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A student pedals an old Ukraina bicycle between striking factories, delivering bulletins, in the tumultuous first days of the Solidarity movement... A shepherd watches, unseen, as a strange figure disembarks from a pirate ship anchored in the cove below, to bury a chest on the beach that later proves empty A prisoner in a Berber dungeon recounts his life's story - the failed pursuit of the world's very first language - by scrawling in the sand on his cell floorThe characters in Pawel Huelle's mesmerising stories find themselves, willingly or not, at the heart of epic narratives; legends and histories that stretch far beyond the limits of their own lives. Against the backdrop of the Baltic coast, mythology and meteorology mix with the inexorable tide of political change: Kashubian folklore, Chinese mysticism and mediaeval scholarship butt up against the war in Chechnya, 9-11, and the struggle for Polish independence.
Central to Huelle's imagery is the vision of the refugee - be it the Chechen woman carrying her newborn child across the Polish border (her face emblazoned on every TV screen), the survivor of the Gulag re-appearing on his friends' doorstep, years after being presumed dead, or the stranger who befriends the sole resident of a ghostly Mennonite village in the final days of the Second World War. Each refugee carries a clue, it seems, or is in possession or pursuit of some mysterious text or book, knowing that only it - like the Chinese 'Book of Changes' - can decode their story.What we do with this text, this clue, Huelle seems to say, is up to us.
Gdansk novelist and short story writer Pawel Huelle spent his early writing career as an employee of the Solidarity Movement's press office in the late 1980s. He subsequently achieved enormous success (both domestically and in translation) as a writer, and has been honoured with many prestigious awards. His first novel Weiser Dawidek (1987) - described by critics in Poland as 'the book of the decade', 'a masterpiece' and 'a literary triumph' and eliciting comparisons to Gnter Grass and Bruno Schulz - has been widely translated. Huelle followed Weiser Dawidek with Moving House and Other Stories (1991), First Love and Other Stories (1996), Mercedes Benz (2001), and Castorpe (2004). The latter novel was published in English translation (Serpent's Tale, 2007) and was shortlisted for the 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
'There can be little doubt the writing of these engrossing stories was something of a personal odyssey for Huelle, and, under his expert craftsmanship he guarantees a memorable journey for the reader too.'
'Every year, the balance of the books that reach this antepenultimate round shifts. This time, central and eastern Europe shines...'
Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of The Independent and one of the judges of the IFFP
'These are complex stories, blending mythology and ancient history with the tide of political change, moving easily between autobiography and invention, reality and fantasy, but they are also immensely readable.'
'Full of powerful imagery.'
The Financial Times
'??[These stories] glow with the warmth of the past that they conjure into life, and with the yearning for an intensity of feeling and experience that does not wane as life passes by.'
'These are often unashamedly complex narratives...echoes of Borges...seductively elusive allegory.'
The Good Book Guide
'It is largely distinguished by a quiet acceptance that loss is a part of life.'