‘The Little Paint Girl’ by Wioletta Greg, translated by Eliza Marciniak

Polish authors cross physical borders as their work does genres. The full surname of Wioletta “Greg” is Grzegorzewska and she lives in Essex – a county, at least in its rural reaches, maybe not so distant in spirit from the countryside in which the young narrator of Swallowing Mercurygrows up. The sly and elusive stories that make up this patchwork novel depict a rustic Poland still becalmed, while remote great events shake and topple the post-war Communist regime. For Wiola in ‘The Little Paint Girl’, elsewhere consists of the fantasy Moscow she paints to win a prize – a childish triumph whose glamour fades along with the allure of the Soviet empire itself.

First published 2014; in Swallowing Mercury, Portobello Books, 2017