Palace

Wieslaw Mysliwski, Author, Wies1aw Mybsliwski, Author, Ursula Phillips, Translator
Wieslaw Mysliwski, Author, Wies1aw Mybsliwski, Author, Ursula Phillips, Translator Peter Owen Publishers $35.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-7206-0790-1
Reviewed on: 12/02/1991
Release date: 12/01/1991
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Originally published to acclaim in the author's native Poland in 1970 and made into a movie there, this novel is in some ways dated. The narrator, a Polish shepherd called Jacob, is deliberately a cipher, serving as a Polish everyman. After a bombing that signals the outbreak of an unnamed war, Jacob finds himself alone in the enormous palace of his master, the local lord. Everyone else has fled, and as Jacob wanders from room to room, he marvels at the wealth manifested there. He feels anger, too, and gives vent to an incongruously articulate monologue expressing his bitter resentment of the stratification of Polish society. Surveying portraits of the noble family, Jacob himself assumes the role of the lord of the manor--or perhaps several generations of lords, as this ``character'' has many voices. He personifies others as well, including a peasant girl who is treated as a sexual slave by the master of the estate. In his ramblings, Jacob portrays both classes unflatteringly-- the palace nobles as genuinely evil, the local peasants as little more than animals. Mysliwski is a master of literary pyrotechnics--Jacob's voices are grand opera, dramatic, exaggerated--and they are propelled by the author's moral outrage, which makes the destruction of the palace not only inevitable but justifiable. Yet the novel's sense of urgency seems to have been dispelled by time and intervening events. (Apr.)
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