cover image Killing Auntie

Killing Auntie

Andrzej Bursa, trans. from the Polish by Wiesiek Powaga. New Vessel (, $12.95 trade paper (110p) ISBN 978-1-939931-21-4

Disaffected university student Jurek struggles to dispose of the corpse of his aunt%E2%80%94a "very, very good woman" whom he murdered, for no apparent logical reason, with two hammer blows to the head%E2%80%94in this deliciously wicked novel by the late Polish author Bursa, who died at age 25. In an introduction to the book from the publisher, readers are guided to read the story, which was first published in 1969, as "a commentary on the political situation of 1950s Poland." While an allegorical framework would certainly help to explain some of the book's surrealistic elements%E2%80%94and particularly its turn toward dream logic in the final chapters%E2%80%94contemporary readers will also find plenty to enjoy (one sequence of unwitting cannibalism is particularly memorable) in the story itself. It amounts to a sustained tirade against what Jurek calls the "[t]housands of days, thousands of hours, during which nothing ever happens." Jurek's cruelty and misanthropy are matched only by his lust for excitement. Observing a fire into which he'll soon place his aunt's foot, he admires the "transformation of frail dry flakes now crackling in scarlet opulence." As he makes various attempts to get rid of his aunt's body%E2%80%94sawing it, burning it, mailing it, and even enlisting the help of his girlfriend, who briefly rekindles his "faith in life"%E2%80%94the reader will find surprising sympathy for this odd character. (Aug.)