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Henryk Worcell

Photo courtesy of the National Digital Archives

Henryk Worcell

Enchanted Sections

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Read by Wojciech Barczyński, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Joanna Bilmin
“I’m not talking about the servants,” continued Special, “I mean waiters, like for instance at the Pacyfik or Regalior hotels. A waiter has to be smart, if only because he hangs around the better guests and out of necessity he has to adjust to their intellectual level. But this is where the very tragedy of the waiter lies, and it has a great effect on Porański. And now I’ll remind you what he said at the City: the conditions in which the waiter works develop some intelligence in him. Being in constant motion, hanging around the educated, talking to them, the opportunity to make psychological observations – it all forces the waiter to think, and educates him. But what happens next? Well, following this way a waiter could go really far, but this is exactly what the guests don’t want. I have something to tell you about that myself as I’ve got my fingers burnt more than once. Try not to adjust to the intellectual level of a guest and you’ll see what comes out of it.  Just show him you’re smarter than him or even make him ponder over what you’re saying – and it’s as two and two gives four that he’ll be avoiding you and won’t take a table in your section. So, favourable stimuli that enhance the waiter’s intellectual development on the one hand, and subconscious hostility of the guest on the other, because it is him who is being served by you.”

“These days there’s democratism,” said Kamiński.

“Democratism has nothing to do with it. Anyway, complete democratism has never existed, and never will. Go for instance to a club to see what role the waiter performs in there. A minion, a John, as Porański would say. Because this is exactly who the guests need. And isn’t it just the same in small restaurants? Even in places like these the guests have their “own” waiter, and call him “Jenkins,” because even the worst wrinkly clerk or an agent wants to have such a someone towards whom he could act like a master: call him by the first name, pat him on the shoulder, squeeze a tip into his hand, and when the guest gets drunk, toy with Jenkins, and make a fool out of him. What can I say? A waiter, even in the most exquisite restaurant, must be more of a scurvy thing than its guest.”

English translation: Joanna Bilmin
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Henryk Worcell

(real name: Tadeusz Kurtyka, 1909–1982) – chairman of the Wrocław-based Union of Polish Writers, writer. Author of novels Zaklęte rewiry (The Enchanted Stations also known as Hotel Pacific) and Grzech Antoniego Grudy (The Sin of Antoni Gruda). At the age of 16, Worcell was working as a waiter in Krakow’s Grand Hotel on Sławkowska Street, when Michał Choromański noticed him reading Tolstoy, as the boy passionately consumed successive novels in his shifts. Fascinated with the uncommon figure, Choromański decided to talk him into becoming a writer. Having spent the Second World War as a forced labourer in Germany, Worcell published fragments of his memories of the period in Tygodnik Powszechny weekly. (ms)

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