Look, Polish novelists who stop by here. In case I’m not making myself clear enough: you have to re-read your books to make sure they make sense. Jack Kerouac can write a book in one non-stop draft, but you’re not Jack Kerouac. Today’s offender is Marek Krajewski, in his Festung Breslau. His attention to the cartography of World War Two Wroc?aw (the Breslau of the title) is remarkable. It turns out that the Lindner factory was opposite the former shelter for the homeless.
But not everything happens above ground. Two characters go into the underground world of Wroc?aw. I mean literally underground: in the novel there is a network of spacious corridors beneath the city streets; not narrow, fetid tunnels of stinking sewage but tunnels able to accomodate a motorcycle. It’s not with the frankly fantastic idea of a second Wroc?aw existing beneath the ground (the tunnels conveniently follow the street plan) that the problem arises. Suspension of disbelief and all that, and besides, maybe it’s true. What do I know? The problem is with the motorcycle. Noisy old contraptions, motorbikes, especially in enclosed spaces, like, say, underground tunnels. Krajewski realises this, writing:
…dojechali po dziesi?ciu minutach jazdy w og?uszaj?cym huku silnika, zwielokrotnionym przez puste korytarze.
…they got there after a ten minute journey accompanied by the deafening roar of the engine, multiplied by the empty corridor.
Go back just one page and you find the motorcyclist (still underground) kick-starting the engine and continuing unhindered his conversation with a third character.
I wonder if it’s because of word processors. Perhaps the idea of first, second, third drafts has gone, replaced by one, rolling, continuous — clearly inadequate — re-write, during which the author never gets the necessary distance from his precious baby to see such glaring errors. Either that or editors are not being paid enough.