Marek Krajewski is a prose writer and author of celebrated novels. He is a classical philology graduate specializing in Latin. He was born on 4th of September 1966 in Wrocław.
A prose writer and author of celebrated novels. He is a classical philology graduate specializing in Latin.
From 1995 Krajewski worked as a professor at the University of Wrocław but in 2007 he decided to become a professional writer. It soon turned out to be the right choice. He is a laureate of the High Calibre Award and the Book Institute Award for best Polish crime novel. In 2005 he was given the “The Witryna Award’ by Polish booksellers, and one year later he received the prestigious Polityka’s Passport. His novels have been translated into English, German, Russian, French, Hebrew and many other languages. His works are regarded as going far beyond the boundaries of the genre.
His prose peddled the fashion for ‘retro crime novels’, where the plot is usually situated in the meticulously reproduced recent past (Konrad T. Lewandowski, the author of Magnetyzer is another exponent of this trend). Yet, Krajewski’s novels tend to have something in common with horror or the broader convention of “incredible stories” rather than the classic murder mystery.
The topic of sects or clandestine brotherhoods tends to appear often. Brutal murders are driven by occult practices (like in Phantoms in Breslau / Widma w mieście Breslau, the darkest of his stories), sects’ influences (Death in Breslau / Śmierć w Breslau) or by the ideology proclaiming the need to purge society of degenerated, useless beings (Plague in Breslau / Dżuma w Breslau). In Festung Breslau, which ends the series, the desire to fulfil eight evangelical blessings serves as a motive for the crime. As it can be seen, these are not proper circumstances for the blossoming of the old-fashioned art of deduction.
There are however some traditional components in his novels, such as a love for the macabre, taken from the classic works of Edgar Allan Poe. In Krajewski’s stories they have a double justification. Primarily, the main character is a policeman; secondarily there is an equal precision in describing cuisine, historical and geographical facts, forensic science methods, and the protagonists' relationships with women.
Even though these features are not alien to popular literature, Krajewski brings them to another level in Festung Breslau, which takes place in the city besieged by Russians in 1945. The great care taken in describing reality, previously used to describe wining and dining or the main character’s contact with prostitutes, is focused in Festung Breslau on the decrepit and disfigured body of Eberhardt Mock (the main character of Krajewski's novels), the progressive annihilation of the city and the carefully celebrated meals, comprising of substitute products which are increasingly harder to acquire.
In spite of all the unusual elements, the main character fits perfectly in the convention of ‘hard-boiled crime fiction’. The author admits a certain affinity between Raymond’s Chandler character Philip Marlowe and Eberhardt Mock. However, Marlowe, as cynical and brutal as he was, always stayed on the right side while Krajewski’s character is far from being morally clear-cut.
Eberhardt Mock works for the Wrocław Police Department, being promoted from a rank-and-file vice squad member to police commissioner over the course of the series. He is presented as a corrupt bad guy, or at least, a ‘difficult character’. It is not clear whether it is a result of his personal tragedies (his lover and his father get killed in the Breslau series) or his psychological issues themselves. Anyhow, he is a notorious alcoholic and he tends to be very aggressive with women. In The End of the World in Breslau / Koniec świata w Breslau his (much younger) wife Sophie runs away from him after being beaten. During his investigations Mock often acts against his bosses’ will, uses blackmail, cooperates with villains or even operates outside the law. The best example for the latter is his arbitrary execution of a rapist and killer of young girls, which is a result of the courts’ helplessness. This fact reveals to the reader that Mock has an instinctive desire for justice. He is often referred to as a ‘bloodhound’ and dreams about such an inscription on his grave. Yet, his understanding of justice is always close to revenge. Paradoxically, his avenger’s pose is reinforced by his sensitivity to the victims suffering - a somewhat unusual addition to his complicated character. Both his supervisors and his enemies often use this weakness to manipulate him.
Krajewski made Mock a graduate of classical philology studies. Literature critic Jarosław Petrowicz regarded this as ‘ennobling’ the nature of the crime story. He wrote about Mock and Popielski (another of Krajewski's important characters)
It is astonishing that brutal, tough men sometimes exhibit their perfect knowledge about Latin and ancient culture. They are both lovers of antiquity and of the female body.
