This novel is a revelation! It was hard to believe that anything could outdo Snow White and Russian Red, yet here Dorota Masłowska, the most capable writer of the younger generation and winner of the Polityka Passport and Nike prizes, has given us what may be her best novel yet.
Everything we encounter here is a surprise. The story is set not in Poland, as her previous work has been, but in New York. The narrative style, marked till now by wild experimentation, has been trimmed and polished; the storytelling moves competently and honestly, at the same time losing none of its expressive power – that is, its magnetism. The sentences give the impression not of strain, but of having written themselves, though on the other hand their elegance and precision, the accuracy of their similes and metaphors, as well as of their jokes, stand as evidence of the writer’s serious labor. The story focuses on a single heroine. The one thing that has not changed is the accuracy of the author’s observations and the explosive sense of humor to which she – once again a character in her own book! – has accustomed us.
The protagonist here is Farah (“Farah Fawcett,” her acquaintances call her derisively), single and approaching thirty, though spiritually she seems more like an old lady. Farah spends her time reading spiritual self-help books, mulling over her unsuccessful life and generally trying somehow to kill time while also in the grips of a passion for healthy living, which she takes to such absurd extremes that she disinfects her razor before attempting self-mutilation. She also survives a personal tragedy when her best friend Jo finds herself a boyfriend. We also meet an entire pleiad of her (more distant than close) acquaintances, who take antidepressants and try to make it in the world of avant-garde art…
Honey, I Killed the Cats is a send-up of the Western, big-city lifestyle and of all the contemporary trends that go with it: of cheap spirituality shoddily copied from the East, of the pressure to look good, of healthy eating, but most of all of being ostentatiously happy. As usual, Masłowska makes us laugh, only so that we will freeze a moment later with that laughter in our mouths as we look upon our own shallowness, poor judgment, and stupidity.
And finally at our solitude, for in this book, the most mature from the author of The Queen’s Peacock, one of the main themes is the constant, desperate, and doomed effort to reach another human being. What is more, this solitude is described in an explosive mix of language in which the American sitcom meets the inner-city street, Google Translate, and the poetic registers particular to its author. A marvelous book.