Monday, May 29, 2017

Marek Hłasko's "Beautiful Twentysomethings"

ISBN: 978-0-87580-477-4 NIU Press

Due to my newly interest in the Polish composer/musician Krzysztof Komeda, I discovered "Beautiful Twentysomethings" by Marek Hłasko. It may be the case Hłasko killed Komeda in a drunken mishap in the woods near Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Hłasko was very guilty what happened to his friend, and eventually, within a week he died in Germany. Both were friends of Roman Polanski - who is a guy that seems to have bad luck as his permanent friend. 

Hłasko is described as the James Dean of Polish literature, and that may be the case, but to me, he really reminds me of the French poet and author Blaise Cendrars. Both are guys-guy and there is a certain amount of charm that runs with Hłasko, even though it sounds like he was a nightmare of a person to actually know or be a friend of. "Beautiful Twentysomethings" is Hłasko's memoir, which sometimes reads like a rant and at times literary criticism on his fellow Polish authors and Russian literature as well. He was very fond of noir films and knows a lot about the cinema. His observations on Humprey Bogart is pretty fantastic. He would have made a great film critical writer/journalist. Alas, I don't think that happened. 

This is a fascinating book on what it's like to live in Poland during the 1950s, and really living the life in the rough with no dough and a heavy drinking lifestyle. He wanders over to Israel and Paris, but he is a man who doesn't really have a home. He is at home in bars, the streets, and reading books. Handsome devil he was, he could have been a world literature figure, but nothing seem to connect for him. Oddly enough this is not a depressing read, due to his character in that he's funny. Hłasko writes and expresses serious issues, but it's in the style of the wise guy in the street, who's whispering devilish things to you that can be dangerous. A fascinating post-war figure, whose insight will be welcome by those who want to study European life during those times, but also a great introduction to a very interesting writer. 

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