Lizzy Recommends: The Graveyard by Marek Hlasko, published by melvillehouse
The Graveyard has got my head spinning. I finished it about five minutes ago, thought in silence for about four, exclaimed “damn”, and picked up my computer to write this review. I’ll be thinking about this novel and trying to reconcile it in my head for days. I must have bookmarked 40 of it’s 140 pages, to go back and rethink later.
The Graveyard got Marek Hlasko exiled from Poland in the 50’s, and you’ll soon see why. It is an absolutely brutal takedown of the cruelties and inanities of everyday life under communism. The book tells the story of Franciszek Kowalski, a war hero and a loyal party member, and what happens to him after he is accused of drunkenly insulting a policeman. The beginning is almost Kafka-esque, but soon the bureaucracy and absurdity become far too real. We follow along with Kowalski as he comes to believe and admit his crime, and as he goes to his old wartime friends for help rehabilitating himself. As we do I think we must also be following along on a psychological journey that Hlasko himself took— from incredulity at his circumstances to righteous anger and a desperation that there must be a reason, to finally an understanding and a sort of relieved hopelessness. And is that all?
The Graveyard is, I suppose, a nihilist novel, but I’m not sure if it convinces me. “Man’s drama cannot be handed down to posterity: while one generation matures and accumulates experience, history produces a new generation of carefree folk who willingly join the ranks.”, Franciszek realizes. Kowalski and his contemporaries thought they were fighting for a grand cause and lived to see it destroyed, and to destroy it themselves. What does that realization do? Where can you go from there? Can’t our causes improve?
Read this book right away. I need someone to discuss it with!