Kamie na kamieniu Wies awa My liwskiego zanim jeszcze pojawi si na p kach ksi garskich, sta si ju wydarzeniem literackim Henryk Bereza pisa o tej powie ci Jest, jak ka de arcydzie o, przede wszystkim wielk tajemnica sztuki, czym niepoj tym, co zdaje si do nas przychodzi z innego wymiaru , a tak e My liwski, wype niaj c wielowiekowe puste miejsce w polskiej literaturze, bierze na siebie ca y ci ar odwiecznych epickich zobowi za artystycznych, spe nia epick powinno wobec chyba jednego z ostatnich uk ad w wiata o cechach niepowtarzalno ci i samowystarczalnej pe niPowie zdoby a r wnie wielkie uznanie w r d czytelnik w, czego dowodem by y m tytu y ksi ki rokuw plebiscycie ksi garni Wsp cze ni i Dziennika Wieczornego w Bydgoszczy oraz ksi ki dziesi ciolecia w plebiscycie Tygodnika Kulturalnego Warto i znaczenie powie ci potwierdzi y przyznane jej nagrody Funduszu Literatury, Stowarzyszenia Ksi garzy Polskich, Ministra Obrony Narodowej I stopnia, Stowarzyszenia Bibliotekarzy Polskich, Klubu Kultury Ch opskiej Obecnie Kamie na kamieniu t umaczony jest na kilka j zyk w francuski, rosyjski, esto ski, czeski, s owacki, bu garski, rumu ski, niemiecki This fat novel, first published in 1984 and translated into English in 1999, felt to me like a masterful paean to the power of human memory to hold a lifetime, to reconstruct a dying way of rural life, and to reveal the heroic and stubborn resilience of the spirit We start with Szymek in middle age working on a stone tomb for his two brothers and already dead parents in a rural village in Soviet era Poland One thought leads to another, back and forth through time, spanning his history of rebel This fat novel, first published in 1984 and translated into English in 1999, felt to me like a masterful paean to the power of human memory to hold a lifetime, to reconstruct a dying way of rural life, and to reveal the heroic and stubborn resilience of the spirit We start with Szymek in middle age working on a stone tomb for his two brothers and already dead parents in a rural village in Soviet era Poland One thought leads to another, back and forth through time, spanning his history of rebelliousness while growing up in a farming family and eventual return to the land after a life of trying to escape Depending on the flow of his memories, we are treated to episodes and chapters from different phases of his life These include his traditions in youth as a bully, a womanizer, and a boozer, hisnoble but brutal service with the resistance in the war, and his post war forays into work as a barber, a policeman, and finally different positions in the local government bureaucracy, all with interludes of helping his aging parents manage their farm In his recent history, we learn about his recovery for years from serious leg injuries caused by an accident and get visions of him facing up to intimations of mortality and living alone without God or a wife Thus, we get a quite fulsome perspective on a whole life and in the process get a priceless biography of a place and rural community at a time of great change The concept of a larger Poland barely penetrates into the personal lives we come to know, only the challenge of maintaining some kind of local integrity in the face of German followed by Soviet invasions I don t believe the words Nazi or communist were ever used by the characters Only the human connection to the land and the joys of celebrating life through humor and lust shows any persistence Syzmek is the epitome of a man who wants primarily to live life and not mortgage it to duty Mysliwski s narrative flows well despite the hopping into different tributaries In a number of places a long discussion ends up portraying a microcosm of from the life and outlook of another character Examples include 10 to 20 page monologues from his boss, the Soviet appointed mayor, and another from the local priest, who has been trying to get Syzmek to submit to confession since his youth At first these accounts seem a diversion to Syzmek s purposes of getting the mayor and priest to approve his plans for the tomb, but both outpourings end up revealing struggles with their missions that parallel Szymek s and seeking his understanding in common causes As always throughout this tale we are left wondering whether Syzmek will succeed or fail in his goal for the tomb, whether he can keep the farm he inherited going, whether he will find God, and whether he will succeed in love The reader gains enough knowledge to forge his own ending, Hollywood style or going down fighting for such goals To help your judgment over to pursue this book I now pull a few passages From near the beginning, we follow Syzmek s train of thought about the contrast of a lasting tomb to the anonymous graves they put their slain compatriots in during the war The motley caps used to mark the graves reminds him of how ragtag they were, their true integrity obscured To judge