Wojciech Orlinski, Polish journalist, writer and blogger, recommends…

(CLASSIC: 1956)

It’s easy to know the entire works of Andrzej Bursa (1932-1954). He published his first poem in 1954. He died of congenital heart failure in 1957. Before his sudden death, he wrote some of the most bitter, cynical, cruel, surreal and yet hilariously funny pieces in Polish prose and poetry. “The Dragon” portrays a young journalist – much like Bursa himself – assigned to write a story from a remote village Grząźla (don’t even try to pronounce), somewhere in the highlands. The journalist is waiting for a bus to Krakow, and he accepts the invitation to witness a yearly ritual manslaughter, when the village offers a fine young couple to some ancient beast, dwelling in neighboring valley. He thinks it will be simply some folk ritual, and as a matter of fact, it is – it just ends with the fine youngster and the prime maiden eaten alive by actual dragon. The journalist then embarks the bus back home, because, you know, live goes on.

(MODERN: 2008)

Jacek Dukaj is the king of Polish science-fiction and fantasy. He blends these genres as easy as China Mieville, if he employed Peter Watts for those really weird scientific ideas. My apologies to all the three, describing writers by comparing them to other writers is just the path of least resistance for us, lazy critics. “Król Bólu” shows us the world after nano-biological apocalypse, when most of the world is covered by junkle. It’s not a typo, it’s just a jungle-like chaos of junk lifeforms running wild, undersirable byproducts of the AG (artificial genetics) technology. Only the US and EU were saved by applying rigorous bioprotection on their borders. The rest of the world is ruled by various anarkies (not a typo neither). The actual overseas travel is no longer possible, but you can rent a proxy body and control it remotely via the Internet. The network survived the apocalypse just fine, it was built to last. That was just the sci-fi premise for the story – the story itself is a dense, action-packed espionage thriller set in this bizarre world.

Unfortunately, the stories have not yet been translated.

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