Let’s start, as always, with the English translation of the title: Sleepless during Carnival. This is the last book by Głowacki, unfortunately, he died while writing it, so the text was edited by his wife Olena Leonenko-Głowacka.
Głowacki was an amazing raconteur, my favorite of his books were autobiographical, full of anecdotes either about communism in Poland or from his time in the US, the difficult beginnings but also the encounters he’s had while already famous. He clearly loved life, lived it to the fullest and loved sharing his stories. His tone always a bit mocking, as if he pities the humanity and himself with it, for our stupidity and gift for self-destruction.
In that respect, this book is no different, peppered with anecdotes, without any linear plot or story, but following his train of thoughts and associations. We start in Warsaw in the winter of 2017, Głowacki sips his espresso and expresses his disappointment with the state of the world. Then he decides to go for a walk, he walks past carnival revelers or a demonstration, hard to say. Observing his fellow humans triggers a wave of memories. He remembers his mother, friends from his past and those that recently passed away. The subject of people dying keeps coming back, which is not surprising as Głowacki himself was not getting any younger and was well aware of it.
The saddest part is his deep disappointment with the state of Poland today, he tries to keep his tone ironic, but it often comes across as bitter. He does not shy away from the awareness of the futility of it all, and clearly basks in the memories of his past, where things somehow looked more hopeful. Or maybe that’s just a trick of the perspective.
It is a great book and I am very sorry it is the last one. I will definitely come back to all of Głowacki’s previous ones for a dose of sarcastic reality-check.