Motions

Sławomir Shuty
Motions
  • W.A.B.
    Warszawa 2008
    ISBN 978-83-7414-404-9
    123 x 195
    264 pages
    hardcover

Thus far, Sławomir Shuty has been chiefly known as a prose writer who works within realistic conventions to present the ups and downs (but mainly the downs) of contemporary life, writing about over-inflated consumerism, the depression of corporate employees, and the tragi-comic fortunes of people whose income is below the national average. This is why his latest work, a novel entitled "Motions", comes as a surprise. This is madcap grotesque, a true freak-show of bizarre and twisted images and situations. On the surface, the story takes place in a small town, in a community of young people, third-rate actors, small-time drunks and barflies, people who would like to do something big, but aren’t quite sure what that might be. They drift around bars, go to parties, have flings with whoever comes along, and set up odd predicaments. They are caught in constant, anxious motion, in search of meaning, a goal of some sort that would be worth pursuing, but they only multiply the chaos of the world they’ve been thrown into. It would seem as though Shuty has decided to illustrate the chaos of the contemporary world, a chaos that embraces all spheres of life, language included. In his new prose, language is a garbage pit of threadbare phrases, words stripped of their content, in which kitsch mingles freely with the sublime. In "Motions", however, nothing is entirely clear or unambiguous. The world created in the novel might be merely a projection of one of the protagonist’s imaginations, a man whose ambition is to be a mad demiurge. Shuty writes: "the hooks binding reality slackened once and for all, and everything became one big accident, a muddle of sketchy fragments that shuffled and blended according to principles only they knew." Searching for those principles, tracing these winding narrative paths – some of which only lead you astray – might just prove fascinating for Shuty’s readers.

- Robert Ostaszewski

“It’s been so long, hasn’t it, and here we are at last, aren’t we?” said Bulsza, trying to keep a tight rein on his heart’s amorous spasms, “What did you do before you met me?”
“Oh, honey...,” Lilka tenderly whispered, “we’ve only got a few moments to share, let’s not change them in for reminiscing about situations as trifling as petty coins.” And full of tender emotions she pressed her body to his, then backed off a snort’s-distance and gazed affectionately into his eyes. “I shall miss you terribly.”
With the instinct of an actor, he wiped away the tear that had appeared on his cheek.
“My dearest, in memory of the moments we spent as one, I entreat you to take care!”
“My dearest!”
And even if a mysterious frost had come between them at some point earlier on, now all the ice floes had melted, they threw themselves into each other’s arms, as if they were never to see one another again, and it seemed as though there would be no end to the kisses, the caresses and the lingering gazes. The time of departure nonetheless drew relentlessly nearer, and finally Bulsza grabbed the girl by the waist, drank helplessly from her lips parted like an invitation, struggling to fix in his mind their singular taste of cherry brandy, threw on his backpack and, guided by God knows what whim, set off without so much as a glance behind him.
The commanding tone of the electronic information signal tore her from her amorous reverie. “Have you already put together an outfit for the foam party?” Lilka had no time to respond before the telephone was pleasantly vibrating in the palm of her hand.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Hey, just giving you a ring, what’s going on?”
“Nothing, how about with you?”
“Nothing, you going out somewhere tonight?”
“Is there something going on?”
“You haven’t heard? We’re celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the acting craft of a certain extremely legendary figure.”
“Oh,” sighed Lilka, pressing the telephone to her breast.
Upon hearing of this event her body had experienced a hormone-management disturbance, but then, as if burned by holy water, she jolted awake and decided she wouldn’t sully the marvellous melancholy of the coming evening, which was to be devoted in full to the contemplation of her happy moments with Bulsza.
She let herself be coaxed, begged for ages, persuaded and pleaded with, until she finally resolved to go hang out for a bit with Marta, with whom she had some talking to do, and who had also announced she’d make a brief visit.
And thank God she decided to go!
The ceremony for the tenth anniversary of the acting craft of a certain legendary figure turned out to be a splendid experience. She’d never enjoyed herself so much, it was just as if all her imaginings of fun times had materialised themselves into this evening; it was just like a scene from a film. She danced, sang, laughed and patted fleeting acquaintances, she heard all sorts of peculiar stories and said all sorts of peculiar things about her friends, both male and female, the sorts of stories that under normal circumstances would never have passed through her lips.
But it also must be said that she blurted out a few interesting tidbits that had long been awaiting their public debuts. For example, the secret story with Borda, Paciuła’s friend, with whom by the way she also had certain mysterious affiliations; or the intriguing tales of Tyrpak and his girlfriend from the countryside. There was no end to the questions and replies, and after she’d already been talking and talking Błachut showed up in the bar, a man she’d once gone to for some peculiar ballroom-dancing lessons, which actually more resembled meditation workshops for some flaky religion, whose main ritual involved saying some secret words in exceedingly mystically-charged surroundings.
Błachut was an acquaintance of Skakuj, a decorator of unsophisticated interiors, who obviously had something eating him up on the inside, because he was always sour-faced and unreceptive, but over whom ruddy-cheeked girls were always fawning, due to the position he had in the hierarchies, in the first place because he was in social contact with the local-culture-producing theatre troupe that was so admired in town and even beyond its boundaries, and secondly because he was a good friend of chubby Bordy, who in turn knew everyone worth knowing.
Everyone recalled that during the previous dance Borda had come to the bar dressed as a high-ranking religious official holding power in town, and then, in a fit of passion, had thrown himself down on a barroom table, and proceeded to simulate copulating with it. All those assembled had been so taken aback by his theatrical interpretation of a familiar musical motif that no one had managed to click their cameras.
Word had it in the local community that Borda was carrying on enigmatic relations with Mariola. A great deal was said and heard about their mutual relations, all the more so since things had been rocky with them of late, and rockiness is a very tasty morsel for social exchanges of opinion. During the above-mentioned evening, when Częczek and Lupta rolled a huge tractor tyre through the glass doors of the bar, completely devastating Paciuła’s artistic installation, Mariola had publicly praised her partner’s passion for causing a stir.
“Borda is really well built,” she said, smiling over the counter, “he has some of the makings of a real actor: he’s scatterbrained, messy, and uses fine colognes.” When asked if it was true that Borda liked to sleep with his dog, she said that, naturally, he did have his extravagances from time to time, at which point he himself got interested, because apparently he’d overheard that the conversation was about him, and he added that all this had nothing to do with his sex life.
His friends begged to differ.

Translated by Soren Gauger