Thursday, 1 December 2011
Andrzej Bursa on the left. Born in Krakow, Poland, in 1932, he had a brief publishing opportunity between Stalin’s death in 1953 and his own death at the age of 25. I had lost this photo, then found it tonight. He's neither writing nor posing, and how I come to have this photo is one of several mysteries. The child in the centre, pirate’s cutlass in his lap; the old woman already fading to the right, as if just waiting to be cropped out; something off-stage, to the left, they are looking at. It’s not how author photos usually come. Buy the book.
Boyd Tonkin in the Independent: ‘Dead at 25 in 1957, the Polish postwar firebrand Andrzej Bursa acquired a reputation as a quick-burning, existentially tormented rebel: a literary James Dean of the Stalinist era. This selection of his quirky, darkly witty work – poems, fables, above all the titular novella – does indeed summon the shades of Beckett or Kafka from time to time. Everyday life slips into scenes of fantasy or horror, as when the local Party secretary sacrifices children to a dragon, “an old, blind, mouldy beast” that still tears them apart. Yet Bursa’s dark humour and deadpan satire – finely captured here by translator Wiesiek Powaga – keep utter bleakness at bay. Some will think of Dostoyevsky when it comes to the snuffed-out relative in the novella; read to the end and you hear something like Joe Orton’s wicked cackle too.’