Jacek Dukaj, Considered Poland’s Best Living Science Fiction Writer – Paweł Kozioł

©Jacek Dukaj

Jacek Dukaj (born 1974) is one of Poland’s most interesting contemporary prose writers, whose books are always eagerly anticipated events. He is the author of Black Oceans”, „Extensa”, „Other Songs”, „Perfect Imperfection”, „Xavras Wyżryn and Other National Fictions” and „Ice”, and the brains behind the „PL +50. Future Histories anthology”. After the huge success of his novel „Ice”, which won the European Literary Award, the prestigious Kościelscy Award and was nominated for the Nike (the most prestigious literary award in Poland), Jacek Dukaj published widely acclaimed grim fantasy novel „The Crowe”.Wydawnictwo Literackie (The Literary Publishing House, Krakow, Poland)

©Zemia Niczija

Born 30 July 1974 in Tarnów. Considered Poland’s best living science fiction writer. Dukaj earned a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Jagiellonian University (Uniwersytet Jagielloński, The University of Krakow founded in 1364) .

  

From left : “Black Oceans“, “Other Songs“, “A Perfect Imperfection

©superNOWA, Wydawnictwo Literackie

He has been nominated a number of times for the esteemed Janusz Zajdel Award, winning it four times: for “Czarne oceany” (Black Oceans) in 2002, “Inne pieśni” (Other Songs) in 2003, “Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość” (A Perfect Imperfection) in 2004 and “Lód” (Ice) in 2007.

His nominations for the Nike Literary Award (2008), for Polityka Passports in 2004 and 2008 and for the Kościelski Award which he received in 2008 show that the merit of his work transcends a narrowly defined genre.

Ice” ; ©Wydawnictwo Literackie

The first science fiction story Jacek Dukaj read was “The Investigation” (Śledztwo, 1959by Stanisław Lem, which inspired him to write his own stories in that genre.

In the Land of the Unfaithful” ; ©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Dukaj debuted with “Złota galera” (The Golden Galley), a story which he apparently wrote at the age of fourteen and which appeared in print in the magazine Fantastyka (2/1990).  And he is still known as the “Wunderkind of Polish Fantastika”.

Early on he wrote mostly short stories and had them published in the ‘trade’ magazines Nowa Fantastyka and Feniks; they were later collected in the volume “W kraju niewiernych” (In the Land of the Unfaithful, SuperNOWA, 2000).

 

©Voland, Wydawnictwo Literackie

„Jacek Dukaj è matto o è un genio. Forse è sia matto che geniale. Comunque per me, accanito lettore di fantascienza, tutti e tre i racconti contenuti in questa raccolta (in realtà due romanzi brevi e un racconto) sono stati una rivelazione. „In partis infidelibus” (il racconto),  „La cattedrale” che „La scuola” sono state vere bombe di mente.”  (Jacek Dukaj is mad or he is a genius. Maybe he’s crazy genius. However for me, avid reader of science fiction, all three stories contained in this collection (actually two novellas and a short story) were a revelation. “In partis infidelibus” (the story), “The Cathedral” and “School” were real mental bombs.) – Umberto Rossi

His stories also appeared in anthologies (“Wizje alternatywne 2“, “Trzynaście kotów“/Alternative Visions  2, Thirteen cats), a testimony to their popularity among the fantasy readers.

He was made known to the wider public through Tomasz Bagiński’s 2002 Academy Award-nominated “Katedra” (The Cathedral), a short animated film based on Dukaj’s short story.

©Tomasz Bagiński

“The Cathedral” (Polish: “Katedra”) is the title of a science fiction short story by Jacek Dukaj, winner of the Janusz A. Zajdel Award in 2000; and of a 2002 short animated movie by Tomasz Bagiński, based on the story. The film was nominated in 2002 for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film for the 75th Academy Awards. The movie won the title of Best Animated Short at Siggraph 2002 in San Antonio as well as several other awards : http://www.platigeshorts.com/the-cathedral.html

 

From left : „Irrehaare”, “Xavras Wyżryn and Other National Fictions

©Voland, Wydawnictwo Literackie

Short stories were followed by novellas, like “Irrehaare“, and in 1997 Dukaj wrote his first novel, “Xavras Wyżryn“, an alternative look at history in which he had Poland lose the war of 1920. The way in which he tackled the book’s theme – a discussion of patriotism – lacked sophistication and brought to mind mediocre fantasy novels of a patriotic slant, but when Dukaj revisited the topic ten years later in the novel “Lód” (Ice) an outstanding piece of prose resulted.

In terms of genre, Dukaj uses the elements of cyberpunk (take the grim visions of a computerized future in which human bodies and brains are subjected to technological modifications which often help with illegal activities), alternative history and horror. What sets his writing apart – and has done so ever since “Złota Galera” – are the frequent references to religion. Dukaj likes experimenting with genres: his short story “Ruch generała” (the official translation is “The Iron General,” although the Polish title literally translates as the “General’s Move”) shows a fantasy world whose technological progress has equalled that of ours.

Dukaj considers the ability to build consistent visions of other worlds central to science fiction writing, yet usually complements them with presentations of sciences that describe such worlds, including comprehensive terminology and a register of things which these invented sciences cannot explain. This particular realism in delineating the borders of human cognition may have something in common with the realism practiced by Stanisław Lem, who introduced the theme of the wear and tear of future inventions.

