Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Attention to Detail, Part Umpteen

Marcin Świetlicki’s second novel, Trzynaście (Thirteen), is a follow up to his first novel, Dwanaście (Twelve), which was a “magical, cult” novel, the blurb tells me. I read Twelve so I suppose that makes me a “follower with exaggerated zeal” of Świetlicki. Or maybe Świetlicki was yanking his publisher’s chain when he wrote the blurb: he uses “magical” several times in the novel, to plainly satirical effect.

It’s a whodunnit and I’m sure if I read it carefully I would find dozens of lapses unforgivable to my stern, logical, narrow western mind. But Świetlicki, at least, rises above all that – and he did work for years as a proof-reader. Trzynaście is more a state-of-the-gaff novel – very immediate, published very soon after the events, such as Papa Ratz’s visit, described in it – and throwing casual digs left and right, but mostly at the bubble world of Warsaw.

Here he is describing a policeman:

“Of course it would be lot more elegant if the Lieutenant had a terrible secret, a scar cutting acrosss his face, if he speeded around underground corridors on a motorbike…”

It’s good to see Świetlicki’s a reader.

In Twelve Świetlicki took the opportunity to mock bloggers. Now he widens his focus:

“Of course Mr. Greg takes all his luggage to the Wars*, his laptop too, naturally, it’s very becoming: to sit in this hideous, unstylish Wars and stare at the laptop screen. In this way a civilised person cuts himself off from these savages. In this way a civilised person spends time in the better world he deserves, the world of the internet.”

“Mr. Greg” is a Varsovian, his diminutive very dimininutive.

Lastly, for your consideration, is the ludicrous Warsaw bookshop scene, where a TV journalist is launching her poetry. Among those present are

“…the magical, cult publisher of Lampa. Plus one young painter from a good family. And one well known female singer who loves books, but only those bought in this place. In other bookshops books are uglier, worse and less wise. Coelho bought here tastes best, Coelho bought here tastes wonderful.”

At this gathering the Lieutenant feels out of place but as the narrator says, it is he who is the literary figure. The rest are all too real. In an author’s note, Świetlicki warns against identifying his made-up characters with real people but then again, he also thanks an Irek Grin for describing a Warsaw pub toilet to him.

*Wagon cars on Polish trains are operated by a company called “Wars.”

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