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A Treatise on Shelling Beans
Our hero and narrator is the ageing caretaker of cottages at a summer resort. A mysterious visitor inspires him to share the story of his long life: we witness a happy childhood cut short by the war, his hiding from the Nazis buried in a heap of potatoes, his plodding attempts to play the saxophone, the brutal murder of his family, loves lost but remembered, and footloose travels abroad. Told in the manner of friends and neighbors swapping stories over the mundane task of shelling beans—in the grand oral tradition of Myśliwski’s celebratedStone Upon Stone—each anecdote, lived experience, and memory accrues cross-stitched layers of meaning. By turns hilarious and poignant, A Treatise on Shelling Beans is an epic recounting of a life that, while universal, is anything but ordinary.
About the Author
Wieslaw Mysliwski (pron: VEE-slaw Mish-LIF-ski) is the only writer to have twice received the Nike Prize, Poland's most prestigious literary award: in 1997 for his novel Horizon and again in 2007 for A Treatise on Shelling Beans. He worked as an editor at the People's Publishing Cooperative and at the magazines Regiony and Sycyna. In addition to the Nike Prize, Mysliwski has received the Stanislaw Pietak Prize, the Arts Ministry Prize, the State Prize, the Reymont Prize, and the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Award. The author lives in Poland.
Praise for A Treatise on Shelling Beans…
Praise for PEN Translation Prize-winning Stone Upon Stone:
"Like a more agrarian Beckett, a less gothic Faulkner, a slightly warmer Laxness ... Richly textured and wonderfully evocative ... Undeniably original." --Publishers Weekly, starred
"A marvel of narrative seduction, a rare double masterpiece of storytelling and translation ... Mysliwski's prose, replete with wit and an almost casual intensity, skips nimbly from one emotional register to the next, carrying dramatic force." --Times Literary Supplement
"Sweeping . . . irreverent . . With winning candor . . . Pietruszka chronicles the modernization of rural Poland and celebrates the persistence of desire." --The New Yorker
"Inspired by a surprise visitor, the elderly caretaker at a summer resort spills the beans on his entire life, from a childhood shattered by war to lost loves to his failed efforts to play the saxophone, told in relentless, pellucid detail that might puzzle thrill seekers but reads like life itself." -- Library Journal (Best Fiction in Translation 2013)
"Newcomers to Mysliwski should prepare themselves for a unique voice, intriguing characters and page after page of wily but thoughtful prose ... Our loquacious host is both riveting and endearing company ... Our garrulous narrator with his messy life is equally hard to resist. The best approach is simply to succumb to his extraordinary storytelling." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Feeling at times like a confession, this is another masterstroke by the acclaimed Polish author Wiesław Myśliwski ... his remarkable translator, Bill Johnston, matches him step for step." —Quarterly Conversation