cover image Stone upon Stone

Stone upon Stone

Wieslaw Mysliwski, trans. from the Polish by Bill Johnston, Archipelago (Consortium, dist.), $20 trade paper (534p) ISBN 978-0-9826246-2-3

Like a more agrarian Beckett, a less gothic Faulkner, a slightly warmer Laxness, Mysliwski masterfully renders in Johnston's gorgeous translation (Mysliwski's first into English) life in a Polish farming village before and after WWII through the eyes of Szymus Pietruszka, a seven-times–wounded member of the Polish resistance and a fun-loving, hard-drinking dandy in mourning over the long-lost peace of prewar village life. Having recently returned to the farm from a lengthy hospitalization following an accident that mangled his legs, Szymus sifts through memories of his family—dead mother and father, three brothers—and the many girls he has known, plans a family tomb, and struggles to preserve the land in the face of rapid change. Richly textured and wonderfully evocative, the novel renders Szymus as a distinctly memorable character, whose humor and hard-earned wisdom lend beauty to a bleak vision of a land destroyed by war and ravaged by history, and whose voice—sometimes warm, sometimes ornery, always elegiac—is undeniably original, his digressions and ruminations forming a story that reminds us that "words are a great grace. When it comes down to it, what are you given other than words?" (Dec.)