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Myśliwski's grand epic in the rural tradition—a profound and irreverent stream of memory cutting through the rich and varied terrain of one man’s connection to the land, to his family and community, to women, to tradition, to God, to death, and to what it means to be alive. Wise and impetuous, plain-spoken and compassionate Szymek, recalls his youth in their village, his time as a guerrilla soldier, as a wedding official, barber, policeman, lover, drinker, and caretaker for his invalid brother. Filled with interwoven stories and voices, by turns hilarious and moving, Szymek’s narrative exudes the profound wisdom of one who has suffered, yet who loves life to the very core.
Listen to Three Percent's podcast discussion with Bill Johnston on his translation of Stone Upon Stone.
Winner of Three Percent's Best Translated Book Award!
A seamless epic . . . Fresh and surprising . . . Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz said that the poem that praises beauty must swallow all of death, and Stone Upon Stone does just that: illuminating the balance of beauty and brutality that defines our existence. . . . When Szymek says, 'The whole world is one big language,' we believe it. We cup our ears to listen. . . . That Stone Upon Stone reads like the grand novel it is, not a novel in translation, is a testament to Johnston's work and Mysliwski's singular vision."
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. . . . He manages tone so finely, orchestrating a perfect continuity between the tragic and the comic and, ultimately, between life and death. . . . In his translation Bill Johnston navigates Mysliwski's modulations with skill and the lightness of touch that is generally the face of profound labour."
—TImes Literary Supplement
A marvelous, garrulous book ... The grandest example of a genre ... Szymek's rustic voice narrates with a naivete and an eloquence that are equally endearing, reaching into every corner of the Polish countryside like a great shining sun."
Sweeping . . . irreverent . . With winning candor . . . Pietruszka chronicles the modernization of rural Poland and celebrates the persistence of desire."
—The New Yorker
Exhilarating . . . In long, streaming paragraphs, Szymek recounts a life that is full of sorrow and happiness. He talks about everything a life can contain: lovers, drinking, war, death, accidents, experience . . . A dizzying array of memories and stories."
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Joyously anchored in the physical world, steeped in storytelling, a delight from start to finish."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred
Like a more agrarian Beckett, a less gothic Faulkner, a slightly warmer Laxness, Mysliwski masterfully renders in Johnston's gorgeous translation (Mysliwski's first into English) life in a Polish farming village before and after WWII. . . . Richly textured and wonderfully evocative, the novel renders Szymus as a distinctly memorable character, whose humor and hard-earned wisdom lend beauty to a bleak vision of a land destroyed by war and ravaged by history, and whose voice--sometimes warm, sometimes ornery, always elegiac--is undeniably original, his digressions and ruminations forming a story that reminds us that 'words are a great grace. When it comes down to it, what are you given other than words?'"
—Publishers Weekly, starred
Stone upon Stone is the first masterpiece in Slavic literature, perhaps even in European literature, in which the fate of the peasant attains the standing of human fate in all its tragic vastness."
A hymn in praise of life."