Interview with Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki on Writers and Translators website
Buy Lullaby for a Hanged Man from Calypso Editions or at Amazon.com
Buy Uspávanka pre obesenca at Artforum.sk
The Wall, a short story in The Missing Slate
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki is a Polish writer and poet. After studying theology and philosophy and travelling around Europe, he spent 10 years living in Reykjavík, studying Icelandic language and literature, trying his hand at a variety of jobs and writing. He is currently based in Vienna with his family; apart from fiction he has published essays in Polish journals such as Polityka, Przekrój and Odra. Since his debut collection Bielawa Wschodnia (Bielawa West Station, 2003), he has published the novellas, Dom róży, Krysuvik (Róża’s House – Krysuvik, 2006); Kołysanka dla wisielca (Lullaby for a Hanged Man. 2007); the novels Raz. Dwa. Trzy (One Two Three, 2007), Rzeczy pierwsze (First Things, 2009), and Bornholm, Bornholm (2011); Bangsi, a children’s book (2012); the novel Grecy umierają w domu (Greeks Go Home to Die, 2013); a collection of short stories, Pornogarmażerka (Coq au Porn, 2013); and a true crime novel, Preparator (The Pathologist, 2015). His latest novel, Samotność (Loneliness, 2015), appeared simultaneously in Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak.
Lullaby for a Hanged Man
Szymon says, let’s go to the beach, let’s have a swim, the weather’s so beautiful, it would be a shame to waste a day like this, let’s get going. I wondered if he was about to go off his rocker again, the days were so long, the night had vanished for a few months, it appeared only vestigially, a bit of dusk around midnight for an hour or so. Or perhaps he’s going off his rocker out of joy because now he has his beloved children for a few weeks, they turn up of the blue, like a prize in a lottery. Except that you can’t swim around here, the water temperature is around 46 Fahrenheit, that’s not much fun, and the beach near Perlan, they must be joking, it’s just ground sawdust and seashells, and when it rains the sand swells up and smells like a sawmill. But Szymon won’t let it go and I already know that I’ll have to give in or else he’ll explode. OK, I say, let’s go to the beach but I’m not swimming, I’ll stay on the shore, if you get cramps and need help I’ll jump in and come to your rescue but otherwise I’m not getting into the water, no way. Szymon started to laugh, stowed his violin in its case and signaled that he was ready to go. You’re not taking the children, I asked. No, no, they’re staying with the women, they don’t like these swimming outings of mine, I’ve tried it before. We drove in his old, worn-out yellow Jeep Wrangler. The jeep had a surname too, because everything that Szymon owned, everything he liked and used, had a name of some kind. He called his violin “drink,” and the car was called “Rumputowski,” it said so in black letters on the back. Rumputowski headed out of Reykjavík but instead of heading for the sea it did just the opposite and right after Hafnarfjörður it turned off towards the Blue Mountains. In wintertime, during the two hours of daylight when the sun illuminates their snow-covered slopes, they really do change color, their bright azure stands out against the deep indigo sky, while at other times, when the sky is the same blue as the mountains, they become completely invisible. After the Hafnarfjördður cemetery the tarmac came to an end and we continued along a gravel road pitted with potholes. We didn’t talk, I didn’t ask where the sea was, there was no point anymore, it was obvious that we were moving further away from the sea, he must have changed his mind and we must have been bound for the small lake that appeared on the horizon, maybe that’s what Szymon called the sea, just like the different names he gave other things. But I was wrong, we didn’t stop at the lake, we drove on. Now we were slipping along on grass, Rumputowski climbed a small hill leaving behind a strip of gray bumpy road. We found ourselves on a plateau covered in lupins, miles of lupins of every possible shade of blue. Never in my life had I seen such an accumulation of blueness, such a mass of flowers blooming in the far north, such an orgy of color and fragrance. What I saw there had nothing in common with the kind of lupins that used to grow in narrow colonies at railroad crossings and along railway embankments and by penitential crosses in Lower Silesia. This was a universe, an infinite world of blueness, because at some point the end of the field merged with the sky. Rumputowski came to a halt. We got out. I leaned against the hood and savored the breathtaking view, while Szymon took out his swimming trunks and a towel, which he spread on the ground the way people do on the beach at the resort of Międzyzdroje. He undressed completely, put on a pair of blue swimming trunks, picked up his violin and bow, tuned up and asked, so you’re not going for a swim then, right, and strode off into the field of lupins carrying his violin. He moved forward slowly, holding the instrument high above his head as if to make sure it wouldn’t get wet, as if wading through waves. He kept on walking, retreating so far into the distance that he eventually ended up as a tiny, whitish speck, visible only from the waist up, as his legs were buried deep in lupins and his blue swimming trunks merged completely with the color of the flowers. At one point he stopped and the tiny speck became even tinier as Szymon lowered the violin. He stood motionless for a while, and then I heard soft music flowing from the field. He was playing something very calm, flowing, something that was in perfect harmony with this place. Had his body been painted blue you could have imagined that it was the lupins playing, that the flowers themselves had strings and sound boxes. Suddenly the wind rose. It began to merge with the tune. This was a symphony within the sea, yes, within the sea, only now did I realize that we had indeed come to the seaside, complete with the waves and the wind, that everything around us was music and that somewhere in the distance a man was swimming, swimming amidst the waves and amidst the music, the lupins began to sway in the breeze, and this intensified their fragrance even more, and I realized I was witnessing a miracle, for this was the most beautiful sea I’d ever seen, without water or seaweed, without fish or boats. And the lupin waves of this most beautiful sea gently rocked a violinist who played and played and played.