“History has no use for witnesses.”
When Marek Hłasko sent this novel to publishers in Poland in the mid-1950s, it was uniformly rejected. When he asked why, he was told: “This Poland doesn’t exist.”
Long out of print, The Graveyard is Hłasko’s portrait of a system built on such denial and willful blindness. Factory worker Franciszek Kowalski is on his way home one evening after drinking with an old friend from the People’s Army when he unthinkingly yells some insults at a policeman. His outburst is taken as criticism of the government, and he is arrested and then expelled from the Party.
Kowalski attempts to rehabilitate himself by gathering testimonies from the men he had fought alongside, but each meeting with his former comrades takes him further into the underworld that he realizes has been there all along.
Written midway through Hłasko’s meteoric career, The Graveyard set its author and the Polish Communist government implacably against each other, and it’s easy to see why: Hłasko pulls no punches in portraying a regime that is maintained by constant surveillance, intimidation, and profound psychological manipulation.
A classic novel of political disillusionment from one of Poland’s seminal writers, an original “Angry Young Man” who lived fast, died young, and wrote brilliantly.
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