Polish Crime Fiction Night : Celebrating Crime Fiction Writing

Polish Crime Fiction NightThe event celebrated the brightest and best in Polish crime fiction writing talent. The literary- set included William Broderick author of The Day of a Lie; Anya Lipska author of Where the Devil Cant Go, Joanna Jodelka author of Polychrome and also Mariusz Czubaj author of 21:37
Journalist Rosie Goldsmith charmingly picked apart the ingredients of Polish crime fiction. Was there something unique to Polish crime fiction that stood it apart from the well thumbed novels of Ian Rankin and what were the common characteristics, if any, amongst the selected writers?

Mariusz Czubaj
Mariusz Czubaj is the author of the intriguingly entitled yet easily memorable 21:37 Interestingly in case you were wondering just what was behind the title of Mariusz`s book 21:37, it signifies the time Polish Pope John Paul was meant to have nearly died. Interviewer Rosie Goldsmith asked Czubaj if he was brave to write a story involving potent topics such as politics, religion, and corruption and expose himself to criticism in the process. As far as abuse allegations within the church were concerned, Czubaj was blissfully unaware of any allegations of abuse within the church until after the book was published. However he struck me as something of an iconoclast with a healthy irreverence for the shortcomings of institutions, and would not risk fear garrot his creativity. A great novel but something of a sleeper in literary terms. Czubaj revealed when published in 2008, it received a lukewarm response from the Polish public. Was there no appetite for crime fiction or did the novel offend conservative (with a small c) Polish reading tastes? Journalist Rosie Goldsmith then commented on the main character within 21:37 Interestingly the main protagonist in the book Rudolph was an interesting character, free from stereotypes. Czubaj explained that the character’s profession as profiler, was a “metaphor” for someone who was basically a “good person in a crazy world” and far from a two dimensional character, he was one made of real “blood and guts”.

L-R  William Broderick. Anya Lipska, Joanna Jodelpa, and Mariusz Czubaj
L-R William Broderick. Anya Lipska, Joanna Jodelka, and Mariusz Czubaj

Joanna Jodelka won the High Calibre Award for the Best Polish Crime Novel, taking the prize in 2010 for her debut Polychrome (Polichromia, 2009).Former art historian, Joanna Jodelka explained that she was determined to write a crime novel and used her thesis to help her write the book. Infact we may have not have seen her first book, had it not been for her then professor`s constant goading. It seemed it was a torturous experience but a cathartic one for her. Jodelka was in fact the first Polish female to win the High Calibre award. Were there a distinct lack of Polish female crime fiction writers? interviewer Rosie Goldsmith asked. Jodelka revealed that since winning the award, there were more Polish female crime fiction writers coming forward. Could we expect a whole new sub genre of crime fiction with darker, intelligent female insights with less machismo, to rival the current body of American or English male crime fiction writers? Do female crime fiction writers make better writers then male crime fiction writers ? Now that’s a question to get the male literary rabble roused.

Next to bask in the glow of literary adulation was novelist Anya Lipska, with her debut novel Where The Devil Cant Go. The sometime television producer wanted the structure of a crime novel which could get into peoples` motivations and has issues of morality, guilt, loss and betrayal. Interviewer Rosie Goldsmith made a salient point of how Lipska manages to bridge the two cultures by producing the two key characters; the ambitious young detective Natalie Kershaw and hard man with a heart Janusz Kiszka , a kind of underworld fixer/sleuth who is less sleuth and more ruthless. Interviewer Rosie Goldsmith asked Did she know people like them? According to Lipska, Natalie is a woman in a man`s world and like her, she was a woman in a man`s television exec world so they were “composite characters”.


