Grief and disappearance of gangsters

In the period he describes, Gabriel is a young hoodlum, he lives on assaults, burglaries and deals. And at the same time, she studies English, tries to stay in class and get back to work on time, unless she is in prison. Kinga Dunin reads “They Were Here, They Stood” by Gabriel Krauze and “Living Sea of ​​Daydreams” by Richard Flanagan.

Gabriel Krauze, They were there, so they stood, trans. Tomasz S. Gałązka, Czarne Publishing House 2022

and jumping out of the cart and legs onto the sidewalk and just then – when you jump out of the car and it’s too late to back up – when you know you’ll make it to the bank, though adrenaline is hitting everywhere in your body so well that for a moment you want to be completely there or elsewhere. So now we’re pushing slowly down the street, we chose the wrong moment, but we can’t run to get her because she’s going to be alarmed, she’s going to turn around, we sneak in, but quickly. The chimney sweep squeezes my face tightly, I pulled my hood over it, I feel the adrenaline burst deep in my chest like a dying star, as if my whole body were throbbing like a heart.

This is the start of a long reel in which Gabriel talks about a failed robbery against a high society woman. As they followed her furtively with her partner, they grabbed her outside the door of her house, as he began to strangle her, threw her to the ground, the accomplice tried in vain to break her watch then to remove the ring, and when it failed, Gabriel broke his finger. Her husband showed up, then the police, they fled at the last minute… Did he feel guilty? “No remorse, nothing bothers me […] What do I have to squeeze to feel something, if it doesn’t take me on my own.” As she puts it: she doesn’t think about people like me, and I don’t think about people like her.

So this is it, I tell myself, this is all revenge from the lower class, a side effect of inequality and hopeless living in a bad neighborhood, a dysfunctional family and failing social policy. I feel sorry for the woman, but the correct interpretations, or maybe the clichés, come on right away. Only to some appropriate extent if you think about this particular novel.

Yes, the violent culture of young men spreads from generation to generation. The area of ​​London where Gabriel lives, South Kilburn, is known for its crime problems, its wars with neighboring areas, its gangs, its calculations, its shootings, its stabbings, its fights, its drugs. But in his case, it’s not that simple. This book is an autobiography. Gabriel was not born in Saskatchewan and his family is not dysfunctional. My parents came to England from Poland in the early 1980s. They are artists, my father earns money as a designer. As a child, his father read to him in Polish Two who stole the moon.

He has two brothers, one is a professional violinist and was featured in the novel. The second is an actor. Gabriel has eight years of musical education behind him – piano, went to a good private school – a scholarship due to exceptional ability. He flew out of school. He knows foreign languages. In the period he describes, he is a young hoodlum, he lives on attacks, burglaries and trafficking. (He’s not a gangster though). And at the same time, she studies English, tries to stay in class and get back to work on time, unless she is in prison.

He probably stands out a bit from his colleagues – he has a “decor” on his teeth, white gold dentures set with diamonds, a tattoo, “irons” around his neck, that is, a chain in or… His book was nominated for Booker, and here you can see and listen to it:

In addition to the social conditions of the “culture of violence”, there are also individual predispositions. Men’s? Instinctive aggression? And it’s not a social balance sheet, although it does provide an insightful portrait of the “bad neighborhood” and its inhabitants. But above all, we cross over to the other side – the one we fear and explain to ourselves in different ways. We get to know young men we would rather not meet on a deserted street, and we can understand, or rather feel, what drives them. Adrenaline, fast money, easy girls, struggle for position in the group and power, a kind of honor… The law of the jungle: win or die. Simple morality: weakness is bad, strength is good. Of course, in the end, the hero will begin to understand that he is thus wasting his life, will find a calmer job, that is, the cocaine business, but will not give us the satisfaction of remorse.

Malcolm XD: I only slander those who deserve it


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However, when he returns to visit the old places after many years, he feels incredible sadness. But maybe a bit of nostalgia too? Because despite all these successful actions, the money won, the fights won, the outlaw order guards, the thousands of skunks and other contus, this time turns out to be empty. Either way, finishing play doesn’t feel like a successful game in GTA. (It’s a very brutal game. And Gabriel compares his life to her – only in real life).

I thought it was not a book that I would like. Or that it falls into the compartment: it may be good, but not for me. And yet… I read it in one go. It’s really well structured and written. One can find expressions such as “a small piece of glass”, and next to it “the moon seems swollen and massive, as if it were pressed against the net of clouds which held it in the sky”. It is a combination of slang, spoken language and literary language. And with each page, my admiration for the translator grew, not because I can compare it to the original, but because he wrote it for us so well in Polish.

And here you can hear how it sounds in English:

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Richard Flaganan, A living sea of ​​daydreams, trans. Maciej Świerkocki, Wydawnictwo Literackie 2022

Vivid Sea of ​​Daydreams BlanketHis hand.
It’s unclear how the disappearance started or if it’s already over, Anna thought.

Annie’s first finger had disappeared. He simply disappeared. Later there will be more of this disappearance, maybe even the whole person will disappear. And as strange as it may seem, it seems more and more evident in the novel. So much is disappearing – “ancient forests are disappearing, the beaches are all covered, wild birds are throwing up the plastic supermarket bags, the world is disappearing because a terrible force returns to make the last count”. The list of missing is very long. Birds, insects, animals. Real life disappears because it seeps into the cyber world. There are fires in Australia…

What does a fire site tell us? Australian Black Summer Postcards [rozmowa z Szymonem Drobniakiem]


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Anna, a successful architect, lives in Sydney. He has two brothers – a smart businessman and a losing painter. These three will have to take care of their dying mother. She is already 86 years old and her life is about to end. However, the children don’t want to let her die, they use all means, money and connections to prolong her life. The easiest way to reduce this thread to psychology is understandable psychology for everyone. Family relationships, tensions between brothers and sisters, support for the death of a loved one. The questions of how long to fight and when to let go…

You can get the most out of this novel, but that’s probably not the point. This dying mother turns into a kind of nightmare, which quickly becomes unrealistic, even if considered from a medical point of view. It is a metaphor, as is the disappearance of body parts. What is the point of this fight in a world that is disappearing and where death can come from a completely unexpected side? And do you have to fight so much for a bird of an endangered species? How much love is there in all this fighting and how much pride and fear?

It is not a novel that lends itself to simple interpretations, but it is very beautiful. Sad and beautiful.

I have long enjoyed Flanagan, a writer from Tasmania. I don’t know if it’s the best of his novels.

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