3 April 2013 Obok Julii – a new novel by Eustachy Rylski

'The new novel by Eustachy Rylski casts us into the world that we have known only from Marek Hłasko’s prose until now,’ writes Marcin Kube in today’s issue of the Rzeczpospolita daily and adds: ‘The new novel by Rylski fills the reader with consternation, as every chapter provokes the question: to what extent is this novel autobiographical? The author provocatively erases the border between his characters and his own life. Janek Ruczaj’s adventures overlap with the writer’s biography at many points. In the 1990s the main character earns money on the stock exchange and is a shareholder of a lifestyle magazine (Rylski was the co-owner of Twój Styl magazine). He is a respected man, who, at the same time, has a few murders on his conscience.

‘Janek Ruczaj is not me,’ explains Rylski in Rzeczpospolita. ‘I regret this, because he is a nice guy. However, he borrowed all possible kinds of things from me. Constructing him from the fragments of my life, the history of my family, relationships with friends and enemies, the activities that I pursued in my early youth, experiences and impressions, I have created an autonomous person who is gradually becoming reluctant to admit any kind of relationships with my person.’ Reading the last pages, we feel tempted to shout to the author just like one of his characters: ‘It’s a sick confabulation. You’re delirious. Where does life end and where does literary creation begin?’ A moment later Eustachy Rylski replies: ‘The world is as we describe it.’

The plot of Obok Julii begins in the summer of 1963. Every day dilapidated trucks travel to the mountains to bring trees broken by hurricanes from the Czech part of the Sudetes. It is a male world where people solve conflicts by means of a knuckle-duster and drink the so-called ‘carbide vodka’ at the end of the workday. The base becomes a testing ground for 20-year-old Janek Ruczaj – a young outsider who knows that he will always be different from his colleagues, who call him a ‘count’ or an ‘earl’. He does not have much of a feeling of bravery and contempt for danger in him. However, the gene of Volhynia ancestors, brutes and desperados eventually wakes in him in the course of time. The plot continues till the present. The narrator is 65-year-old Jan Ruczaj, who recollects his youth. He believes that fighting one’s own destiny makes no sense.

Eustachy Rylski – prosaist, playwright, screenplay writer, winner of the Józef Mackiewicz Literary Award (2005), nominated for the Silesia Literary Laurel, Angelus, and the Nike Literary Award in 2006 for his book entitled Warunek.His screenplays for TV Theatre were also published in the theatre periodical Dialog. Rylski debuted with his novel Stankiewicz, an account of the life of a son of participant of the Polish uprisings. After the appreciated debut honoured with awards, Rylski went silent for 20 years to come back with the novel Człowiek w cieniu (2004). When he was not pursuing his artistic calling, he created Twój Styl, a popular magazine for women, together with his wife. He is also the author of Stankiewicz. Powrót (1984), Człowiek w cieniu (2004), Warunek (2005), Na Grobli (2010), collections of short stories Tylko chłód (1987), Wyspa (2007), a collection of essays Po śniadaniu (2009) and plays Chłodna jesień (1990), Zapach wistarii (1991), Netta (1997), Co nie jest snem (1999), Sprawa honoru (2003).

As you may remember, Eustachy Rylski was a guest of last year’s edition of the Conrad Festival in Krakow, which is regarded as one of the most important literary events in the world.

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