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Swimming in the Dark – tekijä: Tomasz…
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Swimming in the Dark (alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi 2020; vuoden 2021 painos)

– tekijä: Tomasz Jedrowski (Tekijä)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1676126,119 (3.92)6
Jäsen:JElliott-Smith
Teoksen nimi:Swimming in the Dark
Kirjailijat:Tomasz Jedrowski (Tekijä)
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing (2021), 256 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto, Have read
Arvio (tähdet):
Avainsanoja:2021

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Swimming in the Dark (tekijä: Tomasz Jedrowski) (2020)

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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 6) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
Well that was sit-down-and-devour-it-in-a-day good, y'all.

Gorgeous prose follows Ludwik through from his queer awakening in childhood to his first relationship in the final days of communist Poland. This coming of age tale intertwines his experience of romance with his social awakening with such elegance and grace that the two become inseparable from one another as with his personal growth. An immersive and compelling read. Great for lovers of romance and historical fiction alike.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways. ( )
  Zoes_Human | Jun 6, 2021 |
Real Rating: 4.75* of five

I CHECKED THIS BOOK OUT OF MY LOCAL LIBRARY. USE YOUR LIBRARY, FOLKS! THEY NEED US.

My Review
: Happy Pride Month, US QUILTBAGgers! Let's celebrate what our fellows in Poland can't: A safe, sane Pride Month of more freedoms than were even conceivable even in my own youth of this lifetime.

Ludwik is a normal child: he knows he knows nothing, is interested in the things the people around him tell him to ignore, and most of all is just discovering, like all kids, that he's Weird. Trouble is his weird isn't going to be so easy to live with in Communist Poland: he's fallen in love, at nine years old, with Beniek. A boy. But also a Jewish boy. In the 1960s, World War II was very much alive and deeply scarringly real to Poles. Somehow the Jews, despite their vanishing into German ovens, are to blame for everything...and here's little faggot Ludwik falling for a Jewboy. Oh boy.

Then one day, Ludwik stops seeing Beniek around the way he always has been. Nothing...absence...awful heartbreak to a child whose loves are so fierce because they are so new. There is nothing like a disaster to make one aware of the freight we bring from our pasts, all the way out to our death.
I was transported into a vision of my life that made me so dizzy my head began to spin. Shame, heavy and alive, had materialized, built from buried fears and desires.
He's fallen; the only one who could catch him is now in Israel. (The Six-Day War happened, the Jews were expelled from Poland yet again.) Poor little guy, dropped into an ugly reality that connects to nothing, not any thing, in his loving heart. What the world will do to him....

Among the first things it does to him is grow him up: mother and grandmother lock themselves into her bedroom, doing something deeply mysterious together. He pesters and nags, and finally Granny tells his mother it's time to come clean: they bring their Ludzio into her bedroom and listen to Radio Free Europe. For the first time, they allow him to be One of Them. Sadly.
I thought of Mother, of her pointless life, her passivity. Of the years she’d spent listening to the radio, explaining her truths to me, and all of it for what? She’d died a submissive employee at the Electricity Office and had never dared to speak up or live out any of her ideas.
The sadness of a dead parent, a father whose entire life was spent far away from them by his choice, never spoken of still less to, results in an unmoored adolescent. Luckily for him, he is at least aware that he is gay...that he can not be like the boys he tres to emulate for mother and for grandmother to see, walking with a girl hand in hand along their street. One post-loss night, an older man in a park where THEY go takes his innocence. (As a side note, if not for one of those same older men I'd've never experienced a positive sexual encounter possibly at all, so no tutting about ephebeophiles or the like.) It is, from that moment on, a necessity that his bitter angry self, unable to fake an identity he despises the same way he despises the lying system he's entrapped by, leave Wroclaw and get to university in Warsaw.

Yay. That happens, there he is in his glory, but all courses end. At the end of his schooling, he is required to spend a summer harvesting beets, and there...
...my eyes fell on you. I had never seen you before—not consciously, anyway. Yet my mind felt strangely relieved, as if it had recognized someone.
–and–
“Pleased to meet you,” you said. “I’m Janusz.”

Janusz. Two syllables that rise and fall and follow each other logically, almost inevitably, and whose sound together is so familiar, so natural, that the meaning of its parts remained hidden to me until years later: Ja, meaning “I” in our language, and nusz, sounding just like our word for “knife.”
–and–
You smiled, dissolving the tension, your teeth flashing in the light of the fire. We sat there for a while, in our private silence, worlds shifting in me.
The dawning of first love! "Worlds shifting in me"...how utterly perfect and how very poignant to one so far from it as I am.

It seems bizarre to me, that I'm the same age as Ludwik. I look into this mirror, lightly distorted, and think...yes, that was it, these thoughts are familiar though I was doing this before Ludzio in age. But yes. I'm right there, I'm fully immersed, this is the way it felt, that's almost exactly what I thought.

It's unsurprising, then, that the rest of the course of first love is pretty particularly followed. Fear of rejection, fear of acceptance! Fear of the future. Wild, surging riptides of Jealousy! Swimming fearless and free in a moonlit pool, filling the darkness with your love for him, his for you, while every beat of the world's heart pushes pushes pushes...before you know its direction.
I don’t know how many days we stayed at the lake, because each one was like a whole world, every moment new and unrepeatable.
–and–
You listened, really listened, gentle eyes taking me in without judgment, making me feel more heard than I knew I could be.
So universal, the course of that first true love. There are minor variations, specific things to a time or a place. The course, however, is steady and unvarying: delight, disillusionment, dénouement. Then, if one is amazingly lucky, a new relationship grows into place over the old one.

