Swimming in the dark A novel

Tomasz Jedrowski

Book - 2020

When university student Ludwik meets Janusz at a summer agricultural camp, he is fascinated yet wary of this handsome, carefree stranger. But a chance meeting by the river soon becomes an intense, exhilarating, and all-consuming affair. After their camp duties are fulfilled, the pair spend a dreamlike few weeks camping in the countryside, removed from society and its constraints, Ludwik and Janusz fall deeply in love. But in their repressive communist and Catholic society, the passion they share is utterly unthinkable. Once they return to Warsaw, the charismatic Janusz quickly rises in the political ranks of the party and is rewarded with a highly-coveted position in the ministry. Ludwik is drawn toward impulsive acts of protest, unable to ...ignore rising food prices and the stark economic disparity around them. Their secret love and personal and political differences slowly begin to tear them apart as both men struggle to survive in a regime on the brink of collapse.

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FICTION/Jedrowsk Tomasz
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1st Floor FICTION/Jedrowsk Tomasz Due Jul 17, 2024
Romance fiction
Gay fiction
Historical fiction
New York, NY : William Morrow an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers [2020]
Main Author
Tomasz Jedrowski (author)
First U.S. edition
Physical Description
191 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Jedrowski's dazzling debut charts an evocative sexual awakening and coming of age amid political unease in early 1980s Poland. At a summer work camp in 1980, 22-year-old Ludwik Głowacki meets the broad-shouldered Janusz, with whom he discusses the repression and loneliness of gay men in their society. In second-person narration addressed to his new friend and lover, Ludwik reflects on furtive childhood desires ("Years of yearning compressed like a muscle, pulsating mercilessly") and describes their secret savoring of a banned James Baldwin book. Despite their ease of connection, Ludwik and Janusz are on opposite sides of a political divide: Janusz is happy to work within the system and gets a government job deciding which books should be published, which Ludwik--who has to carefully craft a literary doctoral thesis that won't go against the party line--sees as censorship. Additionally, Janusz's sexual relationship with a wealthy young woman named Hania, which he carries on in hopes of benefiting from her father's political connections, creates conflict between the two men. Readers will relish the indelible prose, which approaches the mastery of Alan Hollinghurst. Jedrowski's portrayal of Poland's tumultuous political transformation over several decades makes this a provocative, eye-opening exploration of the costs of defying as well as complying with social and political conventions. (Apr.)Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's last name.

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Review by Library Journal Review

DEBUT This poignant love story unfolds against the backdrop of Communist Poland as the regime is about to come to its ignominious end in the 1980s. Amid the deprivations and duplicity of the era, two college students--Ludwik and Janusz--fall in love after meeting at a summer camp. They then spend an idyllic several weeks together in the countryside before returning to their lives in Warsaw. And that's where their troubles begin. It eventually becomes apparent to protagonist Ludwik that his lover is ready to make all kinds of compromises to get by in a corrupt and hated political system--including making love to the daughter of an important official. Meantime, the more idealistic Ludwik struggles with his homosexuality, fully aware that it is a danger in a state where the government uses it to blackmail citizens. Eventually, he is left with the choice of compromising or leaving the country. VERDICT German born of Polish parents, debut author Jedrowski here writes in English, and his lyrical prose reveals a complete command of the language. Readers who enjoy this impressive work will eagerly anticipate the author's next book. Highly recommended for all who enjoy a tale of love under the most difficult circumstances. [See Prepub Alert, 10/7/19.]--Edward B. Cone, New York

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A young gay man enters into a clandestine affair in the repressive political climate of communist Poland in the early 1980s.From his new home in the Polish community of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Ludwik addresses this narrative to Janusz, the handsome university student he met at an agricultural "work education" camp outside Warsaw in the summer of 1980. His first sighting of Janusz is a pure coup de foudre, described in typically swoony terms: "A flash of heat traveled from my stomach to my cheeks, my thoughts jumbled like a ball of string.It was as if your presence already overpowered me, like a prophecy I was unable to read." Their summer romance, initiated during a hiking trip to the lake district, is an idyll that cannot last; the gray realities of Warsaw lifefood and medicine shortages, tight party control over university advancement, an emerging protest movement subject to crackdownwill come between the lovers. While Ludwik imagines leaving the country to escape its oppressions (James Baldwin's novel of gay expatriate life in Paris, Giovanni's Room, is a touchstone), Janusz dates Hania, the daughter of an apparatchik, in order to enjoy special privileges. "Everyone is leading someone on," Janusz explains. "So what's wrong with taking things into your own hands and not letting yourself go under?" Their conflict comes to a head during a debauched weekend at the country estate of Hania's family, leading Ludwik toward his eventual fate. Debut novelist Jedrowski, born to Polish parents in Germany and now living in France, writes confidently in Englishthough his prose can turn overripe and his characters feel undernourished.A broody tale of gay love and life behind the Iron Curtain. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.