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Book details:
Waiting for the Dog to Sleep

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also by the author:
Regions of the Great Heresy
Letters and Drawings
of Bruno Schulz

Everything I Don't Know

Read about Jerzy Ficowski in The Guardian

  waiting for the dog to sleep

by Jerzy Ficowski

translated from the Polish
by Soren A. Gauger & Marcin Piekoszewski

artwork by Jan Raczkowski

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep is poet, translator, and scholar Jerzy Ficowski's only collection of prose. In these short fictions and sketches Ficowski reinterprets a question posed by the writer central to him, Bruno Schulz, about the mythologization of reality. For Schulz, fiction was a way of turning the quotidian into the fantastical and eternal. Ficowski's prose seems to reinterpret this approach to address the sense of loss and bleak landscape of postwar Poland. Effortlessly weaving memory, religious ritual, daily life, and the magical, he hints at a sinister presence lurking behind these dreamlike tales — a trace of ruin or disintegration always present as the narrator repeatedly struggles to link some aspect of a past that has been annihilated with a present that is foreign and hostile.

Not having belonged to any definable literary school or circle, Ficowski occupies an unique place in Polish literature. His only identifiable precursors might be Boleslaw Lesmian (whose Russian verse he has translated to Polish) and of course Bruno Schulz.


In this collection of 28 short, lyrical prose pieces, Ficowski, a Polish poet and scholar who participated in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, blends hallucination, reminiscence and reverie in a way that suggests but never spells out the horrors and deprivations of life in Poland during and after WWII. [...] Many pieces read like dream journals, or "recollections confused with fantasy," unraveling from reality in a style recalling the work of Borges and Calvino, and the dark, surrealist fables of Bruno Schulz, the subject of Ficowski's best known nonfiction work, Regions of the Great Heresy. But the collection contains pieces, such as the profound "Intermission," about a brief, terrifying lull during the Warsaw Uprising, that clearly touch on his own experience of war and loss. First published in Poland in 1970, this expressive collection illustrates how a suffering nation can find refuge in dreams, even if those dreams are haunted by a reality the dreamer is trying to escape.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The narratives of the stories are driven by Ficowski's particular brand of melancholy, at once laced with a biting self-deprecation and dazzling with their pure lyricism, shuffling the deck of fortune-teller's cards to pull out facts and myths that are alternately terrifying and amusing. Most of these stories have their roots in wartime memories, which work like a grim yo-yo, while their form – strikingly crisp and compact – is the work of a present-day literary gaze.


Waiting for the Dog to Sleep is a collection wide in theme and character, without an over-arching plot or grouping of characters to keep it together; what unites the text is its atmosphere, both in terms of language — the poet's voice — and overall coherency of feeling.

Damian Kelleher

Considering Ficowski's passion for the enigma and surrealism of [Bruno] Schulz's prose, a reader expects to find traces of the master in the student. And Ficowski does not disappoint. Like Schulz, Ficowski arouses the senses and uses fantastic imagery. His prose wanders through time, memory and space which are imaginatively infused with sound, movement, and color. He stretches the limits of language and reality, and creates the signature Schulzian distortions of a funhouse mirror. Unlike Schulz, however, Ficowski never indulges in Chagal-like flights of fancy. ... At a time when English translations are key to the globalization of national literatures, Twisted Spoon Press has succeeded in publishing yet another quality book ... Gauger and Piekoszewski's translation offers readers a compelling and fluid prose that reads naturally. It is an admirable addition to a growing body of masterfully translated Polish fiction and is a "must-read" on any list of contemporary world literature.

— Ewa Wampuszyc, Slavic and East European Journal

[T]he present collection of stories echoes the inner freedom and profound wisdom of its author. Their rich historical texture centers on Old Testament parables clothed in a modern setting flavored with Kafka and Existentialism. Each story is a Chagallesque frescoe whose time and plot move effortlessly between reality and virtuality. Together, they form a long kaddish for a displaced world.

The Polish Review

... a strange and haunting collection of short fiction.

Philadelphia Weekly

The subject of these absurd (but perhaps not so very absurd) stories by an author of such a difficult, immense, powefully complicated imagination, could well be the issue of how far the view from a distance and the view from close up can hold good for each other.

— Karin Wolff

A riddling, forbidding colloquy of fantasies fevered by war and privation, it offers only the grayest of consolation: the pleasures of a last cigarette, the aroma of a cup of coffee, the quiescence of hiding.


[Bruno] Schulz's influence is apparent in the dreamlike settings and surreal movements through time and space that mark most of Ficowski's stories.

Magill Book Reviews


ISBN 9788086264240
188 pp.
145 x 205 mm
softcover with flaps
1 illustration
short fiction

UK: February 2007
US: May 2006

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