A Minor Apocalypse

A Minor Apocalypse

As in his novel The Polish Complex, Konwicki's A Minor Apocalypse stars a narrator and character named Konwicki, who has been asked to set himself on fire that evening in front of the Communist Party headquarters in Warsaw in an act of protest.

Brilliantly translated by Richard Lourie, A Minor Apocalypse is one of the most important novels to emerge from Poland in the last twenty five years.

Read Online A Minor Apocalypse

What would be the thoughts running through his mind as he spends the last few hours of his life? The book has more of a socio-political bent than a psychological one. We do get to spend his last day with this man. A rather grim looking picture as it turns out, as the state is enveloped in totalitarianism, bureaucracy and propaganda and life is in ruins. Without pointing any fingers directly, Konwicki makes apparent the ridiculousness of the socio-political scenario, the degrading effect it has on the quality of everyman's life and the bizarreness of the situation the narrator is in and their idea of a revolution. Here is the list of words from hell: X (view spoiler)pussy jerk goddamnit twerp Everything's fucked as fucked can be.

And so, unsure of what he actually intends to do, Konwicki sets off on bleakly absurd odyssey across an uncertain Poland (probably late 70s when this was written, but the Party has been withholding and obfuscating the calendar for years, so who can tell? Even narrator-Konwicki may not escape the contempt of author-Konwicki, who presents him as something of a lech and whiner, a vestigial organ of the pre-Soviet days who has become increasingly useless and irrelevant to his times. There's nothing disguising the sheer bitterness about the state of Poland, here, no attempt to allegorize or otherwise obscure his contempt for the government (soviet and domestic), the people, even his fellow dissident artists.

What he did understand was how thin the support for Solidarity was amongst his fellow intellectual. Konwicki thus entertains his readers with their complex and sophisticated explanations of why it was in everyone's interest that they support the tough-minded communist regime rather than paying the dreadful consequences of continuing to resist. The internationally renowned movie director describes his life in this way: "Look I started with a film that slandered the Home Army, that is the very milieu I came from, then I made a film glorifying the ill-fated Home Army. I rolled along with it from one error to the next." The problem is that in writing his brilliant satire of the intelligentsia, Konwicki missed what was really happening in Poland.

The novel is less about the answer to that question, and more about the act of opposition itself, particularly through art, and whether there is power in words and if so, how can it be used and to what ends. Like Konwicki's novel The Polish Complex, the plot unfolds in a meandering way over the course of a single day in Warsaw.

The spurious measurement of the book against "actually existing Poland" misses the point entirely: he's a Polish writer, duh, but not only is politics ipso facto a global matter, it occurs within a historical context, the relevance of which interpretation is supposed to highlight rather than smugly confine to way-back-when-over-there. I would have closed them but the handle had come off." "Somehow everyone is satisfied with the places fate and the chain of genes has assigned them.

On the one hand this novel is an excellent allegory of the state Poland - read Warsaw - was in at the end of the 1970s and is full of glittering literary inventions. Konwicki wrote "A Minor Apocalypse" in 1979 at the end of the Gierek era. The Warsaw Konwicki walks and wanders through in this novel is a city where foreign currency is hard to get, Arab oil-tycoons book the nightclubs and disguised police agents patrol Nowy wiat, one of the most important streets in town. It's a Warsaw of dairy bars, clandestine meetings, intellectual speculations and drinking marathons; a quite exciting place indeed for those who can look at it without the need of filling up their bellies or entertain themselves with self-despising, sarcasm and disillusion. During my most recent visit in town, I did seen many Polish editions of books by Konwicki in bookstalls, but discovered how the dairy bars are all but gone replaced by gastropubs, banks or offices, the clandestine meetings are now sponsored gatherings.

Konwicki was educated at the Universities of Cracow and Warsaw and began writing for newspapers and periodicals. By the late 1960s he had quit the Communist Party, lost his job in the official film industry, and become active in the opposition movement.

  • English

  • European Literature

  • Rating: 3.86
  • Pages: 238
  • Publish Date: July 1st 1999 by Dalkey Archive Press
  • Isbn10: 1564782174
  • Isbn13: 9781564782175