from their caps you might have thought we were a bunch of riffraff and pansies, not an army A rabble that was only good for digging ditches, or building dikes, or beating game when the masters go hunting, not an army But inside each man there was a devil, and each one of them had a heart of stone They forgot about God and forgot how to cry And even when burying one of our own, no one shed a tear It was just, Ten shun Because sometimes tears make a bigger hole than bullets Because in my command, didn t just mean feet together and hands at your buttocks It meant attention in your mind, and standing up straight in your soul At attention the heart beats slower and the mind thinks straighter Who knows, maybe at attention you could even die without regrets.If I died they were forbidden the same to shed a tear, they just had to stand at attention At most someone could play a song for me on the mouth organ Stone upon stone, on stone a stone Now I share another sample passage that demonstrates Szymek s marvelous lust for life as expressed in his bacchanalian penchant for dancing as part of his seductions of women, his favorite being polkas and obereks The musicians had had their supper, and the vodka was playing in their veins They d taken off their coats, they were playing in shirtsleeves Some of them even unbuttoned their shirt down to their belly button, and loosened their belt, and took off their boots because they were pinching And all for the music Because it was only now the musicians souls would come out And man, would they play They couldn t feel their lips or their hands, they d play with their gut, like their fathers and their fathers fathers before them They played like they were about to die Till lightening flashed, and armies marched off to war And a wedding party rode on drunken horses And flails flailed in barns And earth fell on a casket And there wasn t any shame any in feeling up a young lady here and there, you could even put your hand on her backside And reach under her blouse And pull her legs to yours And young ladies would find themselves between your knees of their own accord, like chickens coming home to roost And they d fly around the dance floor breathless They d forget their fathers, their mothers, their conscience Even the Lord God s commandments Because at those dances heaven and hell mixed together Chest squeezed against chest, belly against belly They d giggle and faint their way into such a paradise, you could feel it flowing out of them even through their dresses Reading this book reminded me of other favored portraits of rural life, including de Bernieres portrait of village life in Anatolia Birds Without Wings, and Wendell Berry s series on the fictional Port Jefferson community of Kentucky It also brings to mind a recent read I enjoyed, Memed My Hawk , which portrays the life of a Kurdish peasant in Anatolia who also became a rebellious fighter and bandit while continuing to revere rural farming traditions This book takes some patience to deal with the narrator s diversions in memory and forgiveness for his transgressions of violence and womanizing, but the warm life it holds breathes and the potent truths in its hero s stubborn soul made it well worth the effort Thanks to Agnieszka for recommending it I would ve simply called Stone Upon Stone a narrative wonder Though if you ask me, eternity s the same whether you re eaten by worms in your grave or fishes in the sea When the Day of Judgment comes, the folk in their graves and the ones from the sea will have to rise up just the same And it s a lot less trouble in the sea than when you have to build a tomb The protagonist lived a long, rebellious and troubled life and now he attempts to build a tomb for himself and his kin And in the proce I would ve simply called Stone Upon Stone a narrative wonder Though if you ask me, eternity s the same whether you re eaten by worms in your grave or fishes in the sea When the Day of Judgment comes, the folk in their graves and the ones from the sea will have to rise up just the same And it s a lot less trouble in the sea than when you have to build a tomb The protagonist lived a long, rebellious and troubled life and now he attempts to build a tomb for himself and his kin And in the process he remembers his entire life, mostly tumultuous and unhappy although he had his happy moments as well The recollections come randomly childhood, youth, adulthood, grandparents, mother, father, brothers, war, resistance, peace, hospital, work, drunkenness, harvests, lost love everything gradually aggregates into a vivid mosaic of living People don t need to know everything Horses don t know things and they go on living And bees, for instance, if they knew it was humans they were collecting honey for, they wouldn t do it How are people any better than horses or bees The hero tells his story furiously as if he wants to give the world a