Finally William Broderick author of The Day of the Lie. An interesting background, beginning his life as a friar in Dublin, Ireland. After several years as a friar, he left the order to help set up a charity at the request of Cardinal Hume, The Depaul Trust. In 1991 he became a barrister and is now a writer. He has written several books featuring the character Father Anslem. Rather then a protagonist flawed and haunted by inner demons, we have Father Anslem who Broderick explains is plagued by the never -ending question of why people commit crimes. Broderick has several books with a Polish connection. Why Poland ? interviewer Rosie Goldsmith asked. Broderick commented that his mother who was of Dutch origin, believed that the “English know what it is to be bombed but not to be occupied and according to Broderick there was a “profound ignorance of the Polish (war) experience.”

The event proved to be a wonderful foray into Polish crime fiction writing, peppered with interesting insights and personalised with readings. For me, the well-organised event was a seminal moment and provided a photo-fit of Polish crime writing in 2014. We were witnessing possibly the beginning of a literary movement that could see the birth a whole new sub-genre which in time will hopefully see a burgeoning Polish Crime fiction scene.

Anya Lipska: Where The Devil Cant Go Published by Friday Project

Joanna Jodelka: Polychrome Polychrome was translated by Danusia Stok

William Broderick: The Day of The Lie It is published by Little Brown.

Mario Cibaj: 21:37 published by Stork Press and translated by Anna Hyde.

Rosie Goldsmith is Chair of European Literature Night held at the British Library.She is a journalist specializing in arts and international affairs, in the UK and abroad. As a BBC broadcaster she travelled the world, from Libya to Japan to East Timor. She began her career at the BBC in 1989 on a programme called ‘Europhile’, covering events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the revolutions of Eastern Europe. She also presented flagship BBC radio shows like Front Row, Open Book, A World In Your Ear and Crossing Continents.


South Asian Literature Festival: Addictive Cities: Event Review

globe Addictive Cities: South Asian Literature Event 2013

South Asian Literature Event 2013 brought its calendar of events to with its closing event Addictive Cities featuring Jeet Thayil the author behind the book Narcoplis and also Amit Chaudhuri the author behind the book Calcutta.Two very different authors with the latter, something of a ken speckled figure and a man of not just literary but musical sensibilities as well with a litany of awards and Jeet Thayil something of a literary iconoclast with his book Narcopolis, a blistering attack on the chocolate box image of Bombay by exposing the underbelly of the city with its hidden drug dens. It strips the travelogue perceptions of Bombay and takes the reader down the dark and seedy underground with the theme of drug addiction at its core.
Interestingly the event started with an insightful question by the sagacious interviewer Ted Hodgekinson, to author Jeet Thayil on whether the memory of modern day Mumbai was firmly couched in history. It was an interesting opening question, considering there is a heightened understanding of globalisation and a reledntless drive towards the advancement of cities. Interestingly Thayil commented that Bombay was firmly entrenched in the past with its derilect buildings and its accumulated history but was never young. Yet there is something nevertheless “contemporary” about the city and this was one of the city`s many paradoxes.
Thayil also brought up the idea of how one can use the city as a way of disguising or purposely loosing ones own identity and becoming immersed in the city`s innards as as a way of cloaking one in anonymity. He mentions the French writer Charles Pierre Baudelaire who first originated the idea in his own writing. It seemed to me such an interesting comment because it dovetails with the ever present occurrence of celebrities desperate to hide from intrusive cameras or their celebrity alter ego or themselves? by taking refuge in the hubub of the city. Its occurrence, a sign how we are salaciously preoccupied with the notion of celebrity, itself maybe part of a modernity?
One of the audience members delivered a very salient point about whether the authors were consciously calling the Mumbai by its old name Bombay instead of Mumbai for personal reasons or were they simply unaware ? As far as Thayail was concerned, calling the city Bombay instead of Mumbai, was a way of reclaiming it back, since Bombay was the city he grew up in. In a way,it was a show of defiance to those who had engaged in political machinations and political posturing’s to change the name out of self interest. Overall a certainly engaging debate that packed an intellectual punch from its two very own literary heavy-weights and made it a fitting end to the South Asian Literature Festival season of events.

South Asian Litereture