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Swimming in the Dark (2020)

af Tomasz Jedrowski

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1403148,100 (3.74)5
Nyligt tilføjet afbooksavg, DebbyeC, rjcrunden, dimolkova, GreteM, dom61uk, szarka, RobinJewell, privat bibliotek

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❧ audiobook review

When it comes to audiobooks I'm insanely picky about narrators. Storytelling is just as important as writing, after all. Let me just saw that not only is the writing for this book beautiful, so too is the narration. I totally, totally recommend the audiobook. :)

I turned my head and looked along the line to find Carolina, but instead my eyes fell on you. I had never seen you before. Not consciously, anyway. Yet my mind felt strangely relieved, as if it had recognised someone.

This book follows Ludwik and Janusz as they fall in love and traverse life in 1980s Poland. The writing style reminds me of [b:The Lessons|40004674|The Lessons|Naomi Alderman|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1525116681l/40004674._SY75_.jpg|9786494], which I read at the start of last year. Lush, evocative prose that's just determined to break your heart.

No matter what happens in the world, however brutal or dystopian a thing, not all is lost if there are people out there risking themselves to document it. Little sparks cause fires, too.

That line absolutely floored me. Fantastic prose and I can't wait to read more by Jedrowski! I definitely recommend this one! ( )
1 stem rjcrunden | Feb 2, 2021 |
Well, this is a strange thing! It calls itself a historical novel, and technically that's what it is, since it's set before the author's birth in a time and place he didn't experience himself, and it's also separated from the setting by being written in English but set in a Polish-speaking environment. But apart from that, it's written without any 21st century hindsight that I could spot, as a kind of simple pastiche of an eighties gay novel. Even the style feels like a fairly accurate impersonation of an immature writer of the eighties who has recently been on an American creative writing course and has read far too much James Baldwin, Edmund White and Andrew Holleran. (None of which, as far as I'm aware, is true of the real Jędrowski.)

You could say this fills a gap, in that there aren't all that many first-hand accounts of growing up gay in communist-era Eastern Europe, so maybe a book like this could help us to imagine what that might have been like. But it turns out that what Jędrowski imagines it might have been like is almost exactly the way we would have imagined it too, i.e. Giovanni's room with extra sugar-beet and pierogi, and there is very little in the way of unexpected detail to take us into the specific experience of LGBT life behind the iron curtain.

A charming, sad, love story, if you don't mind things that are a little bit overwritten, but otherwise a somewhat unnecessary book. ( )
  thorold | Oct 13, 2020 |
‘We’ve always been a secret, Ludwik. It’s just that until now there was no one to hide from.’

OK, let’s get the ‘for fans of…’ bit over with. Yes, there are echoes of Hollinghurst, of Aciman, of Philippe Besson. But the book that is at the heart of this new debut novel from Tomasz Jedrowski is James Baldwin’s ‘Giovanni’s Room’ – both in terms of its social politics and because the central characters both read the book during the course of the novel.

Set in early 1980s Poland, the story of twenty-two-year-old Ludwik and the enigmatic Janusz is replayed by the older Ludwik as he writes perhaps a letter, perhaps just his memories, looking back at their brief relationship from his new home in New York. Sent to educational camp, they take off once it is over and spend an idyllic few weeks camping by a remote lake, falling in love and escaping from the real world. This moment of Edenic existence soon comes to an end as they have to re-enter the real world, and very soon the social and political upheaval of 1980’s Warsaw comes to define their relationship. As Ludwik becomes more and more involved in the resistance to martial law and social injustice, Janusz gets a job in the Office of Press Control and sees how he must ‘fit in’ with the political situation. This theme of the book gives it its strength, and as Ludwik tries to start a doctorate on the theme of racism in the (other) novels of James Baldwin – ‘Giovanni’s Room’ not being published in Poland – the parallels between the two works create a deeper structure to Jedrowski’s work.

As the relationship gets strained, and Ludwik finds himself caught up in a group of friends with power and influence, he and Janusz must come to terms with their sexuality, and make tough choices. When Ludwik makes the decision to apply for a passport in order to leave the country, past events come to haunt him and he has to fight for his freedom. The final resolution is as heart-breaking as it is inevitable.

Jedrowski is an interesting writer, and chose to write this in English rather than Polish. At times, perhaps as a result of a debut novel, the prose is a little overwrought, the metaphors a little too heavy-handed. But get past this and some of the writing is superb, handling the sensitive love affair with lyricism and real understanding. And, always, the spectre of Communist Poland lurks in the background, giving this an intellectual depth and a wider political context. This background gives a setting for a book that explores identity, sexuality and finding a space for being yourself. Touching, intelligent and well-written, this is a definite recommend. 4 stars, and I look forward to much more from this promising writer. ( )
2 stem Alan.M | Feb 2, 2020 |
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Vigtige steder
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As to the action which is about to begin, it takes place in Poland--that is to say, nowhere.
--Alfred Jarry
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Wszystko mija, nawet najdłuższa żmija.
(Everything passes, even the longest of vipers.)
--Stanisław Jerzy Lec
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To Laurent, my home.
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I don't know what woke me up tonight.
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