One of the biggest events in Britain’s literary calendar hits London this week, as it’s time for the annual LBF, or London Book Fair – a huge week-long event where publishers, literary agents and writers mingle. The market focus this year is Poland – amid a wave of interest in Polish literature abroad, and the strengthening demand by Polish readers for international works – with talks lined up at the Fair from topics such as crime writing in Poland to ‘imagined futures’ in Polish science fiction.
Poland has a long and exciting history of producing stunning works of literature (the nation had five Nobel Prize winners in literature in the twentieth century alone). To celebrate and highlight Poland’s forthcoming contributions to literature, here are a few selected titles worth checking out over the next twelve months.
Children of Our Age by A. M. Bakalar
This novel, by the London-based author A. M. Bakalar (Madame Mephisto, 2012), is a hard-hitting piece of fiction about human trafficking by Polish people in the UK. The author was born in Poland, but moved to Britain in 2004, where she became the first Polish woman to publish a novel in English following Poland joining the EU.
Clementine Loves Red is Krystyna Boglar
Boglar’s novel follows Mark, Annie and Pudding (otherwise known as Derek), who find a distressed girl in the forest who has lost her friend called Clementine. Upon finding her, they leap at the chance of an adventure. This children’s story is full of wit and is a charming classic of Polish literature, and will be published in English this year.The House with the Stained-Glass Window by Zanna Sloniowska
This novel, by the Krakow-based Zanna Sloniowska, is set in 1989 in the city of Lviv, and features a woman named Marianna, a beautiful opera singer who is shot dead in the street as she leads the Ukrainian citizens in their protest against Soviet power. Only eleven years old at the time, her daughter tells the story of their family before and after that critical moment – including, ten years later, her own passionate affair with an older, married man. This book, to be released in September by Quercus Books, won the Conrad Award for best literary debut in 2016 and has a strong feminist strand, focusing on the women at the heart of the tale and the connection between the turmoil of the time and their own turbulent lives.
The Unfinished Life of Phoebe Hicks by Agnieszka Taborska
A beautiful novella by Agnieszka Taborska, a lecturer in the history of art at RISD in the US. This story is about the author looking at a picture of a woman from the American Midwest in the 1870s and just imagining what her life was like based on her clothing and the posture. This translated title will be available in June, but for readers eager to read more about it, The Guardian published an extract at the end of last year.
Other Polish titles to check out in 2017 include Swallowing Mercury (Wioletta Grey), Exposure (Aga Lesiewicz), Lala (Jacek Dehnel) and Deluxe Maps (Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski).
Find out more about the public events happening at London Book Fair here.