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Jerzy Pilch

Jerzy Pilch and Andrzej Stasiuk, Conrad Festival 2009, photo by Andrzej Rubiś

Jerzy Pilch

The second diary

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Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Dominika Olszewska

Last summer on the tram number 17, I saw a woman reading a book. Such a view always deeply touches me, I always react with an emotion equally intense as non-understandable. I have no idea what kind of an emotion this is. It has nothing to do with more or less erotic reactions to her femininity or intellectual to her reading. Ok, it’s not only about those kinds of reactions. The “girl reading-on-tram” activates a peculiar mechanism in me, she strikes a mysterious chord, obviously she amazes me, she amazes me generally, but also (by no means not marginally) she irritates me, teases me, annoys me, she disturbs my sacredly fixed rhythm.

I no longer strive to tell what kind of a complex, what psychoanalysis or other methempsychosis this is. Since a while, I have not asked such questions at all. In the past in such situations I invariably used to recall Esse by Czesław Miłosz, since this poem seemed to be both a prayer to all accidentally met goddesses and a philosophically versatile analysis of this kind of meeting. Strictly speaking, it was and is both, but I stopped identifying myself with it unquestioningly. It didn’t concern my case. Ok – let’s not exaggerate. It did concern it, but not entirely. Not only because Miłosz’s beauty wasn’t reading anything. There were other reasons. Discernible, but unnamable. If for 40 years one hasn’t found them, named them, defined them – one may as well forget them and start staring selflessly. To stare, but not to investigate the reasons for staring. To stare, but not to formulate a theory of staring.

This time even if there were convincing reasons or theories roaming inside my head, they wouldn’t fit in into the field of sensations. The field of sensations was traditional, but there was nothing but admiration. The first and only case of such total consistency. Admiration and nothing else. An admiration infinitely dense – in the cosmic sense.

I spotted a couple of nice chicks reading on trams, among them creatures who pass unnoticed like an illusionist’s trick and those who are conspicuous like Bengal fireworks, their books were at times “far below” but at times “far above” “commutational literature”, their reading manners were diverse, usually static, but when dynamics entered– dear God!

For example I will never forget a certain surprisingly short (when sitting, she didn’t touch the floor, and she quite didn’t touch it, when the tram was approaching her stop, she slipped off the seat as if it were a side of a sinking ship) and at the same time unusually curvy brunette. To say that she was reading would be off-topic. She was devouring the book, she was communing with that book, she was marrying that book and she was throwing a funeral for it, and it was a funeral with music, she was raping this not very thick paperback volume, she was pressing it to her bosom like some very special talisman, maybe even her baby, who the next second she was ready to spit at, curse and throw out of the window… Thousands of other sinusoidally floating excesses – to what book can one react this way? I will never get to know. The mini-fanatic of communing with an unfortunately unidentified book got off the tram, she vanished.

English translation: Dominika Olszewska
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Jerzy Pilch

(b. 1952) Brought up in Wisła, in a family connected to the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, which became a fundamental theme of his works. A graduate of Polish Studies at the Jagiellonian University. One of the most popular and at the same time best Polish prose writers and the author of now-legendary columns published in a number of magazines. Known also as a playwright, dramatist and screenwriter. Thanks to Pilch being in Krakow, our city has gained at least a handful of exceptional phrases, without which we would perceive Krakow in an absolutely different light. Their number is on the rise, as Krakow is constantly present – mostly in retrospectives – in the works of this fertile writer, despite his spectacular and symbolic move to Warsaw. It is so, as Pilch was connected for years to Tygodnik Powszechny Catholic weekly, for which he abandoned his doctoral studies at the Jagiellonian University. Yet, in 1999 he did abandon Tygodnik too, for Warsaw and for Hustler. (ezp)

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