cover image My First Suicide

My First Suicide

Jerzy Pilch, trans. from the Polish by David Frick. University of Rochester/Open Letter, $15.95 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-934824-40-5

With his latest, Pilch (A Thousand Peaceful Cities) masterfully negotiates sentiment with a clear-eyed vision of his autobiographical narrator’s shortcomings and disappointments, suggesting a Dubliners set in Krakow. Ten sections that walk a precarious line between short story and chapter chronicle the disappointments of the modern urban man. Many of them deal with thwarted plans, such as when Piotr, a moderately famous writer, recollects his first suicide attempt from a distance of 40 years. Balancing the innocent insight of his 12-year-old self with the awareness of the present, he recounts his decision to jump from his parents’ apartment. In a later section, Piotr meets a moderately famous model. “When great love comes along,” he notes after fumbling his come-on, “a person always thinks he has fallen in love with the most beautiful woman in the world. But when a person has fallen in love with the most beautiful woman in the world, he can have problems”; as this section and others demonstrate, the problems are often different from what one expects. When Piotr tells the model that he’s working on a “collection of short stories of a different sort,” she ridicules the notion. Pilch’s readers will feel quite differently. (May)