Bird Man

About / O:

Kaja Malanowska’s short story originally published in Poland by Krytyka Polityczna (online) in 2014, chosen for Dalkey Archive Press’s Best European Fiction 2015. 

Opowiadanie Kai Malanowskiej opublikowane w Polsce przez Krytykę Polityczną (online) w 2014 roku, wybrane do antologii Best European Fiction 2015 wydanej przez wydawnictwo Dalkey Archive Press w 2014 roku.

Excerpt / Fragment:

Basia Żaczek had eleven siblings: nine sisters and two brothers. Enough for her to be able to disappear without anyone noticing. Nobody looked for her before lunchtime. Outside it always smelled of cow’s dung. The cowshed was right next to the house. The cows passed across the yard twice a day: in the morning, on their way to the pasture, and in the late afternoon, when, full and swollen, they came back for the evening milking, treading densely and clumsily, bumping into the open gate, which they were always trying to get through all at once, mooing thoughtlessly, pushing at each other with their shiny, black-and-white sides, throwing up clouds of dust , which did not want to settle and was hanging in the air until dusk, holding the smell of sweaty animals and ammonia.

In the morning, when Basia got up, the cows where already gone, the gate was shut, the dust settled on the laundry drying in front of the house. She went to the kitchen to spread some butter on a slice of bread. Above a round table covered with a plastic tablecloth with embossed flowers, a fly paper was hanging. A huge, pale-brown tongue full of moving, half-dead flies perishing slowly while Basia put the kettle on. Nobody spoke to her, nobody rushed her and forced her to do work. She could drink her tea, thick with sugar, in peace; and she could make brown, warm circles on the tablecloth with the tea glass and then smear the sticky wetness on the table with her index finger, making sweet pathways that attracted the wasps.

She was born eight years after her brother, who was supposed to be Mr and Mrs Żuczek’s last child. Like her elder sisters she inherited their mother’s strong, heavy-set build—thick, solid calves and massive thighs, which in time were destined to become covered with gnarls of purplish-blue varicose veins. Just like them, she could work in summertime, when the school was closed, she could help with the harvest and weed the potato field, but as the youngest, she was protected, she did not have to get moving, like the others. Just in her nightie, barefoot, she stepped stiffly over the doorstep, sat on the bench painted with oil paint and waited. Theirs was a large, sturdy house, which had once belonged to the Germans; two-storeyed, with double windows rounded at the top, and a sloping roof, it stood in the very middle of the village, right by the road, on the sharp bend so that cars and passers-by appeared only for a second—you could see them suddenly materialising from behind the cowshed and a moment later disappearing round the corner of the fence.




Kaja Malanowska


Dalkey Archive Press in Best European Fiction 2015



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