The time of Solidarność, "Solidarity" in English, was the beginning of the end of Soviet Communism. Ludzio feels it in his bones, it causes him to rear back and resist and to refuse the whole idea of collaboration that his Janusz is making into a future...sadly we know how that will turn out for him.
The queues for the shops swelled like bloody lips—deliveries had become so few and far between that the only way to get anything was to wait. The lines had started to occupy whole streets.
And now Ludzio's frustrations are personal, his belovèd landlady/substitute grandmother, is very very ill and the system simply...doesn't care.
“There must be something else you can do.” I felt the moment slipping through my fingers. “Please, can’t you make an exception?”

She raised her eyes toward me again, this time without a trace of empathy. “I told you what to do. Now stop blocking the line for your fellow citizens.”
Why I did not give this book its seemingly merited perfect score is simple: Threads are raised but not snipped or woven, merely left dangling. The doctorate Ludzio spends so much time and effort on doesn't go anywhere...there is simply no mention of it ever again. Similarly the absolutely divine Pani Kolecka, his Warsaw grandma-quivalent and landlady...from dying to recovering to vanished. Um...not really acceptable. How he gets to New York instead of Chicago, where he applied for a passport to go, is never discussed. What does he do in New York, in Midtown no less? What business would need him? Has he gone to work for the UN as a translator? The Polish Government would have some stern words to say about that.... Yes, it's a book told in second person (blech) addressing a man the narrator's left behind forever and will never see again, but some sense of how that came to be *possible* was missing and missed.

In the end, though: It is exquisite pain to let go, to release the weight of the truth into a pool—deep, dark, and desalinated of all hints, innuendos, just lies—and save yourself, your future, your actual physical body without harming anyone else's life at all.
“I adored this book more than you knew,” it read there in your stocky, right-leaning script. “I wanted to keep it . . . but it’s yours. Bring it back one day if you can. I’ll be here. J.”
Fuck honesty. The price is too high, the interest Life charges is usurious, the carnage of Being Truthful lasts generations. Bravo Ludzio. ( )
1 ääni richardderus | Jun 1, 2021 |
Swimming in the Dark is a poignant novel of forbidden gay love in Communist Poland in the 1980s. It is written from one lover, Ludwik, to the other lover, Janusz, after a year apart. Ludwik pours out his heart and his memories.
Ludwik and Janusz meet at a summer camp, and after the camp, they consummate their love. But, it seems that they approach the political atmosphere differently.
Written after Ludwik has moved to the US, this novel depicts the difficulty of being yourself and admitting to yourself who you are and who you love.
Well written, very sad. ( )
  rmarcin | Apr 25, 2021 |
❧ audiobook review

When it comes to audiobooks I'm insanely picky about narrators. Storytelling is just as important as writing, after all. Let me just saw that not only is the writing for this book beautiful, so too is the narration. I totally, totally recommend the audiobook. :)

I turned my head and looked along the line to find Carolina, but instead my eyes fell on you. I had never seen you before. Not consciously, anyway. Yet my mind felt strangely relieved, as if it had recognised someone.

This book follows Ludwik and Janusz as they fall in love and traverse life in 1980s Poland. The writing style reminds me of [b:The Lessons|40004674|The Lessons|Naomi Alderman|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1525116681l/40004674._SY75_.jpg|9786494], which I read at the start of last year. Lush, evocative prose that's just determined to break your heart.

No matter what happens in the world, however brutal or dystopian a thing, not all is lost if there are people out there risking themselves to document it. Little sparks cause fires, too.

That line absolutely floored me. Fantastic prose and I can't wait to read more by Jedrowski! I definitely recommend this one! ( )
1 ääni rjcrunden | Feb 2, 2021 |
Well, this is a strange thing! It calls itself a historical novel, and technically that's what it is, since it's set before the author's birth in a time and place he didn't experience himself, and it's also separated from the setting by being written in English but set in a Polish-speaking environment. But apart from that, it's written without any 21st century hindsight that I could spot, as a kind of simple pastiche of an eighties gay novel. Even the style feels like a fairly accurate impersonation of an immature writer of the eighties who has recently been on an American creative writing course and has read far too much James Baldwin, Edmund White and Andrew Holleran. (None of which, as far as I'm aware, is true of the real Jędrowski.)

You could say this fills a gap, in that there aren't all that many first-hand accounts of growing up gay in communist-era Eastern Europe, so maybe a book like this could help us to imagine what that might have been like. But it turns out that what Jędrowski imagines it might have been like is almost exactly the way we would have imagined it too, i.e. Giovanni's room with extra sugar-beet and pierogi, and there is very little in the way of unexpected detail to take us into the specific experience of LGBT life behind the iron curtain.

A charming, sad, love story, if you don't mind things that are a little bit overwritten, but otherwise a somewhat unnecessary book. ( )
  thorold | Oct 13, 2020 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 6) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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As to the action which is about to begin, it takes place in Poland--that is to say, nowhere.
--Alfred Jarry
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Wszystko mija, nawet najdłuższa żmija.
(Everything passes, even the longest of vipers.)
--Stanisław Jerzy Lec
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To Laurent, my home.
Ensimmäiset sanat
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I don't know what woke me up tonight.
Sitaatit
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