Buy Cold Sea Stories by Paweł Huelle, translated by Antonia Lloyd Jones HERE
Check out the other books in the 12 Days of Comma Sale HERE – discounted prices last until the Sunday 18th December so get you orders in while stocks last and we’ll get them to you in time to have them under the tree!
What is it?
Cold Sea Stories is a single author collection written by Polish author Paweł Huelle, translated by Antonia Lloyd Jones. In an interview with Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski, they put all of us non-Polish-speaking people out of our misery and detailed the correct pronunciation: “For the record it’s pronounced Hyoola – like the hoop, but with a Y. Pawel’s easier: it almost rhymes with gravel.”
First published in 2008, this translated version was published by Comma in 2012, and to great success. The Herald said:
‘These are complex stories, blending mythology and ancient history with the tide of political change, moving easily between autobiography and invention, reality and fantasy, but they are also immensely readable.’
A student pedals an old Ukraina bicycle between striking factories, delivering bulletins, in the tumultuous first days of the Solidarity movement… A shepherd watches, unseen, as a strange figure disembarks from a pirate ship anchored in the cove below, to bury a chest on the beach that later proves empty… A prisoner in a Berber dungeon recounts his life’s story – the failed pursuit of the world’s very first language – by scrawling in the sand on his cell floor…The characters in Pawel Huelle’s mesmerising stories find themselves, willingly or not, at the heart of epic narratives; legends and histories that stretch far beyond the limits of their own lives. Against the backdrop of the Baltic coast, mythology and meteorology mix with the inexorable tide of political change: Kashubian folklore, Chinese mysticism and mediaeval scholarship butt up against the war in Chechnya, 9-11, and the struggle for Polish independence.
Central to Huelle’s imagery is the vision of the refugee – be it the Chechen woman carrying her newborn child across the Polish border (her face emblazoned on every TV screen), the survivor of the Gulag re-appearing on his friends’ doorstep, years
after being presumed dead, or the stranger who befriends the sole resident of a ghostly Mennonite village in the final days of the Second World War. Each refugee carries a clue, it seems, or is in possession or pursuit of some mysterious text or book, knowing that only it – like the Chinese ‘Book of Changes’ – can decode their story.What we do with this text, this clue, Huelle seems to say, is up to us.
Why this book?
I was lucky enough to visit Poland for the first time a few months ago, on a research trip with the British Council, and I was completely taken in by the literary scene of Krakow, from their beautiful book shops, to their Conrad Festival. What with Poland being the focus at London Book Fair next year as well, we thought it was timely to include a book from such a highly revered Polish author, whose beautiful, ghostly stories move like spectres from historical juncture to modern day, city to seaside, politics to personal.
Who should you buy this for?
You should buy this book for anyone with an interest in fiction immersed in history, and who wants to be amongst characters and narratives of a very different, but not too distant time. Its cold coastal houses, and warm attics, are the perfect place to retreat to from the safety of your cosiest sofa.