Author(s): Wioletta Greg
Wiola lives in a close-knit agricultural community. Wiola has a black cat called Blackie. Wiola's father was a deserter but now he is a taxidermist. Wiola's mother tells her that killing spiders brings on storms. Wiola must never enter the seamstress's 'secret' room. Wiola collects matchbox labels. Wiola is a good Catholic girl brought up with fables and nurtured on superstition. Wiola lives in a Poland that is both very recent and lost in time. Swallowing Mercury is about the ordinary passing of years filled with extraordinary days. In vivid prose filled with texture, colour and sound, it describes the adult world encroaching on the child's. From childhood to adolescence, Wiola dances to the strange music of her own imagination.
Cleanly written and quickly read, this novella conjures a series of presumably autobiographical vignettes from Wiola’s childhood in a village in rural southern Poland in the 1980s, when tradition, superstition, Catholicism, poverty and Communism had roughly equal pulls upon village life. To say the book is without residue is not to say it is not memorable; the moments caught in Greg’s deceptively simple prismatic prose are clear and vivid and the development of her individual character from childhood into adolescence against the adult world and its limitations is subtly and convincingly portrayed.
Set in rural south Poland in the 1980s, this novella follows a young girl's passage to adulthood in her village, where folklore lives alongside religious belief and peculiar personal metamorphoses are the norm
long listed 2017 Man Booker
WIOLETTA GREG is the author of six volumes of poetry and a novella, Swallowing Mercury, translated here into English for the first time. Her poetry collection, Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance, was shortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. She lives in Essex. ELIZA MARCINIAK is an editor and translator. She lives in London.