Tomasz Różycki
  • Znak
    Kraków 2012
    ISBN: 978-83-240-1891-8
    198 pp

Bestiary is the late debut novel by an acclaimed poet, one of the most interesting authors of his generation. The book uses a highly original prose style—a dense, literary vision full of metaphoric meaning that is hard to “translate” into discursive language. Here the nameless main character wakes up in the middle of a July night in a strange apartment. It is no secret that he has overdone it with drinking. Disoriented and somewhat delirious, he wants to go home, where his wife and kids are waiting for him. But this trivial action is transformed into a mysterious, phantasmagoric journey—not so much through the city, in which the contours of Opole are recognizable, as through the intricacies and mists of memory. It is as much the main character’s individual memory, the memory of a family over an indeterminate span of time, as it is the memory of a place, that is, a city that itself is made up of many historical layers (strata of history and culture) resembling a palimpsest.
It is difficult to speak of plot here. But if it came down to reconstructing one in the most general outline, it would look like this: first the main character—levitating above the city—finds the apartment occupied by his great grandmother Apolonia, who gives him a key that has to be delivered to her sisters (as almost all of the themes in Bestiary, the key takes on a metaphoric meaning). Then Uncle Jan appears, and our hero takes a strange journey with him through an underground city. His uncle forecasts a flood, which quickly becomes a connecting theme for fantastical events. He tries to explain the meaning of the great flood in turn to another relative—a paternal uncle. It has to do with a fundamental purification—maybe of history, or maybe of the present. It is unclear. Other events of the novel (unending meanderings through the labyrinth of cellars and underground channels, meetings with relatives or their ghosts) also elude a stable meaning. In any case, the flood indeed occurs, and the ark built by the uncle in order to rescue the family sinks, although the finale is not gory. The hero finally comes out of his dream, even if it may only be from an exercise of the imagination. Nothing here is resolved in the end. However, what is certain is that Różycki stays true to his earlier themes and obsessions, introducing us to subjects that we know, to some extent, from his luminous poems. Of course, this is not to say that Bestiary is secondary to his regard for the poetic experience, but rather that it compliments it perfectly.

- Dariusz Nowacki

Tomasz Różycki (born 1970) is a poet, essayist, and translator from French. He is the author of seven volumes of poetry, among them the widely recognized mock epic poem Twelve Stations (2004). He was born and still lives in Opole.