‘The Birch Grove’ by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Consumptive Staś returns to die on the remote woodland estate of his widowed brother Bolesław. In this rain-soaked hideaway, elements and states mingle: love and hate; air, earth and water; life and death. This is a long, seemingly naturalistic story, with all the textured heft and grip of a compact novel. But it enters a sort of fairy-tale forest in which nothing about our senses, or our selves, stays solid. These “modern” Poles with their “European” affinities may scoff at peasant superstitions. No matter: the “warm incessant rain” will erase distinctions and identities, so that the brothers merge into a “deep, dark and impenetrable” world beyond their rational understanding.

Written 1932; collected in Found in Translation, edited by Frank Wynne, Head of Zeus, 2018

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