Wściekła Skóra – Agnieszka Miklis

Oh wow! What a book!…and yes, I am being completely, over the top, sarcastic about it. How lucky you are that it will probably never be translated into English. It truly is a feast of graphomania.

At just over 500 pages, I think the editor gouged their eyes somewhere around page 200 (till then with a stretch it could be called readable). From that point on it only gets worse. And then worse still. And then at around page 420 I started reading bits and pieces to the Bigger Half and he was laughing as if he was watching Monty Python.

He worst part is that the premise is not bad, it could have been a good book. It is 2004 before Poland joined the EU. The Netherlands at the top of the economic peak is struggling to find workers for the simple jobs (I should spare you a Brexit comment here, I really should, right?). But there is a group of people that can solve the problem – Poles from Silesia, having dual Polish-German citizenship, they joined the EU before the rest of Poland.

The Netherlands happily ‘import’ the workforce, and in this specific case locate it in an ex-holiday-camp-site, near Apeldoorn – Nord Riesen. Our main character is called Roswita Rein (I guess the name was supposed to highlight her Silesian origins, but honestly this is the first time I’ve heard of it, with the last name it literally means Pure Roswita/fame/strength), a thirty-year-old failure. She dropped out of university just before her master’s, and shortly before coming to Nord Riesen has smashed a vase on her mother’s head on her birthday. Let’s just say she is not, what you would call, a well-adjusted adult.

In Nord Riesen she meets Tania, mother of two, who used the work opportunity as her chance to escape her boring life, with suffocating husband, her goal is clear – shag a much as you can. Now let me speed things up a bit, Roswita and Tania get close, then Tania vanishes. And then we slowly (painfully slowly) but surely descend into unhinged madness of the author’s imagination. To quote the classic brad – ‘Impossible is nothing’.

The title literally translates as ‘raging skin’, very appropriately, as the number of characters with dermatological problems seems to indicate the author studied the subject in depth. But let me get back on track, the premise is not bad, two friends in an alien environment, a pretty closed community, surrounded by forest, further isolated by the fact of being foreign and unwelcome by the host community. Lots of suspects, ample opportunity for suspense. Perfect for a story of up to 350 pages, ideal for introducing a few side characters with idiosyncrasies. Some red herrings, with a limited group of suspects, some claustrophobia, tension, good pace. It really wasn’t a bad idea…but the execution…I have to resort to The Witcher (as funny and entertaining as criticizing the series has been on its own)..


I was thinking of attempting some amateur translation of the more astounding bits, but you would not believe it, you’d think it’s my bad translation. Some things really are untranslatable…or at least I hope so.

What we get here is characters developed as if they all have schizophrenia, in every chapter, they change by 180 degrees, there’s no such thing a personality, clearly, they are all very fluid here, kind of like Terminator 2. Then we get, especially after the editor went blind, a number of ‘philosophical’ musings on the nature of life, love, dreams, sex, gender, feminism and racism. By a number I mean over 100 in 300 pages. The characters don’t do much, but they sure think a lot.

We have a host of repressed, racist, Dutch snobs. Pretty much everyone has been abused in their childhood and decided to perpetuate their damage, rather than seek help, apparently for the sake of appearances. I get the mechanism, what I find hard to believe is that every single character does the same thing. Then we have a legion of vulgar and simple men. A number of evil old women. And to top it all of a bunch of lost in their life thirty-year-olds with skin problems. Spiced with racism, nationalism and xenophobia, used, of course, to show how bad and pervasive they are, because you, dear unenlightened reader, don’t know that. Garnished with incoherent grumblings about feelings, fate, destiny and society. Oh wow! I could go on, but I feel the writing style of the author rubs on me 😉 so to save my face let me finish with some more of the Witcher’s ‘Hmmmms’ and ‘F*&^s’

As a side note, this is the first time I ever used gif’s, I don’t like them, I still believe in words over pictures when it comes to the nuance, so you can imagine how this book pushed my buttons.

Side note 2, if you re Polish there is one use I can find for this book – a drinking game. A player opens a random page and reads a paragraph out loud if everyone laughs everyone drinks if everyone remains in astounded silence the reader drinks. Win-win. And a way to make the paper wasted for it a bit more meaningful, and as a reader, you probably won’t last long. At least you’ll have fun.

This is definitely one of my top 3 worst books read. What are yours?

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @vkphotospace.com 

One thought on “Wściekła Skóra – Agnieszka Miklis

  1. Pingback: Q1 2020 round-up – bookskeptic.com

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