones from contraceptive pills pervade mother's milk and it is too early for an intrauterine device. And she believed him, for the doctor knows the best, doesn't he?
And now she is pregnant, but in an hour this problem is going to be resolved.
When it is all over the girl sighs with relief, but feels ashamed of this relief, she doesn't know how to talk about it and to whom. She doesn't know how to name what she has done. She is silent for so long that eventually she can't stand it and starts writing a book.
A book about the removal, scrapping out, curettage, vacuum aspiration, induced miscarriage, secretions and blood. She writes a book which sometimes limes, is deficient, chaotic, naïve, and some of its sentences resemble confessions of an affected teenage-girl.
She finishes her writing and again she sighs with relief. With the book she goes to a publishing house, but its director – Mrs. Beata S., tells her that it can't be this way, because when you write a book about abortion you have to decide whether you are for or against it, and express it clearly. So as to a reader has no doubts whatsoever . And generally improve the book.
But the girl doesn't feel like doing it, so she leaves the book as it is and after a few years she writes another one.
This time the book is a success. It is about unemployment, "Warsawers", and abortive relationships. The girl can be seen on TV and in the newspapers, she actually doesn't know what to say to continually asked questions, questions about various things – feminism, the Pope and generation something. She is smiling beautifully for she is shy and answers: yes, yes, or no, no. No long sentences. Finally a publisher – Piotr M. from the corporation – proposes: what would you say if we published your book on abortion?
But the girl hesitates. Because the book is six years old now and maybe it would be better to write something new instead of dragging up old stuff, and the book is nonsense and she doesn't fancy working on it any longer…
And she answers him: but literary it's no good…
It doesn't matter – says the publisher's voice in the receiver – it is honest and about an important issue…
But I'm afraid – replies the girl – that everybody would ask me if it is about me and if I had an abortion.
Don't worry, you have a child, don't you? So you are the best proof that you didn't have an abortion… - says the publisher Piotr M.
The girl says: I don't know, and she rings off.
Now she imagines the meetings with her readers on which she is asked about the truth in her book and if it was based on her own experience. Journalists ask her if she is for or against, the discussion arouses in which some inflect the phrase "an unborn child" while the others every second word mention "the freedom of choice".
The girl knows that when discussing this subject nobody says "I" or "had an abortion"
That instead taking about themselves they talk about figures and statistics.
And those who have had an abortion stay silent. Maybe they don't want others slapped them on the face with an accusation: murderer!
Also the girl is afraid.
This is why she still hesitates, and in discussions still nobody uses the pronoun "I".
But the girl doesn't like talking about herself using third person singular.
She imagines the book on a bookshelf in a bookstore, imagines herself participating in a meeting dedicated to her book, she is sitting at the coffee table with a glass of water, peering at her shoes or at the ceiling, curling her hair around her finger. She says: Yes, it is about me, I've had an abortion an I'm not ashamed of it…
And secretly she hopes on other girls following her example. That homosexual coming-outs will be followed by abortional ones. That women from the covers of the magazines will not only promote a contraceptive plasters on the naked parts of their bodies but also frankly admit: yes, I've had an abortion and 'm not ashamed of it.
The girl imagines Polish celebrities admitting it. She sees Kazia Szczuka, Kinga Dunin and Maria Janion, Doda Elektroda, Kasia Nosowską and Kora, Katarzyna Kozyra and Katarzyna Figura, Joanna Rajkowska, Ewa Drzyzga and Dorota Masłowska, Anna Mucha, Mandaryna, Maryla Rodowicz, Maja Ostaszewska, Krystyna Janda, Katarzyna Grochola, Kasia Szustow and so on…
And each of them says: I've also had an abortion and I'm not ashamed of it…
The girl still hesitates, but eventually decides to agree on publishing the book.
The girl is me.
And this is my personal, abortional coming-out.
I invite other girls…
Preface to a novel Mark of a mother (Ślad po mamie)by Marta Dzido, published by Ha-art publishing house on 15th November 2006
Translation by Korporacja Ha art.
Ślad po mamie
Korporacja Ha!art 2005
An excerpt translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
"You call the guy and ask him if he'll play for two weeks for that amount. You've got the numbers in Outlook Express so call and say you're working for us and chat him up a bit, you know what I mean. He's the kind of guy who was once at the top for three years, but now he's not doing anything – he's sure to give a different impression, but he knows we know he's not doing anything."
"How much is he meant to play for? Six hundred zlotys per concert?" I ask in amazement.
"Hello, will you play for six thousand?"
"Look, darling, don't make me laugh – I've never got that sort of price for my concerts. Don't you think six thousand is a bit low for an artist like me?"
"Well, I don't know. I spend a month on the phone in a stuffy little room with no windows for eight hundred."
"Look, baby, I'm…"
"I'm not your baby."
