A Thousand Peaceful Cities

( 2 )

Overview


One drunken afternoon, Mr. Traba and the narrator’s father decide to take charge of their lives and do one final good turn for humanity: travel to distant Warsaw and assassinate the de facto Polish head of state, First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party. And they decide to involve the narrator, the child Jerzyk in their plans . . .
Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Paperback
$12.91
BN.com price
(Save 13%)$14.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (21) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $4.00   
  • Used (15) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview


One drunken afternoon, Mr. Traba and the narrator’s father decide to take charge of their lives and do one final good turn for humanity: travel to distant Warsaw and assassinate the de facto Polish head of state, First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party. And they decide to involve the narrator, the child Jerzyk in their plans . . .
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

David Ulin
It offers Pilch—a prize-winning Polish novelist and newspaper columnist—a way to get at the absurdity of politics, the unbridgeable gap between public and private life. . . . The result is a vivid tension that is only amplified by the exuberance of the book.
Steven G. Kellman
Pilch’s antic sensibility confirms that he is the compatriot of Witold Gombrowicz, the Polish maestro of absurdist pranks. But readers with a taste for the fermented Irish blarney of Flann O’Brien, Samuel Beckett, and John Kennedy Toole might also savor Pilch.
Valentina Zanca
The acclaimed satirist and newspaper columnist Jerzy Pilch once again weaves fact and fiction in a memorable absurdist tale of flawed political resistance.
Valentina Zanca
The acclaimed satirist and newspaper columnist Jerzy Pilch once again weaves fact and fiction in a memorable absurdist tale of flawed political resistance.
Steven G. Kellman
Pilch’s antic sensibility confirms that he is the compatriot of Witold Gombrowicz, the Polish maestro of absurdist pranks. But readers with a taste for the fermented Irish blarney of Flann O’Brien, Samuel Beckett, and John Kennedy Toole might also savor Pilch.
David Ulin
It offers Pilch—a prize-winning Polish novelist and newspaper columnist—a way to get at the absurdity of politics, the unbridgeable gap between public and private life. . . . The result is a vivid tension that is only amplified by the exuberance of the book.
The Barnes & Noble Review

As first secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party from 1956-70, Wladyslaw Gomulka served as the Kremlin's viceroy in Warsaw. Poland was still a police state when he died of cancer, in 1982. So when two bungling old tipplers in A Thousand Peaceful Cities set out to assassinate Gomulka in 1963, we know from the outset that the preposterous plot will come to naught. "We will be like the heroes of a novel that has come unglued," says Józef Trąba, who contrives and drives the quixotic fantasy of slaying the leader of Poland. It is Mr. Trąba?like a figure out of Dickens, he is always referred to as "Mr."?who provides the crazy glue that binds the quirks in Jerzy Pilch's novel. Despite the scheme to kill Gomulka, the book is less a political thriller than the story of a boy's coming-of-age in a goofy household in a broken homeland.

The narrator of A Thousand Peaceful Cities is, like its author, named Jerzy, and he is in his early teens in 1963 when the events he recounts occur. Jerzy's father is a retired postal administrator whom Mr. Trąba calls "Chief." He calls Jerzy's mother, whose principal pastime is collecting postcards sent her from a globe-trotting Lutheran clergyman, "Mrs. Chief." It is during one of his frequent visits with the Chief that Mr. Trąba, "a diminutive, darkish, and dreadfully skinny man," hatches his plans for tyrannicide. Feeling the urgency of his own mortality, Mr. Trąba is determined to perform one final, transcendent deed. It is impractical to journey to distant Beijing to eliminate Mao Zedong, and Nikita Khrushchev's position as Soviet leader has become so precarious he might well be purged before his assassins could make it to Moscow. So the target is Gomulka. Mr. Trąba and the Chief will set out in the evening from Wisla, their Protestant town in southern Poland, reaching Warsaw by morning. They will spend the day sightseeing, until the moment is ripe to separate Gomulka from his life. Jerzy will accompany them, carrying the trio's weapon of choice, a Chinese crossbow.

These details are scattered throughout Mr. Trąba's rambling, pixilated orations. A virtuoso of intoxication, he drinks, he claims, "in order to intensify existence." He is especially fond of intensifying existence with blackthorn vodka, and, under its influence, he bloviates about politics, religion, and love. He is a colorful figure, but Pilch does not sentimentalize the garrulous guzzler. A visit to his squalid apartment makes the narrator aware that, for all his bluster, Mr. Trąba is a sad and lonely lush. Nevertheless, young Jerzy is encouraged to swill with his elders, and three decades later he writes his own memoir (which is what constitutes this novel) with the tendentious grandiloquence of a seasoned alcoholic. Partial to bombastic epithets, Jerzy repeatedly refers to the married woman he develops a crush on as "the angel of my first love" and the server in a pastry shop as "the most beautiful waitress in the world." He has much in common with the Jerzy who narrates The Mighty Angel, the Jerzy Pilch novel that was published in Polish in 2000 and in English last year; a souse who has been in rehabilitation eighteen times, he collects the stories of fellow alcoholics.

A Thousand Peaceful Cities derives its title from what "the angel of my first love" sees when she gazes into Jerzy's green eyes. Published in Polish in 1997, it is Pilch's third novel to appear in English. The first, His Current Woman (1995; translation 2002), follows a married philanderer's madcap attempts to hide his mistress in the attic of an abattoir. Pilch's antic sensibility confirms that he is the compatriot of Witold Gombrowicz, the Polish maestro of absurdist pranks. But readers with a taste for the fermented Irish blarney of Flann O'Brien, Samuel Beckett, and John Kennedy Toole might also savor Pilch. Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be perplexed. The assassination of Gomulka, which Mr. Trąba calmly discusses with a police investigator who advises him against it, is just a MacGuffin on which to hang digressions on Lutheran theology, Romantic poetry, stained glass windows, and feminine pulchritude. "This whole story constantly questions itself," the Chief, no fan of metafiction, observes. And he complains about "the grotesque nature of the entire undertaking." But it is the grotesquery of Pilch's buffoonery that makes A Thousand Peaceful Cities such an urbane pleasure.

--Steven G. Kellman

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934824276
  • Publisher: Open Letter
  • Publication date: 7/15/2010
  • Pages: 148
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Jerzy Pilch is one of Poland's most important contemporary writers. In addition to his long-running satirical newspaper column, Pilch has published several novels, and has been nominated for Poland's NIKE Literary Award four times; he finally won the Award in 2001 for The Mighty Angel.

David Frick is a professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)