cover image Moving House: Stories

Moving House: Stories

Pawel Huelle, Pawe Huelle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $18.95 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-15-162731-8

This collection of seven impeccably constructed and moving stories set in Gdansk goes a long way toward defining the Polish national character. For the most part, the narrators are young boys whose parents have strong views about which occupation was worse: that of the Nazis during WWII or the subsequent Soviet domination. In ``The Table,'' the narrator's mother wants to replace the family's dining-room table because it once belonged to a German. In vain her husband reminds her that the former owner was a courageous man who spoke out against Hitler, but he himself betrays an anti-Russian bias. In the title story, the young narrator is warned to stay away from the mysterious Madam Greta, whom, of course, he meets and who gently introduces him to the music of Richard Wagner. There is a touch of magic realism in ``Uncle Henryk,'' which involves the adventure of a teenaged boy and his aging uncle in a possibly nonexistent town where all disputes are resolved with cockfights. Huelle (Who Was David Weiser?), who took part in the Solidarity movement, writes with assurance and delicacy. The setting, too, is ideal: Gdansk's history as a divided city (it's been claimed by both the Poles and Prussians since the 14th century) helps highlight the absurdity of ethnic divisions in Eastern Europe. (Feb.)