piece of his mind He philosophizes, polemizes and ponders until he comes down to the nitty gritty of things You read and read, and in the end it all went into the ground with you anyway With the land it was another matter You worked and worked the land, but the land remained afterwards With reading, not even a line, not a single word, was left behind Writers write, readers read and peasants feed them Finished it and said something like whoa, great book The title is perfect per the epigram it s from a folk song stone upon stone on stone a stone and on that stone another stone A perfect title because it s a simple introduction to the novel s alinear associative structure progress across the clear cut beginning, middle, and end of a few eras the narrator s pre war youth of mostly satisfying work in the fields, fighting in the resistance during WWII, and the post war soviet er Finished it and said something like whoa, great book The title is perfect per the epigram it s from a folk song stone upon stone on stone a stone and on that stone another stone A perfect title because it s a simple introduction to the novel s alinear associative structure progress across the clear cut beginning, middle, and end of a few eras the narrator s pre war youth of mostly satisfying work in the fields, fighting in the resistance during WWII, and the post war soviet era marked by administrative work, excessive drinking, and chasing women Like the last book I read Buddenbrooks , it light handedly dramatizes totally dramatic societal shifts occuring over a few decades in this, the blacksmith s sons repair TVs The present scenes, whenever the narrator Syzmek comes up for air after dunking his head in the river of the past, involve building a tomb Each anecdote amounts to a virtual stone Syzmek uses to construct this tomb of a book, divided into nine long chapters, two or three of which are masterpieces The chapters Land, Hallelujah, and most of Bread supplied exactly the sort of thing you hope to find when you open a 534 page dense peri WWII not western Euro novel published by the great Archipelago Books Disputes over boundaries between fields, near fatal beatings, in depth descriptions of various war wounds, drinking binges and deceitful drunks, all sorts of earthly desires and earthly horrors why fear hell when we ve lived through so much on earth, sexiness and sorrows, a virtuoso accordion player who used to play crazy amazing improvisations at funerals hanged by the Germans with his bandmates they hanged his accordion too , sumptuous passages about some wartime respite with a lovely young lady completed with an off hand phrase like before they burned her, an isolated town in the woods burned and everyone hanged, wonderful steady scenes of slow careful courtship and desire fulfilled before happiness is wrenched back by miscommunication and violence, the best descriptions of scythe work threshing since Levin in Anna Karenina, a locked iron gate leading to nowhere in the middle of a field, a simile involving turning into a snake to wrap around a neck and hang someone from the nearest tree Fantastic soliloquies, especially by a pretzel seller early on about her many husbands, by an administrator later on about the ways of the world, and later by a long time lover about everything and nothing that delivers the moral of the story, and toward the end an awesome semi querulous QA with a priest about the ways of men, women, God, and the afterworld wherein Syzmek stands his ground and defends his hard won wisdom against accusations of sin and heresy, rejecting easy consolation All angles organically covered love, hate, life, death, joy, sorrow, sex, solitude, work, play, war, peace, life on earth and the afterlife, the life of the body and life of the mind even a little light metafiction at the end about the language of everyday objects All in all, an excellent novel not for everyone of course since it s hardcore Euro Lit, associatively structured, rangy sentences, replete with paragraphless pages and subcharacters with too many consonants in their names, no easy conclusions other than the certainty of moral ambiguity and always coming down on the side of life,life, you have to live If there s any moral to the story, it s that you have to live, even if decisions don t make life easier How else do you become wise to the ways of the world Represents and revels in the complexity of everything, including life s simplicities, and reeks therefore of the best sort of lit Mysliwski s a little like the better known Bohumil Hrabal but without as obvious a smile of his face and maybe a littlereckless for stretches these aren t criticisms of either writer If this sort of thing is your thing, this one s highly recommended Won the best translated book award from a few years ago, if you d prefer to take an official organ s word for it The discursive narrative style is a blend of artfulness