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Cold Sea Stories
ISBN: 978 1 905583 39 3
Categories: 20th Century, Jewish, Polish, Translation
Imprint: Comma Press
Published: September 2012
198 x 129 x 8 mm
Publisher: Comma Press
A student pedals an old Ukraina bicycle between striking factories, delivering bulletins, in the tumultuous first days of the Solidarity movement... A shepherd watches, unseen, as a strange figure disembarks from a pirate ship anchored in the cove below, to bury a chest on the beach that later proves empty… A prisoner in a Berber dungeon recounts his life’s story – the failed pursuit of the world’s very first language – by scrawling in the sand on his cell floor…The characters in Pawel Huelle’s mesmerising stories find themselves, willingly or not, at the heart of epic narratives; legends and histories that stretch far beyond the limits of their own lives. Against the backdrop of the Baltic coast, mythology and meteorology mix with the inexorable tide of political change: Kashubian folklore, Chinese mysticism and mediaeval scholarship butt up against the war in Chechnya, 9-11, and the struggle for Polish independence.
Central to Huelle’s imagery is the vision of the refugee – be it the Chechen woman carrying her newborn child across the Polish border (her face emblazoned on every TV screen), the survivor of the Gulag re-appearing on his friends’ doorstep, years after being presumed dead, or the stranger who befriends the sole resident of a ghostly Mennonite village in the final days of the Second World War. Each refugee carries a clue, it seems, or is in possession or pursuit of some mysterious text or book, knowing that only it – like the Chinese ‘Book of Changes’ – can decode their story.What we do with this text, this clue, Huelle seems to say, is up to us.
Awards won by Pawel Huelle Long-listed, 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (Cold Sea Stories) Short-listed, 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
'It is largely distinguished by a quiet acceptance that loss is a part of life.'
Publishers Weekly 'Powerfully evocative.'
The Good Book Guide
'These are often unashamedly complex narratives...echoes of Borges...seductively elusive allegory.'
Edinburgh Review '[These stories] glow with the warmth of the past that they conjure into life, and with the yearning for an intensity of feeling and experience that does not wane as life passes by.'
The Independent 'Full of powerful imagery.'
The Financial Times 'These are complex stories, blending mythology and ancient history with the tide of political change, moving easily between autobiography and invention, reality and fantasy, but they are also immensely readable.'
The Herald 'Every year, the balance of the books that reach this antepenultimate round shifts. This time, central and eastern Europe shines...'
Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of The Independent and one of the judges of the IFFP 'There can be little doubt the writing of these engrossing stories was something of a personal odyssey for Huelle, and, under his expert craftsmanship he guarantees a memorable journey for the reader too.'
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