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Łukasz Dębski

Photo from the author's archives

Łukasz Dębski

Cafe Szafe

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Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
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English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima
When you own a café in a city like Cracow, people think that you don’t need to do anything else, just lie around and count your earnings. I don’t negate it, in many cases this is true – however, not in my case, unfortunately. Another thing are questions sniffing for a social affair, spoken in low voice during various family gatherings, visits to cousins, friends, maternal and paternal aunts, when one crucial matter reappears like a boomerang: “Does anyone famous come to your place?” How to answer such a question if you do not know who is truly a famous person. Café Szafé would then be visited by so few people that if someone famous had been there, I would have noticed for sure. There were, however, many people, including many well-known personas, who would pass the café and refuse to enter it ostentatiously. So I could always find my way out by saying that for example Tadeusz Drozda dropped by (no matter what you may think of him, his daughter lived across the street) or Lucjan Kydryński (one of his relatives had a flat above us). Besides those two cases there was one more, completely hopeless: at least a dozen times Krzysztof Globisz passed through on his bicycle. I would sit in front of the café on warm summer evenings, and slightly cooler autumn ones, and Krzysztof Globisz would scorch along on his bicycle straight into me and Café Szafe and wouldn’t even have a glance. Instead he would turn into Mała street right before my nose. Allow me to add a piece of information to uniformed Ministry of the Interior employees that he would enter Mała from that end with the no entry sign.
On one September morning, however, there came a moment when my expectations of meeting a famous person were to be more than fulfilled. Someone famous (like all other famous people as well as entire herds of regular people) did not, however, enter my café, but stopped in front of it, and for a long while. Let this success not be belittled by the fact that he stood across the street with his back to the café. At first I didn’t recognise him. He was standing motionless between pillars of a tenement house opposite and staring at a small commemorative plaque fixed in it (in that tenement house).
It said that in this or other year on this and that floor (actually just on one floor all the time) lived the founder and long-time editor-in-chief of the weekly Przekrój, Marian Eile. That plaque has been placed there for so long and so high that no one was able to paint in some fangs, add Führer’s moustache or write anything foul. That person then (whom I did not recognise at first) kept staring and staring as if Eile could escape him at any moment. He had a long grey coat, characteristic hat and such (i.e. also characteristic) nose. I craned my neck as much as I could, sitting on a chair outside the entrance, having barely avoided tumbling down on the pavement. Luckily he helped me by turning just slightly, but enough for me to identify him. Outside my café stood Mister Sławomir Mrożek.
English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima
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Łukasz Dębski

(born in 1975) — writer, script writer, author of books for children.
He has been writing poetry and prose for the youngest readers since 2001, the year in which he published a collection of poems, Wiórki, wiewiórki i inne bajki wierszem (Chips, Squirrels and Other Versified Stories). He wrote other books including Wierszownik z podróży dookoła świata (A Verse-book from a Journey Round the Globe) and Łamisłówka (Word Puzzles). He engages himself also in social activities for children from poorer families by helping them gain access to culture.
Together with Anna Kaszuba-Dębska, he runs Café Szafé, a famous coffeehouse in Krakow, Felicjanek Street, where you can have your coffee in a wardrobe. Café Szafe (Coffer Café) is also the title of a collection of short stories about the coffeehouse’s frequent visitors, published in 2006. The book has been translated into Czech and one of the stories has been printed in The Guardian. The coffeehouse organizes numerous cultural events, meetings with authors and discussions. In 2007, it received an award from IBBY for promoting reading among children.
In 2005, Dębski won the contest “Pisz do Pilcha” (“Write to Jerzy Pilch”) announced by the Polityka weekly. (mj)
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