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Wit Szostak

Photo by Ela Kot

Wit Szostak

The Chochółs

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Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
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English translation: Paulina Tumidajewicz

In the long passage of the spice bazaar we smell the scent of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg; traders recommend the goods displayed in huge bags. Bright powders, the colours yellow and brick-red, different shades of beige, hanging close by beads of dried chili pepper, faded bouquets of mint and rosemary. Intoxicated, we go outside, just opposite St. Mary’s Basilica. Three old ladies heading towards itare deep in discussion, they touch one another with their canes.It looks like they’re racing, like each of them wants be the first to reach the snowy façade. Plenty of stalls around us, we hear sheep bleating and people calling somewhere on the other side of the Main Square.

At last we plunge into the ravine that is St. Florian’s Street and walk the straight path to the white gate. You squeeze my hand harder, I’m just as impatient. We can already hear a quiet murmur, or maybe we just imagine it, maybe it’s the buzz of voices from the Main Square, as it grows more distant. St. Florian’s Gate rises before us, the fire-fighting saint, afloat in the air, tilts his head, finally we stoop to pass beneath the Gothic arches.

The waves beat against thestone wharf, the air tastes of salt and smells of the sea. Along the city walls and in the entire bay alikeboats and fishing vessels are moored, on the jetty leading to the bastion fishermen sell fresh fish and seafood. We walk beside the crates displayed, piles of sardines, bluish prawns, tangled octopuses and slender squids. A lobster scurries down the platform, you point at it, laughing, we see a fisherman run after it, cursing. The lobster slides off the planks and disappears among the dark seaweeds of theharbour basin. We pass through the round bastion and step onto a long pier.Turquoise and azure waters before us, we feel a cool breeze on our faces, above our heads seagulls screech.

Between us and the horizon, like shells of enormous turtles, wooded massifs surface from the water; we look out for towns, tiled in fiery red, sheltered in their bays, we count towers and domes and share our discoveries. I embrace you tightly, my Zosia, and you rest your head against my chest. I kiss you on the cheek and whisper right into your ear:

“We’ll be living on islands.”

English translation: Paulina Tumidajewicz
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Wit Szostak

(born in 1976), debuted in 1999 in the Nowa Fantastyka magazine. Author of 8 novels and numerous short stories. He has received the Janusz A. Zajdel Award and the Jerzy Żuławski Literary Award. He has won critics’ acclaim with the so-called Krakow trilogy, consisting of the following novels: Chochoły (2010), Dumanowski (2011) and Fuga (2012, nominated for the NIKE literary award). On the basis of Dumanowski — an alternative history of Krakow, which after 1846 retained the status of a free city — Jan Klata has produced a radio drama, which has occupied one day broadcast of Radio Krakow.
Szostak received a degree in philosophy, which is his primary occupation. He is lecturer at one of Krakow universities. Wit Szostak is a pen name used by the writer in order to separate his literary works from his philosophical writings signed with his official name. His latest novel, Sto dni bez słońca [A Hundred Days Without the Sun], is a satire on academic communities. (mj)
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