Polish reporter Witold Szabłowski has signed with Penguin Random House. One of the most prestigious publishing companies in the world will be publishing two books by the Polish writer, and the second of them hasn't even been written yet.
The book which attracted attention of the publishing giant is Tańczące niedźwiedzie (Dancing Bears). Published in Poland in 2014, the book is a non-fiction account of Szabłowski's travels across the changing political and social landscapes of several countries, mostly in Eastern Europe both before or after transformation, including Bulgaria, Albania, Poland, and Ukraine, but also the UK and Cuba.
In the title piece, Szabłowski explores the fascinating story of Bulgaria's dancing bears. Trained by their gypsy masters, they were once a ubiquitous element of everyday life in the Balkans, performing at festivals to the merriment of the crowd. With Bulgaria's accession to the EU and rising pressure from animal rights organisations, the bears were relocated to special parks, where they were supposed to learn to be free. But in Szabłowski's book this journalistic tale becomes a metaphor for the challenges which come along with freedom.
The horrible truth is that, in spite of many years of efforts and the enormous sums of money invested in improving their lives and bringing them somewhat closer to nature, the dancing bears are still dancing. When faced with a challenge too difficult to cope with, they stand on their hind legs and start wobbling back and forth. This is their response to problems and stress, it is their response to a freedom with which they are unable to cope.
– Szabłowski says.
Dancing Bears in Penguin is scheduled to premiere in 2016 translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.
Szabłowski's second book (currently still in the making) whose rights were bought by Penguin will also deal with history. Entitled Przepis na historię (Recipe for History), the book will focus on some of the most important events of the 20th and 21st centuries, but tell them from the perspective of cooks.
These are not necessarily professional cooks. Rather they are people who in the time of key historical events happened to found themselves next to the cooking stove and in the centre of history.
– explains Szabłowski
Szabłowski's new book will tell several fascinating stories bridging history and the kitchen, among them that of Fidel Castro's personal cook, a young boy at the time of the revolution who ended up as a pioneering entrepreneur of Cuban capitalism – the owner of one of the first private restaurants in Cuba. Other chapters will feature as protagonists a Yazidi woman abducted by ISIS, who instead of becoming a sex-worker started cooking for the Jihadis, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi among the guests at her table. The history of Poland and Solidarność will come to the fore in the story of women cooks from the Świdnik factory's canteen who went on strike in July 1980 after the price of food was raised – an incident which according to many initiated the strikes of Solidarność on the Polish coast a month later. Szabłowski's book will also include the recipe for the famous cutlets from Świdnik's cooks.
Witold Szabłowski (b. 1980) is one of the most accomplished Polish reporters of the young generation. His first book was an acclaimed volume of reportages from Turkey, Morderca z miasta moreli (2010), whose English edition The Assassin from Apricot City was translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and awarded the British PEN Club award. Szabłowski's next book, Nasz mały PRL (2012), written together with wife Iza Meyza, was a non-fiction account of the couple's self-imposed 6-month isolation in a communist-era tenement house – a time-traveling experiment at living life as one would in Communist Poland.
Other Polish writers whose books have been published in Penguin include Bruno Schulz, Sławomir Mrożek, Czesław Miłosz, Tadeusz Konwicki, and Agata Tuszyńska. Before Szabłowski, the only non-fiction Polish author was Ryszard Kapuściński.
Author: Mikołaj Gliński; source: Culture.pl, 26 January 2016