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Translated by Marta Dziurosz
A wry and unsentimental account of the attempt to understand a parent as an independent person with their own history
Lamps, penknives, paperbacks, mechanical pencils, inflatable headrests. Marcin Wicha’s mother Joanna was a collector of everyday objects. When she dies and leaves her apartment intact, Wicha is left to sort through her things. Through them, he begins to construct an image of Joanna as a Jewish woman, a mother, and a citizen. As Poland emerged from the Second World War into the material meanness of the Communist regime, shortages of every kind shaped its people in deep and profound ways. What they chose to buy, keep – and, arguably, hoard – tells the story of contemporary Poland.
Joanna’s Jewishness, her devotion to work, her formidable temperament, her weakness for consumer goods, all accumulate into an unforgettable portrait of a woman and, ultimately, her country.
Marcin Wicha was born in Warsaw in 1972. A graphic designer and writer, he is one of Poland’s most successful contemporary writers and the author of a number of bestselling children’s books, as well the winner of Poland biggest literary prizes for his adult writing. In 2017 he published Rzeczy, których nie wyrzucilem (Things I Didn’t Throw Out), which became a bestseller and won the Polityka Passport award and the prestigious Nike Literary Award
Marta Dziurosz translates across Polish and English, negotiates publishing contracts and writes. She lives in the UK.