HIS CURRENT WOMAN

Jerzy Pilch, Author, Bill Johnston, Translator , trans. from the Polish by Bill Johnston. Northwestern Univ. $15.95 (131p) ISBN 978-0-8101-1918-5

Don't let the awkward title of this comic novel put you off—what lies within is a delectable tale of adultery, family life and regret. In November 1990, veterinarian Pawel Kohoutek looks out the window of his house to see his "current woman" Justyna dragging a suitcase across the lawn. She intends to move in, and Kohoutek can think of no better plan than to install her in his attic. Thus begins a farce of concealment, as Kohoutek tries to prevent his wife and various relatives living with him from learning of her presence. Although the story is occasionally lent an overburnished, cinematic glow, there are many rhapsodic moments of great poetry, especially as the novel progresses to its balanced—and probably just—conclusion. Pilch, who writes eloquent and witty prose beautifully rendered into English by Johnston's translation, brings his confused characters' interior lives to the fore in great, flowing, humorous monologues. Kohoutek, a devout and completely irrepressible adulterer, is an intriguing protagonist; his mistress is just as uncontrollable, constantly threatening to make herself known to Kohoutek's strong-willed and intolerant wife. There is, to be sure, a strain of misogyny running throughout the book, but it is usually balanced by the jaundiced eye Pilch turns on humanity in general. Readers who dip into this brief, light tale of the consequences of indiscretion will not be sorry—unlike the book's protagonist. (Apr.)

Forecast:Originally a newspaper columnist, and a best-selling author in his native Poland, Pilch has been hailed as "the hope of young Polish prose" by Czeslaw Milosz. This well-deserved encomium probably won't do much for sales, but strong reviews in the major papers could get the ball rolling for this university press book.

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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