The Relics

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1924. A young Polish lieutenant wants to prevent a rapprochement between the Soviets and left-wing forces in Mexico. Yet the story of “The Relics” does not only revolve around the conflict between Capitalism and Bolshevism, but the purpose to which a regime can put a seemingly impossible skill (telepathy). The novel explores the ways in which humans react to dilemmas that pit personal interest against that of the nation. Puchalski takes the reader to such diverse places as Mexico, Poland, Brittany and the United States. The real playground in “The Relics,” however, is a mysterious realm called Sarmatia, where the notion of love complicates the triumvirate of God, Honor and the Fatherland.

Excerpt:

A megaphone spares me the embarrassment.. A mechanical female voice announces that we will spend three hours at the Kozłowo station since the army has to inspect the transported cargo. I propose a walk through the village and receive an affirmative answer. We squeeze amidst the crowd of beleaguered passengers, keen on arriving in Cracow and outraged by the unexpected halt. There are a few messieurs with silver watches, as well as an intoxicated minister in a suit. Bewildered ladies on high heels curse the pushing plebeians wearing linen tatters. At the exit stands a solicitor in a tailcoat and a top hat, advertising a newly-opened bank in his conversations with gentlemen, but juggling small items when individuals to whom you wouldn’t give any titles are in sight. All these people have set goals but don’t seem joyful.
The slowly-setting sun blinds us as a peasant spurs on the cattle at a ramification of the railroad. We march under poplars and encounter fields of forget-me-not flowers. The weeds around a lake rustle delectably. Only smokestacks and a drilling platform disrupt the natural habitat, protruding from the surface of the lake.
A tar-covered midget opens one of the shafts and leaps out onto the coast. He drips blackness. Loser, he yells, pointing his finger at me. Leave it, it’s still a brat, says Anastazja, but I disregard her advice and engage in a chase in the rye. The palette of hues diluted by the sun makes me hallucinate. I see Fata Morganas and mirages, but no sign of the little devil. Perhaps it was all a dream; perhaps the black leprechaun haunted me in dreams…
Yet suddenly the dwarf emerges directly in front of me, showing off his white, horse teeth. I stand en face with a needle from Doctor Frankenstein, he with a baseball bat. The latter proves to be longer. Cows err in the clouds while the gnome squats next to me and whispers something in my ear. She’s good. Believe me, son, she was great with me.
Leaves fall off the trees when I return to the village by the poplar road. When I arrive, Anastazja informs me:
I reached the conclusion that I did not belong in the middle of a field alone, with a countenance pretty above average.
My hopes for her pity and worrying are shattered. Luck would have it that she came upon a country fair, where peasant women, adorned by flowers and feathers, loosened up the atmosphere, dancing krakowiaks with guests from different regions of Poland. There, she met a musician from another car, a fellow knowledgeable in musical scales, a true lord of compliment and sarcasm, excellent in explaining this and that to women.

a Polish-American portfolio