Beech Boat

Janina Kosciakowska, Author, Anna Marianska, Translator
Janina Kosciakowska, Author, Anna Marianska, Translator Readers International $19.95 (300p) ISBN 978-0-930523-95-4
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Near the beginning of this fictional memoir of the Polish diaspora, we are told by the narrator, Janina, that ``there is nothing more pleasant, nothing more real than digressions.'' Indeed, digressions dominate this work: although based in London of 1945-46, the text frequently slides into brief vignettes from the war years. Janina's cousin Kostek, a fellow exile, shows her two wooden crosses he has made, prompting an account of the time when, at the behest of the Soviets, she removed a crucifix from the Lwow factory in which she worked and delivered it to a church. Many scenes are accessible to general readers, such as when Koscialkowska depicts her mother's reaction to a mobilization poster in August 1939: she begins playing Chopin at the piano and people gather outside their open window and listen silently. Likewise, Janina's comments on the anguish of exile and her thoughts on writing and language can speak to a broad audience. However, despite the translator's occasional enlightening notes, this work is so firmly rooted in Polish culture that much of its power and subtlety--and the significance of some of the events depicted--may elude many readers. (Nov.)
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