21 February 2011 From the ‘Wprost’ weekly: Stefan Chwin on his new novel ‘Panna Ferbelin’ (Miss Ferbelin)

In the latest issue of the Wprost weekly, Stefan Chwin is interviewed on the subject of his new novel Panna Ferbelin (Miss Ferbelin).

‘I am obsessed with a certain woman who appears in all of my books. It is always the same woman in different incarnations. Writers can have dreams as well, and I think all dreams are a little tinted with shame, so I am embarrassed that I dream of this extraordinary woman, who does actually exist in real life,’ says Chwin in response to the question about his new protagonist.

The novel takes place at the end of the nineteenth century in Gdańsk. Its main characters are the public prosecutor, Mr Hammels, his son Helmut, Miss Ferbelin and her father, and Kurt Niemand, a newcomer to Gdańsk that the locals refer to as ‘The teacher from Neustadt’. Unexpected circumstances link the fates of these people in a surprising fashion, and the plot of this novel – both seductive and disquieting – creates the impression that one is in fact taking part in the described events.

Stefan Chwin (alias Max Lars, born on the 11th of April 1949 in Gdańsk) is a Polish writer, literary critic, essayist, literary historian, and a graphic artist, with strong connections with Gdańsk. He is a professor at the Philological Faculty of Gdańsk University. Among his publications are such books as Hanemann (1995), Esther (1999), Złoty pelikan (2003) (Golden Pelican), and Żona prezydenta (2005) (The President’s Wife). His is the winner of the award of the Kościelscy Foundation for his book Bez autorytetu (szkice) (Without authority – sketches). He has also received a ‘Cultural Passport’ from the Polityka weekly, together with Stanisław Rosiek, for Hanemann.

Stefan Chwin was a guest at the first Joseph Conrad International Literary Festival, where he taught a ‘reading lesson’ during which he analysed William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’, together with grammar school students. This unusual lesson was attended by 40 pupils from Krakow, Łódź and Olsztyn.