Yuri Andrukhovych, the first winner of Angelus Central Europe Literature Award
The jury of Angelus Central Europe Literature Award consisting of: Natalya Gorbanevskaya – Chairman of jury, prof. Stanisław Bereś, prof. Julian Kornhauser, Ryszard Krynicki, Tomasz Łubieński, Krzysztof Masłoń and prof. Andrzej Zawada — the jury members, decided to grant the Angelus 2006 Award for the best book of prose published in Poland in the previous year to Yuri Andrukhovych for his novel Twelve Rings.
Wroclaw, 2 December 2006
Yuri Andrukhovych determines the place of action of his complex novel as a Carpathian criminal affair between Galicia and Transylvania. ‘The mountains’ he says ‘are the main hero of the novel.’ ‘And well, we have plenty of mountains here.’ A guesthouse in the mountains, highland dances and drinking bouts, dyed Huculs and an unfortunate guest, a photographer from Vienna, who fell in love with the landscape. But the love for a woman who had a husband idiot and a very strange daughter was his doing. This photographer was very reserved at the beginning. ‘This country had a great chance for transformation and for an almost instant change from the state of permanent atrocity and oligophrenic perplexity to normality at least. But it turned out, however, that the number of those who didn’t want it at all is beyond acceptable limits.’ Galicia and Transylvania are mystical, literary and poetic places. They are haunted by Antonych’s ghost, the favourite poet of the author. But the main layer of the novel is the grotesque depiction of the characters and situations, the “screeching” reality. The photographer Zumbrunnen writes that from the political side it is a ‘crawling totalitarianism, creeping in the dark, using criminals’ methods.’ The vapours of sovietism mix with the foul smell of new business, fraudulent advert, the cult of “real currency” and foreign transactions mirages. The guesthouse is full of rubbish and ridiculous slogans from different periods of history and civilisation: next to naczalnik otdel kadrov there is Red Army or Achtung Scheisse slogan, next to Fucking Room there is a directive Do not masturb etc. Andrukhovych, needless to say, made up most of them, because he likes to play with words, very intense words, from gentle caress of lovers to brutal erotics of “lavatory sex“, he is like a juggler with his balls. Apart from scholars, drunk poets and cheerful girls, there are horrifying militiamen with rifles to “keep their company”, ready to torture the prisoners in the solitary shed, however giving this up at the request of the influential celebrities of the new business. One can get an impression that nothing fits, nothing is right in this deadly ironic reality. It seems as impossible as the final flight over Transylvania to Vienna of Zumbrunnen who is already dead, the flight strictly set out by the author when it comes to its geographic route. But yet it is real, it exists, otherwise the novel would only be a fairy tale and we wouldn’t shiver. But we do.
Michał Radgowski © Rzeczpospolita