A Treatise on Shelling Beans

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A Treatise on Shelling Beans

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
This novel from Myśliwski (Stone Upon Stone) describes an unremarkable life in exhaustive detail; the result is about as exciting as its title implies. The unnamed narrator has returned to the area in Poland where he was born and raised. When younger, he worked on construction sites and as a musician. Now he is the caretaker of a group of cabins at a summer resort. As a custodian, he is well organized, bordering on the obsessive—training his dogs, for instance, to retrieve litter and return it to the doorstep of the cabin renter who dropped it. More colorful memories of the past are interwoven throughout the mundane present-day narrative. We learn about the narrator’s family and his older sisters’ various ways of avoiding the annoying household duty of shelling beans. Some of this can be interesting, such as the detailed picture Myśliwski gives of the construction workers’ close-knit culture. But he never uses one word when he can use 100, and by the end, readers may suspect an actual treatise on shelling beans would be equally illuminating, and far shorter. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
Praise for PEN Translation Prize-winning Stone Upon Stone:

"Like a more agrarian Beckett, a less gothic Faulkner, a slightly warmer Laxness ... Richly textured and wonderfully evocative ... Undeniably original." --Publishers Weekly, starred

"A marvel of narrative seduction, a rare double masterpiece of storytelling and translation ... Mysliwski's prose, replete with wit and an almost casual intensity, skips nimbly from one emotional register to the next, carrying dramatic force." --Times Literary Supplement

"Sweeping . . . irreverent . . With winning candor . . . Pietruszka chronicles the modernization of rural Poland and celebrates the persistence of desire." --The New Yorker

"Inspired by a surprise visitor, the elderly caretaker at a summer resort spills the beans on his entire life, from a childhood shattered by war to lost loves to his failed efforts to play the saxophone, told in relentless, pellucid detail that might puzzle thrill seekers but reads like life itself." -- Library Journal (Best Fiction in Translation 2013)

"Newcomers to Mysliwski should prepare themselves for a unique voice, intriguing characters and page after page of wily but thoughtful prose ... Our loquacious host is both riveting and endearing company ... Our garrulous narrator with his messy life is equally hard to resist. The best approach is simply to succumb to his extraordinary storytelling." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Feeling at times like a confession, this is another masterstroke by the acclaimed Polish author Wiesław Myśliwski ... his remarkable translator, Bill Johnston, matches him step for step." —Quarterly Conversation

"Should novels of the soil and its fruits ever enjoy a broad resurgence of popular interest, the Polish novelist Wiesław Myśliwski should stand as a prime beneficiary. . . . A closeness to the earth, to its remorseless rhythms and demands, to the hard, absurdity-ridden peasant life these demands and these rhythms engender, suffuses his books." — Los Angeles Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935744900
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 12/3/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 450
  • Sales rank: 608,414
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

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