cover image The Shadow Cathcher

The Shadow Cathcher

Andrzej Szczypiorski. Grove/Atlantic, $21 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1601-7

With the same exquisite prose and psychological acuity that he brought to A Mass for Arras and Self-Portrait with Woman, Polish novelist and playwright Szczypiorski narrates the story of Krzystof, a sensitive, overprotected, naive 15-year-old boy taking huge leaps into adulthood just before his wealthy Warsaw family's bourgeois milieu is shattered forever by Hitler's tanks. The author, who fought in the Polish resistance and spent time in a concentration camp, renders a young man's emotional growth-his painfully awkward and funny sexual awakening, his dawning religious sensibility, his disillusionment with a deceptive, evil adult world-with subtle humor and artistry. The tender insights are all the more moving because Krzystof's life is played out against a backdrop of impending doom. Most of the novel is set in a manor house, symbol of a doomed social order, where ""Krzys"" is vacationing with his oppressive father, toward whom he harbors pent-up rage, and his perpetually anxious mother, who seems unable to express love. There, Krzys makes fumbling advances toward their host's young niece, Monika, for which he is soundly reprimanded. Szczypiorski mostly keeps politics in the muted background of this hypnotic tale, as the adults pessimistically debate whether and when war will start and Krzys expresses sympathy and solidarity with his Jewish classmates. The deft, convincing translation captures the eloquent, independent-minded voice of a modern master. (Mar.)