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Waiting for the Dog to Sleep: Short Fiction…
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Waiting for the Dog to Sleep: Short Fiction

by Jerzy Ficowski

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Waiting for the Dog to Sleep is poet, translator, and scholar Jerzy Ficowski's only collection of prose. In these short fictions and sketches Ficowski reinterprets a question posed by the writer central to him, Bruno Schulz, about the mythologization of reality. For Schulz, fiction was a way of turning the quotidian into the fantastical and eternal. Ficowski's prose seems to reinterpret this approach to address the sense of loss and bleak landscape of postwar Poland. Effortlessly weaving memory, religious ritual, daily life, and the magical, he hints at a sinister presence lurking behind these dreamlike tales — a trace of ruin or disintegration always present as the narrator repeatedly struggles to link some aspect of a past that has been annihilated with a present that is foreign and hostile.

Not having belonged to any definable literary school or circle, Ficowski occupies an unique place in Polish literature. His only identifiable precursors might be Boleslaw Lesmian (whose Russian verse he has translated to Polish) and of course Bruno Schulz.

"In this collection of 28 short, lyrical prose pieces, Ficowski, a Polish poet and scholar who participated in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, blends hallucination, reminiscence and reverie in a way that suggests but never spells out the horrors and deprivations of life in Poland during and after WWII. [...] Many pieces read like dream journals, or "recollections confused with fantasy," unraveling from reality in a style recalling the work of Borges and Calvino, and the dark, surrealist fables of Bruno Schulz, the subject of Ficowski's best known nonfiction work, Regions of the Great Heresy. But the collection contains pieces, such as the profound "Intermission," about a brief, terrifying lull during the Warsaw Uprising, that clearly touch on his own experience of war and loss. First published in Poland in 1970, this expressive collection illustrates how a suffering nation can find refuge in dreams, even if those dreams are haunted by a reality the dreamer is trying to escape."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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