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The Polish Complex

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  162 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
The Polish Complex takes place on Christmas Eve, from early morning until late in the evening, as a line of people (including the narrator, whose name is Konwicki) stand and wait in front of a jewelry store in Warsaw. Through the narrator we are told of what happens among those standing in line outside this store, what happens as the narrator's mind thinks and rants about ...more
Paperback, 211 pages
Published January 3rd 1984 by Penguin Books (first published 1977)
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Nate D
Jun 07, 2012 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who struggle in hopeless histories
Recommended to Nate D by: Those who wait in hopeless lines
Tadeusz Konwicki is fantastic, and no one is reading him these days. To the point where his works that have never been translated out of Polish seem to far out-number those that have. I've written about a few others here (the hit) and here (my favorite) and here (the ostensible-but-not-really kids adventure story).

This one, notoriously, is about waiting in line all day for a shipment to a government jewelry store which may or may not ever arrive. Even so, it's an odysssey of sorts through modern
"The Polish Complex" is the kind of existential comedy I aspire to write. A teaspoon of Beckett here, a pinch of Kafka there, an inexact and mesmerizing touch of Lispector.

The book reads in many way like a play. I felt like I was reading or watching a play through much of the book, and at the same time, it really did transport me to a certain time and place so that I, too, was outside in the cold, and then inside, and then outside again. And then there were those strange interludes, one about Z
Dec 27, 2015 [P] rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dear aliens,

It is Christmas day, and I write this while at my parents’ house. A few moments ago, I was sitting by the window, which I had opened in an effort to tempt a Bengal kitten into joining the forces of evil, when above me I saw a bright light, and I thought of you. Or should I say, I thought of you in the hope that you would think of me. Which means that I, and this is typical of our species, acknowledged your potential existence only in so much as I would like you to acknowledge my actu
Dec 10, 2012 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wicked powerful. There is nothing brittle nor forced about this bolt from the blue. The queue and the empty shelf have become symbols of something, but not the archaic. Our relative surfeit doesn't obscure the ghosts of our misdeeds.

Konwicki glances sidelong at the prism of identity. Somewhere Fernand Braudel sighs.
Feb 02, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A complex story, very brave for its day, sexist and dark in places, loved the descriptions of the forest and the tragic farce of the 1863 Uprising which was a taboo subsject when Konwicki wrote his book. Also appreciated the awful dilemna that people from the Polish Borderlands, the Kresy went throughwhen they were obliged to settle in what was for them a foreign country with a repressive and oppressive regime, another taboo subject then and not much touched on now.
Jun 08, 2009 Shawn rated it it was amazing
I read this when I was in college, and it really blew my socks off. It came in a boxed set with Kundera (Laughable Loves) and Bruno Schultz (This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen). Not only did it (and the other two) open up to me a whole world of (and way of) writing under censorship, but also literally a whole world (the Soviet satellites) and a whole history that was more or less dry and side-barred in school. This was also my introduction to Tadeusz Konwicki who is now a staple of my re ...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
There are parts of this book that are so essentially black and white, grainy film. The Communist era is so well-caught.... Excellent!
By the way, I object to its being called "American Literature" - this is a Polish book!
Ronald Morton
Feb 24, 2016 Ronald Morton rated it really liked it
A fantastic little book, and my first experience with Konwicki. At once a novel about spending Christmas Eve waiting in line at a jeweler store, hoping that a shipment of some value will arrive, it is also a book interspersed with meditations on sin, slavery, subjugation, rebellion, (lack of) understanding, communication, identity, and the like. All of this is tied up with the identity of not only Poland in a historical sense, but Poland specifically as it existed as a part of the Soviet Bloc.
Gonzalo Oyanedel
Partiendo de una resignada fila que aguarda frente a una joyería, Tadeusz Konwicki intenta trazar el perfil de la Polonia que vio en su tiempo, con personajes que buscan resumir los anhelos, temores y dudas de años grises. Un ejercicio que a menudo se extravía en reflexiones y recuerdos, pero gana en honestidad.
Apr 09, 2009 Tyson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love books about Poland. This isn't anywhere near as intersting as "AMinor Apolcalyps" but an interesting character study of Poles in communist Poland and the Polish resistance in bot hWorld War II and back into the 19th centiry.
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