A Treatise on Shelling Beans

Wiesław Mys´liwski, trans. from the Polish by Bill Johnson. Archipelago (Consortium, dist.), $22 (450p) ISBN 978-1-935744-90-0
This novel from Mys´liwski (Stone Upon Stone) describes an unremarkable life in exhaustive detail; the result is about as exciting as its title implies. The unnamed narrator has returned to the area in Poland where he was born and raised. When younger, he worked on construction sites and as a musician. Now he is the caretaker of a group of cabins at a summer resort. As a custodian, he is well organized, bordering on the obsessive—training his dogs, for instance, to retrieve litter and return it to the doorstep of the cabin renter who dropped it. More colorful memories of the past are interwoven throughout the mundane present-day narrative. We learn about the narrator’s family and his older sisters’ various ways of avoiding the annoying household duty of shelling beans. Some of this can be interesting, such as the detailed picture Mys´liwski gives of the construction workers’ close-knit culture. But he never uses one word when he can use 100, and by the end, readers may suspect an actual treatise on shelling beans would be equally illuminating, and far shorter. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/23/2013
Release date: 12/03/2013
Genre: Fiction
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