Zośka Papużanka

Photo by Michał Korta

Zośka Papużanka


Read by Marta Meissner, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima
Mister Deus Ex Machina, appearing out of nowhere, since the Chorus has left the entrance to the skene slightly ajar: Good evening, my name is Mister Deus Ex Machina and it’s good that I’ve come, isn’t it? I am looking for Maciej. I’m here about the nativity scene contest.
“Well, sir, we sure make scenes here” said Maciuś very solemnly, “seven days a week.”
“What scene? I don’t understand what you’re talking about, sir,” mother perched herself on a chair. Wandzia has crawled out of the corner and from behind her mother’s back she would peek once at the gentleman, then at her older brother, who has started packing Christmas ornaments to a box and with a careless gesture showed the man a chair. The gentleman undid his scarf and unbuttoned his coat.
“Well, you know, ma’am, the nativity scene contest, we gather every year by Mickiewicz… And we received Maciej’s work, we all liked it very much, in one word, highly praised… That’s why I came, cause Maciej hasn’t come to collect the prize, and the address was there, but I can see Maciej is not here.”
“I am Maciej,” announced Maciuś suddenly, standing in the centre of the room. Silvery chain links peeked from the box, as if curious about the world. “I’d like to pick up the prize.”
Wandzia suddenly realised she was just as frightened as of the torch dead man, so she darted to the bathroom. The gentleman got frightened as well, since he was feeling insecure and didn’t know how to get himself out of that insecurity, and he wasn’t used to it, he was the nativity scene guy, after all, not the insecurity guy. Maciuś leaned firmly on the base of his monument and waited for the course of events to unfold. Luckily mother did not lose her self-assurance and made use of folk wisdom resources available to her.
“Pardon me, sir, he’s just a snot, he couldn’t do anything like it. What kind of Maciej wears short trousers, he is no Maciej and I will pull his ears later. Am I right, Maciuś, you wouldn’t make no nativity scene, would you?”
“Mum will pull nothing of mine,” Maciuś, the stoic, looked straight into the nativity scene gentleman’s eyes. The gentleman loosened his tie. “Mum will pull nothing of mine, cause I am Maciej and I did make the nativity scene.”
“Oh, did you then? Are you making fun of us, you little whippersnapper? Are you making fun of the gentleman? Well then tell us what this scene looks like? Go on, tell the gentleman, you little nativity snot, what does the scene look like?”
“One metre twenty four in height,” whispered Maciuś. “Fifteen windows, all stained-glass, seven opened at the front, three kings as if taken from Matejko’s  portrait gallery, a fixed manger, only angels move back and forth at the back. And a huge golden dome. I collected chocolate tinfoil all year long.
“Shall I make some tea?” mother burst out suddenly.
In her six metre kitchen obstacle race she jostled Maciuś, frozen in the centre of the room. She dropped a glass in the kitchen. Rustling sounds of slivers being swept were mixed with her moans:
“Would you look at that, such a snot and he’s an artist, Matejko, I swear to God.”
In a while the gentleman decided to stand up and he solemnly shook Maciuś’s hand.
“Maciej, I am very glad… Meeting you and everything… I mean, the prize, of course. Please tell me, cause we are all dying to know, how did you make the dome so beautiful? So precise, simply perfect, something unbelievable, how did you reached that effect?
“I fucking pilfered my mother’s ladle,” stated Maciej Matejko solemnly.
English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima

Zośka Papużanka

(born in 1978) writer, theatre specialist, Polish language teacher.

Zośka Papużanka is the author of the best-known novel debut of 2012. Her Szopka (Tomfoolery), telling about an apparently harmonious family, was nominated for a NIKE Literary Award and for Polityka’s Passport; critics compared her writing to Gombrowicz’s, Masłowska’s and Kuczok’s, not only because of the spectacular character of the debut, but also because of its stylistic inventiveness.

Papużanka works in one of Krakow primary schools as a teacher of the Polish language. She graduated in theatre studies at the Jagiellonian University and is working on her PhD thesis devoted to the reception of Federico Garcia Lorca in the Polish theatre. Additionally, she writes cabaret songs performed by the “Parawan” Theatre in Krakow.

She maintains that her literary idol is Vladimir Nabokov. She confesses that she writes her books on paper with a pen, and that a computer makes thinking difficult for her. (mj)

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