Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia and the Key to Heaven

Leszek Kolakowski, Author, Leszek Koakowski, Author, Agnieszka Kolakowska, Translator University of Chicago Press $30 (192p) ISBN 978-0-226-45039-1
The two collections of short stories compiled here were written in Poland 30 years ago by a University of Chicago professor and Oxford University Fellow perhaps best known in this country for his nonfiction Mainstreams of Marxism. The first book, set in the mythical kingdom of Lailonia, is vaguely reminiscent of ancient Persian folktales, with the author's own brand of predictably grim Eastern European humor a distinguishing factor. In one story, a self-centered baker, who has gone deeply into debt to acquire a magical chest (in which to store his face to protect it from the ravages of time), loses both the chest and the face to a pawnbroker. In another, a man named Ditto turns himself into a pancake to annoy his wife. Although somewhat amateurish, these 13 stories fare better than those in Key to Heaven , where the author, striving for an irreverent, jocular note, tastelessly reinterprets principal stories from the Bible. The lives of Abraham, Noah, Job et al. are reduced to the dimensions of fortune-cookie ``morals'' (which are, in fact, tacked to the end of each narrative). More successful are the author's charming pen-and-ink illustrations. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/10/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
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