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Give Us This Day

Janusz Glowacki, a Polish playwright and novelist, attended the birth of the Solidarity movement in the Lenin shipyard at Gdansk; he describes that momentous event with irony and dark humor. Naturally, his book has been banned in Poland, it has been published all over Western Europe.

Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek, 25 II 1985

Give Us This Day is a vigorous, affecting, and – remarkable – comic novel about that start of the 1980 strikes in Poland.

Observer, 27 III 1983, London

“Can’t complain.” The first sentence sums up both the political dimension (complaint is impossible because there is nothing to complain of) and the attitude of the narrator. He counts himself most fortunate to subsist with his large family in a superannuated circus caravan (the decoration of this, “ a pig wearing a hat, a tiger baring its fangs”, is the first of a series of allegorical touches) and to work, sometimes on continuous shifts of more than twenty hours, as a hull-welder. For those reactionary elements among his work-mates who subscribe to such bourgeois – liberal slogans as “justice, equality, bread, meat” he feels pity and contempt. Give Us This Day is an effective documentary, a humorous, personal and matter-of-fact supplement to the frequently bombastic coverage given by media (predictably, there are jokes about the gullibility of the Western news teams).

Lewis Jones, The Times Literary Supplement, 3 VI 1983, London

The hero of this novel belongs to the tragicomic army of Eastern European shlimazls, both Jewish and gentile, who people the stories and novels of such writers as Sholom Aleichem, Jaroslav Hasek and Jozef Wittlin. Glowacki is much less gentle than any of these, and much more humorous. I laughed all the way.

Ewa Thompson, Houston Chronicle, 24 II 1985

Glowacki, whose play Cinders was recently produced in New York, has written a novel that is pointed, humorous and moving, but it only grazes the surface of the events and emotions surrounding this historic uprising.

Sybil Steinberg, Publishers Weekly, 3 I 1985

Told by a first – person narrator, a semiliterate worker in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, the novel underscores the dark mood of those who had been manipulated and exploited by part bureaucrats until they could not take it any more. The role of narrator is of major importance considering his intellectual limitations, which in turn affect his naïve perception of the ensuing events, creating a unique perspective and some comic stylistic effects. Ufnal seems to consider it only natural that during the most sensitive negotiations between the strike committee and the authorities everybody takes a break to watch the American – made TV film “Rich Man, Poor Man”

Jerzy R. Krzyzanowski, World Literature Today

The best touches in the book are the small ones, parenthetical asides noting that strike committee meetings were set for every evening except Saturday because the American television serial “Rich Man, Poor Man”, was aired then; or telling how a woman with access to milk trades glasses of it for work done on her door lock; or how a child dies and leaves the father embarrassed by his own despair.

Michael T. Kaufmann, The New York Times, 6 I 1985

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