Swimming in the Dark

Tomasz Jedrowski. Morrow, $25.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-289000-9
Jedrowski’s dazzling debut charts an evocative sexual awakening and coming of age amid political unease in early 1980s Poland. At a summer work camp in 1980, 22-year-old Ludwik Głowacki meets the broad-shouldered Janusz, with whom he discusses the repression and loneliness of gay men in their society. In second-person narration addressed to his new friend and lover, Ludwik reflects on furtive childhood desires (“Years of yearning compressed like a muscle, pulsating mercilessly”) and describes their secret savoring of a banned James Baldwin book. Despite their ease of connection, Ludwik and Janusz are on opposite sides of a political divide: Janusz is happy to work within the system and gets a government job deciding which books should be published, which Ludwik—who has to carefully craft a literary doctoral thesis that won’t go against the party line—sees as censorship. Additionally, Janusz’s sexual relationship with a wealthy young woman named Hania, which he carries on in hopes of benefiting from her father’s political connections, creates conflict between the two men. Readers will relish the indelible prose, which approaches the mastery of Alan Hollinghurst. Jedrowski’s portrayal of Poland’s tumultuous political transformation over several decades makes this a provocative, eye-opening exploration of the costs of defying as well as complying with social and political conventions. (Apr.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's last name.

Reviewed on : 01/16/2020
Release date: 04/28/2020
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-06-289002-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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