and artlessness that disarmed me with its power All of the harrowing, deadly, tender, and memorable events in Szymek Pietruszka s life are revealed to the reader, with many digressions along the way Some events are sharply told in a single paragraph Others reveal themselves in small increments that build throughout the novel, as if some memories are too painful to tell all at once Szymek is irreverent and explosive He s a drunk, a lout The discursive narrative style is a blend of artfulness and artlessness that disarmed me with its power All of the harrowing, deadly, tender, and memorable events in Szymek Pietruszka s life are revealed to the reader, with many digressions along the way Some events are sharply told in a single paragraph Others reveal themselves in small increments that build throughout the novel, as if some memories are too painful to tell all at once Szymek is irreverent and explosive He s a drunk, a lout And yet he loves his family deeply, and usually he acts selflessly when faced with people or even animals in need What a compelling character I m very glad to have come across this novel I very rarely leave a book unfinished and I had wanted to consign Stone Upon Stone to the heap of unreadable books after the first chapter It took me a very long time to get to the end of the first chapter But I felt I needed to read some , so I read another two chapters and still I wanted to ditch it However, I am thankful I kept on reading because it turned out to be an unusual story that touched me in unexpected ways.I have never before read Wies aw My liwski He is a Polish novelist I very rarely leave a book unfinished and I had wanted to consign Stone Upon Stone to the heap of unreadable books after the first chapter It took me a very long time to get to the end of the first chapter But I felt I needed to read some , so I read another two chapters and still I wanted to ditch it However, I am thankful I kept on reading because it turned out to be an unusual story that touched me in unexpected ways.I have never before read Wies aw My liwski He is a Polish novelist I found out later that Stone Upon Stone translated by Bill Johnston won the 2012 Best Translated Book Award The novel began with a strange subject matter Having a tomb built The main character, Szymek Pietruszka, was building a family tomb and straining to finish it because if you ve never done it, you have no idea how much one of those things costs It s as much as a house For reasons that gained clarity as the story unraveled, building a tomb to house the entire family was important to Szymek Whether it s for eternity or not, a person needs a corner to call their own What made this book so hard to read My liwski had a discursive style of storytelling that took the form of extended monologues A monologue would ramble on and one subject would detour to another like an aimless conversation, for example, the description of the road led to the acacia trees to the table its legs and drawers whose parts were scattered and had to be put back together The monologues often extended over pages with no paragraphing It can drive you nuts And it went on for 500 odd pages To readers who encounter this same impulse to toss the book, soldier on because it will be rewarding A huge saving grace was its humor and there was a generous supply of it, some bittersweet The translation is excellent for the humor to be preserved and enjoyed My liwski painted a rural peasant world from an earlier era When a new road was built, people, dogs, calves and chickens got killed crossing the road The eastern European immigrants coaxed living from the land but also raucously indulged in merry making superfluous drinking, barn dances, etc It was a world in which friendships were strengthened and trade secured at the cost of a few bottles of vodka Yet it was by no means idyllic Polish pastoral It was a hardscrabble existence And harvesttime was a curse From dawn till night you worked like an animal The farmers suffered the scourge of the weather and hunger when the crops failed and flour ran out It was heartbreaking to read of the boy Szymek lying in bed all night thinking about bread and scheming to get hold of the last piece of very stale bread placed out of reach and that was to be kept until spring plowing as an offering to the land The plain storytelling was touching without being maudlin A scene in the hospital ward left an impression Men with broken limbs and lives lay dying, and Szymek, himself nursing a serious leg injury, was distracting his dying neighbor with the joys of breeding white rabbits There was a poignant chapter, titled Weeping in which Syzmek conveyed the unbearable pain of watching his mother cry There was also a tender chapter in which Szymek bathed and shaved his mentally ill brother Equally memorable was the Hallelujah chapter that spoke of the joys of eating blessed eggs at Easter