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Swallowing Mercury Hardcover – 5 Jan 2017
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'Greg writes with a precise, strange charm, and the poet's acute sensitivity to detail. Little by little, I felt the presence of young Wiola appear beside me - vital, quick-witted and curious, picking her way through the dark woods of faith, family, sex and politics as if in some melancholy fairytale. I experienced the book like a series of cool, clear drinks, each more intoxicating that the last: I love and admire it in equal measure' -- Sarah Perry, Essex Serpent
'This enchantingly elliptical fiction debut sparkles with a gem-like quality. Thanks to Eliza Marciniak's crisp translation, it brings freshness even to the crowded genre of the novella-sized bildungsroman, and can be devoured alongside the best coming-of-age translations of recent years... Swallowing Mercury is a richly textured portrait of a culture now lost: rural life under one of the milder communist regimes... It is refreshing to find a fiction writer so free of stylistic pomp, so finely attuned to the truth of her material, a novel so sensually saturated. The full cumulative power of Greg's prose is felt towards the end, as it accelerates alongside Wiola's adolescence - until we are swept into the unknown' -- Guardian
'A highly evocative debut novella, which hovers beguilingly somewhere between straight coming-of-age memoir and slightly surreal folk tale... Greg's great achievement is to conjure up [the] period so vividly that you can smell it, taste and feel it' -- Scotland on Sunday
'Wioletta Greg's first novella shines with a surreal and unsettling vigour. As an award-winning poet, Greg writes with a lyricism that brings alive the charms and dangers of Wiola's life, while an afterword by translator Eliza Marciniak offers valuable historical context' --Financial Times
'Beautifully crafted... From the frightening to the farcical, Wioletta Greg describes growing up in the final decade of the Polish People's Republic with a humour and matter-of-factness that belie a harsh reality' -- New Internationalist
'Full of mysterious elements of folk and superstition, making it immediately engaging [...] and employing a mesmeric vocabulary' -- AnOther Magazine
'Greg paints an evocative, yet dream-like picture of a Poland that is at once familiar, but distant... Swallowing Mercury is both magical and sinister, and, like Wiola, completely captivating' -- Irish News
'This disorientating novel is bursting with sensual images... I can't think of a novel like it' --Daily Mail
'What emerges from this funny but also profound autobiographical piece is a picture of a layered society, riven with internal contradictions where much lurks beneath the surface' -- Town and Country House Magazine
'I really loved this strange book, which is sometimes sinister and sometimes lovely, and many other things besides' -- Evie Wyld
'I have been utterly 'swallowed' by this odd yet oddly familiar folk novella - somewhere between memoir and fairytale - which has magic and menace in perfect measure' -- Sara Baume
'This book comes the way memory does, in fragments, like something overheard or glimpsed through a gap in the door. It might feel as if you shouldn't be listening, should turn away, but it is impossible to do so' -- Daisy Johnson
'A sparkling little gem of a book - there is a freshness and truthfulness in Wioletta Greg's writing that reminded me of Elena Ferrant and Tove Jansson' --Carys Davies
About the Author
WIOLETTA GREG is the author of six volumes of poetry and a novella, Swallowing Mercury, translated here into English for the first time. Her poetry collection, Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance, was shortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. She lives in Essex. ELIZA MARCINIAK is an editor and translator. She lives in London.
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on 11 February 2017
Overall, I loved this little book. While I think it's more like a collection of little somewhat autobiographical incidents/stories more than a novella, it's beautifully written and translated, with vivid and enchanting imagery that really shows the author's poet side. The author's note at the end about some of the political context and allusions felt too 'oh-by-the-way' though, and I think I would have preferred those things to be more intuitive or accessible within the stories themselves. The characters and context and setting are interesting, and I love how the author showed the easy nature with which strong Catholic faith sits side-by-side with more paganistic superstitions, but mostly I think I wanted this book to feel as though it could stand alone and feel more fully formed as the novella it's marketed as being. It just needed more. But I nonetheless very much enjoyed reading this and am hoping to pick up some of Greg's poetry in the future.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Amazon.com: 2 reviews
OK, but not a novel
on 28 October 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
I'm Polish , so I can relate to events described in this book.This is NOT a novel and it shouldn't be called novel, memoir rather.The author is very honest, maybe too honest. I spent most of my childhood on my grandmothers farm and there were no buckets with urine sitting around and no flies feasting on spilled sugar in the kitchen.My family is clean as opposed to Wioletta's. A foreign reader may have impression that all Polish farmers are filthy, that is not true. In fact I never encountered the dirt, laziness and neglect described in this book.I'm sorry for the author that she had to grow up in such desolated environment. The style of the book is not innovative and certainly not "romantic" or"poetic" as advertised.But it brought some fond memories, that's why I like it.I don't understand why the book was nominated for The International Booker, are our standards so low, really?
Nice presentation by Transit Books
on 8 October 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
Interesting story though a little haunting.
The cover is very interesting as well. Nice presentation by Transit Books.
The cover is very interesting as well. Nice presentation by Transit Books.
Delightful collection of short, autobiographical stories of growing up in rural Poland during the 1970s and 1980s
on 12 November 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
On the Man Booker International Prize 2017 Longlist. These short, autobiographical stories of growing up in rural Poland during the 1970s and 1980s are delightful and somewhat unassuming. Greg, a poet who was born in Poland and now lives in England, writes in a crisp, no-frills manner and captures the rich world of country life under a moderate Communist regime where church rituals and superstitions play a large role. (The mother ties a red string around her newborn’s wrist to ward off evil spells.) The poet’s grasp of language does come through occasionally (the sun “rusting” in the sky, the air smelling of “watermelon pulp” after a rain, the “trotters quivered on a plate” at a wedding), but for the most part, those embellishments are used sparingly. The characters are well drawn with just a few strokes and recur from story to story.