"You're not being very nice, lady. Please tell your boss it's not a deal for me, but…"
"Now look, I've had a chat with him and he was shocked by your impertinence, that's how he put it. I don't know if you're really suited for this sort of negotiation. You said in your CV that you're responsible and patient; whatever the client is like, even if he's a complete yob he's still our client, and if we can make some money that's what counts, not some personal abuse of yours. I'm afraid that even though you're my friend and I like you very much, you can't go on working here any longer because you'll scare off all our clients."
I pull in my stomach in front of the mirror. I pull it in at yoga. The yoga teacher notices and comes up to me, pushes my spine down and straightens my legs but even so it doesn't come out right somehow. Sun salutations, boat pose, half boat pose – that bald one with the tattoo on the back of her neck does everything perfectly, like she's made of rubber. I keep a furtive eye on her; the yoga teacher sees it all anyway. Sometimes he says: "In yoga you have to focus on yourself and direct your energy inwards, not watch what the others are doing…" But that bald one, she's really it. She can do everything. Even her plank comes out right, and she can hold the pose – I fall on the floor immediately.
I pull in my stomach in front of the mirror, I look at the displays in beautiful shops, I wonder how they always manage to have immaculate white trousers, not a single wrinkle on their blouses and those nails painted with little pictures, perfectly depilated legs and not a trace of fat on their bellies, so even when they sit down nothing rolls up or goes into folds.
I just pretend I'm not getting any folds, while they laugh at me from the magazine covers and the papers, because my belly is far from being completely flat and hard, because I've got bitten nails and my hair's been unevenly cut with scissors in the bath, and they keep writing me messages, saying: lose weight this summer, you're worth it, take care of your hair, be beautiful for him. But my nail polish goes over the line every time I try; maybe my nails are too small, too short, because the polish seeps onto my skin, my eye pencil draws a crooked line, my eye spills onto the floor, and at the very thought of undercoat my whole world retreats and hides in the wardrobe, so it's no use.
But they have contraceptive plasters that stick out from under their hipsters, from under their lacy little bras and G-strings. They've got immaculate skin, all one tone. They have pure and spotless dreams. Dreams washed in powder with micro-granules.
They've got views from the newspapers, opinions about the war – our mission is extremely important. They have a view on the subject of feminists – what's all the fuss about? why all the protests? They have men in clean shirts and slicked-back hair. They have men with new generation mobile phones, phones that can make films and then send them by e-mail. They've got men in luxury cars bought on HP and on special offer, and in those cars they've got the fake smell of cinnamon and a radio set to 94.
They've got their own big problems too. How do I get rid of stretch marks? Should I buy eye cream, or cuticle remover? Why won't two-year-old Jasio eat his porridge? Should I start bottle-feeding my six-month-old son? Are disposable nappies harmful? What does a rash behind the ear mean? What do I do with the dog if the child is allergic to its fur? Why doesn't my husband want to be there at the birth? What's best for brittle ends? Where do I get specialist advice? How do I get a cure for leucorrhoea? What do I do if I don't enjoy sex? How do I get rid of dandruff? How do I write my CV? How can I get my boss's sympathy and trust? How do I reconcile work and child rearing? How do I lose weight without the yo-yo effect? Where's the best place to go shopping? What'll be in fashion this spring?
How do I deal with wrinkles?
How do I deal with fat?
How do I deal with my own head?
How do I deal with myself effectively?
And those bitches are looking at me, those immaculate white women produced by Photoshop. They look at me travelling without a ticket to see someone about a job. They look at me buying a newspaper on Monday morning, they look from the magazine covers and billboards, smiling and showing a row of white teeth, telling me to be beautiful, be beautiful, be beautiful. They have pure dreams and pure thoughts, and their throats go tight as the word "dick" tries to squeeze through and cannot. There's a dull silence when some pervert sticks his hand between their thighs on a crowded bus. They've nothing to say on important issues. They show their ignorance, their ignorance when they talk on screen, in a programme about fashion – why didn't you take part in the gala for the top stars, why weren't you invited? It's ignorance, if you please, it's the journalists' ignorance.
And I'm pretending again. Pretending to be asleep. I'm lying with my eyes open, thinking how Mateusz thinks up those billboards, adverts and throwaway slogans. Even she can't spoil it for you. It's a way of cheating us. Tits with radio knobs. They say feminists have no sense of humour. Nor do I. I look at the billboards in the city and I think Mateusz is communicating with me through them. Be beautiful, be good, have pure thoughts and pure dreams, smile, be a fan, be trendy, have some style, girl, have some class, your hair is worth it, take a look in the flattering mirror in the elegant designer shop, how lovely, how slinky, don't forget some light make-up, some anti-wrinkle cream for twenty-five-year-olds, a yoghurt diet, a protein diet, a one-hundred-calorie diet, two little slices of ham rolled in a lettuce leaf and some orange juice. Remember, you've got to hold in your stomach, keep smiling and grinning. A beautiful woman knows her place.