It just seemed like a lovely tradition.Perhaps what finally held me to the story was the persuasive characterization of Szymek Pietruszka He was no saint but he was real He was the life wire of the party with an irrepressible zest for life that promised to spill beyond the grave His brothers fled the backbreaking labor of the farm and never wanted to return Szymek too wanted nothing to do with his father s farm He became a resistance fighter, a barber, a policeman, a government official who solemnized marriages, and yet he finally took over the family farm even though in his father s estimation, he s not drawn to the land and the land s not drawn to him Szymek s attachment to his family and unknowingly to the land was stronger than he cared to admit to himself The complexity of family ties was observed in the apparent need of members to keep their distance and also in an undeniable closeness that expressed itself in biting antagonism The story ended the way it begun and looped back to the tomb Building a family tomb was perhaps Syzmek s way of keeping his scattered family together Szymek s life may not be all that different from that of most ordinary folks Maybe everyone has a different life than the one they d want, but it s the best one they can have Isn t this true And finally, this too is true Regardless of what choices we make in life, no one has a choice about mortality That is the last common denominator When death s staring you on the face even a college graduate becomes a person again, so does an engineer At those times everything falls off life like leaves dropping from a tree on the fall, and you re left like a bare trunk At those times you re not drawn to the outside world but back to the land where you were born and grew up, because that s your only place on this earth In that land, even the tomb is like a home for you Good book I may even read it again Another reviewer said that this book was like having a conversation with an elderly relative that talks about his her youth without logical timeline, with repetitions, exxagerations and sometimes hard to follow I agree but unlike the other reviewer, I liked it for it There is no plot Long chapters deal with themes of rural life and the characters, exploring a Poland that was once Russian, then Poland, then German occupied and then Poland again At times funny, often heartbreaking, ridiculous, Another reviewer said that this book was like having a conversation with an elderly relative that talks about his her youth without logical timeline, with repetitions, exxagerations and sometimes hard to follow I agree but unlike the other reviewer, I liked it for it There is no plot Long chapters deal with themes of rural life and the characters, exploring a Poland that was once Russian, then Poland, then German occupied and then Poland again At times funny, often heartbreaking, ridiculous, joyous, sad and everything in between Imagine sitting with a great storyteller for over two weeks His mind is full of stories from rural Poland, from the war before and after, from his adventures as a young wag and an aging but likable man In no time at all, one thought strand leads to the next and he jumps He has no problem with time, either, going back many years and then only a few, up to the present and back to wherever Chronologies are for the history books, not the storytellers As you might expect, though, some stories are Imagine sitting with a great storyteller for over two weeks His mind is full of stories from rural Poland, from the war before and after, from his adventures as a young wag and an aging but likable man In no time at all, one thought strand leads to the next and he jumps He has no problem with time, either, going back many years and then only a few, up to the present and back to wherever Chronologies are for the history books, not the storytellers As you might expect, though, some stories areriveting than others Some novel, some repetitive And if it s recorded in pages, as it is in Stone Upon Stone, you get over 500 pages of anecdotal, which is a heavy load for the province of anecdotes in the country of no plot Still, you stick with it There s no denying the writing is solid There s no denying you feel like a friend to the raconteur after a bit There s also no denying that you feel like skipping pages at times, that you are occasionally aware of your surroundings and checking the page numbers.You consider abandoning, but you re too far along There comes a tipping point in every book where you just won t abandon No, not in the first 100 pages like some folks Those poor slobs who finish every book they start, as if some strict school master is at their back with a switch No, this is different.And when you get there, to the end, I mean, you feel a certain pride and a certain gratefulness as if it were the author, and not you, who demonstrated all the patience Oddly enough But reading