After high school, Łoziński lived in Paris for several years, where he graduated from the Sorbonne with a degree in sociology. He worked as a house painter, translator, photographer (he worked for Przekrój and Rzeczpospolita), and assistant to a blind psychotherapist, a student of Jacques Lacan. He had several photographic exhibitions and published short stories in literary periodicals. Łoziński received the Homines Urbani scholarship for writers and translators from The Book Institute and Villa Decius Association (2007), and fellowships at Ledig House (USA), Chateau de Lavigny (Switzerland), Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany). He is the son of Marcel Łoziński, one of the most famous and well regarded Polish documentary film makers in the world, and the brother of Paweł Łoziński, a director and screenwriter of documentary and fiction films.
Mikołaj Łoziński’s first novel, Reisefieber, was released in 2006 and brought him the second prize in a contest for young creators organised by the Polish Culture Foundation, and the Kościelski Award for the best debut novel in 2007. Reisefieber was also nominated for the Nike prize in 2007, but didn’t get into the final. Fairytales for Ida, Łoziński’s second book published in 2008, is a collection of short stories for children. Thanks to his next publication, Book (2011), Łoziński won Polityka magazine's Passport award in 2011.
Łoziński claimed he has never planned on writing a book. The idea and theme for his debut, Reisefieber, came to him by accident. ‘I witnessed a story that moved me deeply. What happened gave me the framework for the novel. I was later trying to fill it with myself’, he said in an interview.
When the writer was living in Paris, he and his fiancée rented an apartment from a Swedish woman based in France. She was a warm, kind person who helped the young lodgers feel at home in a foreign country; they talked often. Łoziński recollected in an interview with Beata Kęczkowska:
In her stories there was a sad leitmotif – her son. She raised him on her own and loved him very much, but lost contact with him. All she knew was that he left for America. She described him as unjust, cruel.
After the owner of the apartment died, her son flew in from New York to take care of formal matters.
We were expecting a monster, whereas he turned out to be a charming, sensitive man. I was shocked by the fact that it may be so hard for two people who love each other to find common ground. A year later I started writing Reisefieber.
Łoziński’s book is a story about complicated family relationships, meticulously hidden secrets, fears, inability to name and express one’s feelings.
The German word ‘reisefieber’ literally means ‘a travel fever’, a fear of traveling. The framing device of the novel is a flight on a plane – Daniel, a Swedish man living in the US, comes to Paris after he finds out his mother, whom he wasn't in contact with, died. The trip he embarks on is in fact a journey through time – he visits the past to understand his mother, and try to reconstruct her world from scraps of information. He seeks help from people who aren’t able to tell him much – his aunt, who didn’t really know or understand her stepsister, a blind psychotherapist bound by physician–patient privilege. In parallel, retrospections appear – scenes from Daniel’s mother, Astrid's, life. She also had trouble understanding her son and was looking for answers.
Robert Ostaszewski wrote about Łoziński for Gazeta Wyborcza:
Given the author’s young age and the fact that it’s a debut, his prose is surprisingly mature and skilfully written. I will perhaps risk stating that Reisefieber is the most promising literary entrée since Dorota Masłowska’s Wojna polsko-ruska.
Compared to another writers of his generation, Mikołaj Łoziński is an exception. He doesn’t strive to be modern, neither does he use convoluted, fanciful language. He doesn’t try to be the voice of his generation, or the chronicler of his times. Łoziński is surprisingly modest and natural, and refrains from calling himself a writer. As he explained in an interview with Beata Bereza:
My writing isn't spectacular, no doors or shutters bang, there’s no tempest outside the window, no one’s hair stands on end. My writing is rather non-writing … I described, in the best way I could, things that are basic and most important to me: feelings, emotions, relationships between people. It doesn’t matter whether the action is taking place in Paris, Warsaw, or Tychy.
His precision and reserved narration are unexpected – Reisefieber is only 162 pages long, as Łoziński crossed out seventy pages from the initial version. As quoted by Beata Kęczkowska in her article Laur dla Mikołaja Łozińskiego for Gazeta Wyborcza:
I write slowly, self-consciously, with each new sentence I have thousands of doubts … With each page I am afraid that finally it will be uncovered that in reality I can do nothing and that I don’t know anything about people.
But the readers and critics do not have such doubts. The novel has been translated into German, Hungarian, Czech, Slovene, Latvian, and Russian.
The author himself is impatiently waiting for a translation into French. In Paris he worked as an assistant to a blind psychotherapist, who became the prototype for Aude, one of the characters in Reisefieber. In an interview for Wysokie Obcasy, Łoziński confessed:
I got to know her a little during the two years and liked her very much. She doesn’t know that there’s a character based on her in Reisefieber, I was too embarrassed to tell her… If the book gets released in French, I am hopping on a plane and visiting her to read Reisefieber out loud. Just like I read other books to her. This is my biggest dream when it comes to Reisefieber.
A turtle, a bacterium, a hill myna bird
After the complex, almost Bergmanesque Reisefieber, Łoziński’s next book came as a surprise. Instead of characters tormented by uncertainty, animals appear on the scene – a turtle, a dog, a fly, a hill myna bird, and even a bacterium. Fairytales for Ida, published in 2008, are dedicated to children. Łoziński writes about animals cleverly and tenderly. They have their experiences, too – the turtle suffers when his little owner doesn’t pay attention to him, the dog is anxious about his owners’ divorce. In an interview with Beta Kęczkowska, the writer further described why he wrote the book:
I wrote my first fairytale for Ida’s, my brother’s daughter, ninth birthday. I didn’t have a lot of money, so I bought her some silly computer game, I was a bit embarrassed. I decided to give her a fairytale about a turtle. And then next ones, about other animals. Maybe fairytales will at least make me look better in Ida’s eyes?
According to Beata Kęczowska, Łoziński is as skillful a writer of children’s books as he is a novelist. As she wrote for Gazeta.pl/eDziecko in Wszyscy mali zaczytani article, 29.05.2008:
Right now the author deserves congratulations – the courage needed to write fairytales has to be appreciated! … His stories about friendship, responsibility and love are wise and unpretentious. They’re touching and witty.
What’s next? Mikołaj Łoziński is writing another book, but he hasn't revealed any details yet – it’s too early. His debut novel took him three years to complete, and he admits that writing is a difficult, long-lasting process for him: ‘I ponder upon every sentence, every word. I cross out, I correct. I care about writing as truthfully as possible‘.
- Reisefieber, Znak, Kraków 2006.
- Fairytales for Ida, Znak, Kraków 2008.
- Book, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków 2011.
Important articles on Łoziński’s work (in Polish):
- Beata Bereza, Mikołaj Łoziński: dlatego ja chcę inaczej (interview), Workshop. Gazeta Autorów, 01.01.2008
- Beata Kęczkowska, Laur dla Mikołaja Łozińskiego, Gazeta Wyborcza, 04.10.2007
- Beata Kęczkowska, Wszyscy mali zaczytani, Gazeta.pl/eDziecko, 29.05.2008
- Robert Ostaszewski, 'Reisefieber', Łoziński, Mikołaj, Gazeta Wyborcza 06.03.2006
- Paulina Reiter, Kanarek w pudełku po szampanie (interview), Wysokie Obcasy, 22.10.2007
- Paweł Urbaniak, Podróż ku przeszłości, Twórczość 8/2006.
Author: Zofia Sawicka Nov 2009, translated by NS Jul 2016