These elements are not, however, to be treated as mere ornaments, as the main characters’ understanding of ancient cultures often helps his investigations. Even if he forgets some words or grammar, he still has helpful friends at the university who always answer his questions about primeval religious movements.
Apart from Mock, Krajewski has created two more heroes: Jarosław Pater and Edward Popielski. The former is the protagonist of Aleja samobójców / Suicide Alley and Róże cmentarne / Cemetery Roses, co-auhored with writer and cultural anthropologist Mariusz Czubaj. The latter, a police officer from Lviv, appears in another series, which begun with Erynie / Erinyes, published in 2010. More novels about him have been published in the following years: Liczby Charona / Charon's Numbers (2011), Rzeki Hadesu / Rivers of Hades (2012), W otchłani mroku / In the Depth of Darkness (2013), Władca liczb / The Master of Numbers (2014) and Arena szczurów/ Rats' Arena (2015). Popielski also appears in Głowa Minotaura / Minotaur's Head, in which Eberhardt Mock leads an investigation in Lviv. All of Krajewski's characters have something in common – a classical education, a passion for eroticism and a love for eating – to name only the most obvious.
In novels about Popielski he uses 'bałak' - a city dialect of the 'batiars' of Lviv - proficiently, while the narratives taking place in Wrocław are depicted precisely when it comes to history and geography (each book is complemented by a map). Marek Krajewski creates his imaginary reality with meticulous detail. German Breslau, presented as a dark metropolis and a “pit of hell” is perfect example of how well the author defines collective character as well as that of individuals. Maybe it is for this layer of his narrative that his novels are so valuable?
In 2015, together with a forensic specialist and expert witness Jerzy Kawecki, Krajewski wrote a collection of relations from famous investigations entitled Umarli mają głos. Prawdziwe historie / Voices of the Dead. True stories. Until that time Kawecki helped Krajewski as a consultant, and this time the famous writer helped the pathologist with his literary talent in a project which consisted in describing the most interesting cases of his professional career.
The legendary protagonist Eberhardt Mock came back in a new novel entitled just Mock in 2016. It is the first volume of a new series, supposed to become a prequel to the books with Breslau in the title. It takes place in Wrocław in 1913. Mock is trying to solve the mystery of murders of four young students, whose bodies have been discovered in the newly built Centennial Hall. The return to a story set in the writer's favourite decorations and with the most famous protagonist, has been received with much pleasure:
Krajewski (...) depicts the reality of pre-war Breslau with its political and social antagonisms, topography and climate in a masterful way. In Mock we admire elegant living rooms and University halls, but also visit dark streets and shady bars. Together with Mock we taste beer, but we also get to know the mystical connocations of the Wrocław architecture, upon which the Centennial Hall crowns. There's never lack of displays of erudition about Mason symbols, Nietzsche's philosophy, classical philosophy and law - wrote Monika Frenkiel (Onet, 13.09.2016).
- Death in Breslau (Śmierć w Breslau), 1999
- The End of the World in Breslau (Koniec świata w Breslau), 2003
- Phantoms in Breslau (Widma w mieście Breslau), 2005
- Fortress Breslau (Festung Breslau), 2006
- Plague in Breslau (Dżuma w Breslau), 2007
- Suicide Avenue (Aleja samobójców), 2008
- Cemetery Roses (Róże cmentarne), 2009
- The Minotaur's Head (Głowa Minotaura), 2009
- Erynie (Erynie), 2010
- Liczby Charona, 2011
- Rzeki Hadesu, 2012
- In the Depths of Darkness (W otchłani mroku), 2013
- Master of Numbers (Władca liczb), 2014
- Voices of the Dead. True stories (Umarli mają głos. Prawdziwe historie), 2015
- Rats' Arena (Arena szczurów), 2015
- Mock, 2016.
Autor: Paweł Kozioł, październik 2010, Translated and updated by W.O., March 2014, updated by NMR, December 2016.