books like this is an odd venture And venture I did, gladly, because sometimes what s good for you includes a little adversity or pain, like a stone upon a stone, maybe Stone upon stoneis an epic saga and vast panorama of rural life and the peasant s view of the world The main character, country bumpkin Szymek Pietruszka, a cross between a philosopher and chronicler, in a simple though not plebby way spins a story of his own life And we, readers actually feel as if we were sitting on the threshold of his homestead and before our eyes pass a colorful parade of people and events which he had participated Country road, winding and full of holes hich one coulStone upon stoneis an epic saga and vast panorama of rural life and the peasant s view of the world The main character, country bumpkin Szymek Pietruszka, a cross between a philosopher and chronicler, in a simple though not plebby way spins a story of his own life And we, readers actually feel as if we were sitting on the threshold of his homestead and before our eyes pass a colorful parade of people and events which he had participated Country road, winding and full of holes hich one could go on the fair to the nearby town or to dance to the neighbouring village And acacias which were growing by it and every summer smelled so stunningly that people walked like a drunk And the cemetery which, during the war, was a place of six week battle, and when it finally ended people had to bury their loved ones for the second time And old verger Franciszek who with the acolytes had to catch starlings, titmice and other birds and let them out on cemetery to restore life and singing to that place again And grandfather Kacper who forgot where he hid the document granting him the rights to the land, and that could make him a rich man And grandmother Rozalia who drowned sailing to America and there is not even her grave, but after all it does not matter whether worms eat you in the grave or fish in the sea.This novel is like a river spilled wide, fed with digressions and secondary threads like streams, and you even not knowing when are swimming caught by its current Tales flow lazily and we can see Szymek as a guerilla, barber, policeman, wedding official, government worker We know he loved women and good fun In fact loved lifeWho knows, maybe living is the eleventh commandment that God forgot to tell us.In broad flashbacks we learn about his parents, grandparents, neighbours and the changes of the Polish countryside in the first half of the twentieth century His two brothers fled to the city and Szymek who seemed to be the least predestined to the life on the land, eventually took over the patrimony and care of crippled brother His family fell apart and so Szymek came up with a seemingly bizarre idea to gather them again by building the family tombThough they say a tomb is a house as well, just for the next life Whether it s for eternity or not , a person needs a corner to call their own Novel, written in form of monologues, woven from memories which gradually, tale upon tale, song upon song creates a vivid and colourful image Alternately playful, full of simple truths and folk wisdom, then again, serious and reflective.With that novel My liwski in fact created monument to language and paid a homage to the traditional storytelling Language is rich and exuberant, realistic even naturalistic descriptions mix with broad humour to be broken by lyrical passages or quiet meditation Stone upon stone , this unhurried, digressive tale, is like an elegy to passing world and ode to life as well Because as Szymek used to say he wasalwaysinterested in living than in dying I should start this review by saying it is completely inadequate This fine book is a wealth of quiet wisdom that in its simple delivery reminded me of three other favorite books Gilead, So Long, See You Tomorrow, and Stoner Here, as in those three, we have wide reaching reflection about a life Here our narrator is Szymek Pietruszka, who, through a back and forth style, attempts to add up the pieces of his life as a farmer in rural Poland during the middle half of the twentieth century.When S I should start this review by saying it is completely inadequate This fine book is a wealth of quiet wisdom that in its simple delivery reminded me of three other favorite books Gilead, So Long, See You Tomorrow, and Stoner Here, as in those three, we have wide reaching reflection about a life Here our narrator is Szymek Pietruszka, who, through a back and forth style, attempts to add up the pieces of his life as a farmer in rural Poland during the middle half of the twentieth century.When Stone Upon Stone begins, much of Pietruszka s life has past, and he is building a family tomb Having a tomb built It s easy enough to say But if you ve never done it, you have no idea how much one of those things costs It s almost as much as a house Though they say a tomb