James Hopkin

Photo from the archives of the author

James Hopkin

Winter Under Water

Read by Wojciech Barczyński, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
© J.A.Hopkin, Winter Under Water (Picador)
Led by his enchantment, Joseph wonders if this city has more faces than feet. For there are eyes everywhere. No longer frightened eyes like in the provinces, but inquisitive eyes, searching eyes, eyes that send out the light with which they survey, eyes that travel beneath the arches of the Cloth Hall or gather in cellars to listen, because listening may take place in the ears, but it is measured in the eyes. And many of these eyes are set in heads that belong to the bodies of students, and many of these students are carrying large black folders, and this excites Joseph, too, to see so many people carrying their art work along the icy streets.

He pushes open a wooden door, parts a curtain of dark velvet, and enters Café Prowincja. All the candles blink. Faces of hot wax look up to see a well-sugared hat and coat blown in by the wind. The outside walls are on the inside. The bricks are made of chocolate and cinnamon, the plaster of vanilla. The gingerbread staircase goes nowhere in particular. Or to a life of pictures, pencils, clocks, souls. Because – look! – people are reading! People are drawing! And the clocks? Yes there is a collection of Sława alarm clocks on every shelf, each one stopped, because time here is marked only by the banging of the coffee scoop.

Joseph knows he must stay awake and watch. He is entranced by dark eyes over the rim of a white cup. By the yellow glow emanating from the pages of a book. And by the stillness of the body behind the book, for reading doubles the silence a body carries within.
© J.A.Hopkin, Winter Under Water (Picador)

James Hopkin

James Hopkin first visited Krakow in 1998 and has been writing about the city ever since. His first novel, Winter Under Water (Picador, 2007) was set there and the award-winning story, ‘Even the Crows Say Krakow’ (Picador, 2012). He interviewed Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska for the Guardian in the city, and has written about the Conrad and Milosz festivals for the same paper. He has also written for the Economist, the Independent, and the Financial Times about Krakow
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