cover image Eleven-Inch


Michał Witkowski, trans. from the Polish by W. Martin. Seagull, $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-85742-891-2

Polish writer Witkowski (Lovetown) chronicles the travails of two teenage sex workers from Eastern Europe in this audacious tale. Dianka, a 16-year-old Slovakian who also goes by Milan, and Polish Michał, 17, who sports an “eleven-inch Schwanz,” move from client to client and from Vienna to Munich to Zurich in the early 1990s, each date taking on the feel of “a game of roulette,” as Michał muses. Michał is an unreliable narrator: “It’s probably best to take everything I say with a grain of salt,” he informs the reader after recounting his running away from home. Dianka, meanwhile, spends time with the muscly, tattoo-covered “The Rubbish Man” in Vienna, described by Michał as a “character in a gay comic book”; and an old man in Zurich who’s interested in hosting both her and Michał. Michał catalogs his work in numbing detail, though he charms with his wit, which Martin captures excellently in his smooth translation (“It was his ego that needed stroking... he wanted someone to emotionally shine his shoes,” he says about one of the johns). While some readers might find the episodic repetition tedious, this offers an electrifying dive into a memorable demimonde. (Oct.)