is a house as well, just for the next life Whether it s for eternity or not, a person needs a corner to call their own.I got compensation for my legs a good few thousand It all went I had a silver watch on a chain, a keepsake from the resistance That went I sold a piece of land The money went I barely got the walls up and I didn t have enough for the finish work This passage introduces a few of its plot strands nicely something happened to his legs, somehow he was involved in the resistance, and he sold some land Also, death, and its matter of fact approach This passage also introduces Pietruszka s colloquial, grumpy, and practical tone It s not that Pietruszka and his family aren t ready for the metaphysical aspects of death he just isn t sure he can afford it isn t that the way Stone Upon Stone contains nine chapters, and often Pietruszka returns to talking about his tomb this voice continues People keep asking me, when are you finally going to get that tomb finished You might at least roof it with tar paper, keep the water out Well I would have finished it, I d have finished it long ago, if that was all I had to worry about But as if I didn t have enough on my plate already, here one of my pigs went and died Building this tomb, stone by stone, is mirrored in how Pietruszka builds his life for us Each chapter flits back and forth in time, people who have died are alive again as he remembers a certain Christmas or, worse, a time when an argument broke out and the family distanced itself for a while.Throughout it all is a seemingly simple lifestyle A poor young man harvests the field alongside the old man who has been doing it all of his life One of the biggest worries on the surface is crossing the busy road that divides the town this is also one of the funniest, tragic moments in the book Several communal rituals are shown, such as this dance Pietruszka remembers They d forget their fathers, their mothers, their conscience Even the Lord God s ten commandments Because at those dances heaven and hell mixed together Chest squeezed against chest, belly against belly They d giggle and faint their way into such a paradise , you could feel it flowing out of them even through their dresses And the band would be filled with the devil, he d have them waving their bows like scythes cutting off nobles heads He d put a storm wind in the clarinets He d set the accordion spinning And hurl rocks at the drums And if on top of everything else it was a hot close night outside, there was nothing for it but to let some blood It s very earthy and, I think the passage shows, excellently rendered into English by the great Bill Johnston, who, in a presentation for the Center for the Art of Translation describes the various methods he used to portray a colloquial, rural style without using dialect cut out the words with roots in Romance languages, no semicolons, overcome urge to fix run on sentences, etc.As we learn about his life, we get to know those around him who, living or dead, provoke his emotions, be they peevish or filled with sentiment, or, often, both For example, early in the book, his two older brothers come to visit After an argument They came But they d barely crossed the threshold and said their hellos when they started in on me , they leave relatively soon, and Pietruszka stands stunned Because when brothers only get together once in such a long time they ought to have something to talk about Talk all day and all night Even if they don t feel like talking, because what are words for Words lead he way of their own accord Words bring everything out onto the surface Words take everything that hurts and whines and they draft it all out from the deepest depths Words let blood, and you feel better right away And not just with outsiders, with your brothers also words can help you find each other, feel like brothers again However far away they ve gone, words will bring them back to the one life they came from, like from a spring Because words are a great grace When it comes down to it, what are you given other than words Either way there s a great silence waiting for us in the end, and we ll have our fill of silence Maybe we ll find ourselves scratching at the walls for the sake of the least little word And every word we didn t say to each other in this world we ll regret like a sin Except it ll be too late And how many of those unsaid words stay in each person and die with him, and rot with him, and they aren t any use to him either in his suffering, or in his memory So why do we make each other be silent, on top of everything else I love that passage what it says about brothers, words, the passage of time, waste, hope And I like the final coda on top of everything else There s a beauty and humor in all of the pain and love this novel explores It s remarkable, and I can only hope that it eventually finds its rightful place in the hearts of many readers