Black Oceans

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Unlike his great predecessor, however, Dukaj is more accustomed to a society in which information has become the key commodity. Like Lem, though, he is endowed with an amazing linguistic creativity and a sensitivity to the element of parody. And there is the aspect of the obscure and secret relationship between science and authority which provides a link between “Czarne Oceany” (Black Oceans) and Lem’s “Głos Pana” (His Master’s Voice).

Other Songs

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Inne pieśni (Other Songs) provides a somewhat different show of styling, each chapter offering a successful pastiche of a detective story, an adventure book or of the genre known as space opera, its heroic convention used to present military combat in the universe.

A certain peculiarity of Dukaj’s prose – and one which runs counter to what has been said so far – is the rather repetitive repertoire of sets and plot which he uses to express a variety of intellectual concepts. There is the recurring motif of a chosen hero and of an almost ritual mutilation of his hand, the hypothesis of a future fashion that would copy the historic designs and the vision of artificial intelligence encoded in a crystal (the ‘live crystal’ from “Katedra” (The Cathedral) or the ‘mirror virus’ from “Irrehaare“). Quite frequent is also the theme of ‘post-human beings’ as products of genetic manipulation or of the evolution of the homo sapiens species. The way in which Dukaj develops this motif shows, however, that the idea behind this repetitiveness is not to recycle a successful plot idea, but to analyze an issue which occupies the writer’s mind. Indeed, each of Dukaj’s books brings a different vision of the relationships between humans and post-humans, from an almost complete strangeness in Extensa to the shaping of civilization so as to maintain its continuity for as long as possible in “Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość” (An Ideal Imperfection or Perfect Imperfection).

Perfect Imperfection

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Besides Dukaj’s creativity critics have usually pointed to the discursive nature of his prose and its occasional clash with the desire to build attractive plots, a case in point being the amount of lectures and discussions in the novel “Czarne oceany” (Black Oceans). As a result, the pleasure of reading Dukaj’s books is increasingly derived from the discovery of the rules which govern the world he describes rather than from the fascination with the events he presents. Again, Lem’s “Głos Pana”, a novel in the form of an essay, comes to mind. “Lód” (Ice), in turn, has been compared by Wojciech Browarny to Witkacy’s novels: they, too, offer bagfuls of things and their characters are extraordinarily prone to discussions.

Lód” (Ice) is arguably Dukaj’s most ambitious attempt to create an alternative world with its own physics, technology, history and even logic. The start of a different reality is spurred by the fall of the Tunguska meteoroid in 1908, causing a climatic disaster resulting in the freezing of half of Europe, the discovery of new technologies based on frozen iron and, in consequence, Russia’s economic success and the perpetuation of the Romanoff dynasty. Laws of physics change, too, causing the appearance of opposites of light and electricity. Both have a surprising effect on human mind, they loosen the causal relationships and weaken the perception of time, the past becoming dependent on the current perception of the present. Meanwhile the Tsarist authorities force the book’s key character, Benedykt Gierosławski, son of a Siberian exile, to look for his father. When, owing to the inventor Tesla, he achieves some control over the new physical phenomena, things that beat description start to happen.

 

From left : “Gli imperi tremano” (Xavras Wyżryn), trans. Francesco Annicchiarico, Massa: Transeuropa, 2012 ; “PL+50. Historie przyszłości” (PL+50. Stories of the Future)

Apart from writing, Dukaj has involved himself in other literary activities and has been the editor of “PL+50. Historie przyszłości” (PL+50. Stories of the Future), an anthology of visions of the future of Poland. He is also a keen reviewer and essayist, his most reverberant essay having been “Lament miłośnika cegieł” (The Outcry of a Brick Lover, published in Gazeta Wyborcza daily), a piece expressing Dukaj’s longing for the traditional realistic novel which has been ostentatiously abandoned by the Polish writers, especially those of the younger generation. The fact that such a reflection has been penned down by a science fiction writer is extremely thought-provoking and sheds a totally different light on his writing.

If Dukaj’s works are to be seen as having something to do with realism, the connection may occur in one of two aspects: either in his care for consistency and probability of the presented worlds or, more profoundly, in his treating of science-fiction as a tool of cognition. One may only wish that a similar attitude be common among the so-called mainstream writers.

© Culture.pl & Paweł Kozioł

 

http://iam.pl/en

The original article : http://culture.pl/en/artist/jacek-dukaj

Reposted with the kind permission of Culture.pl: „Delivering the best of Polish film, literature, architecture, music, comics, photography, dance, visual arts, design and theatre, in an appealling engaging way.”

 

Ice

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Ice” by Jacek Dukaj

“The action in Jacek Dukaj’s novel takes place in an alternative reality where World War I never broke out. It’s the year 1924, and the Polish Kingdom is still in the Belle Epoque under the rule of the Tsar.

Warsaw is in the grip of ice – roads are buried under snowstorms in the middle of summer. Lute – otherworldly angels of frost – are walking around the streets of cities, freezing truth and lies… Benedykt Gierosławski, a talented mathematician, but also a confirmed gambler, takes the Trans-Siberian express at the request of the Tsar’s Ministry of Winter to frozen Irkutsk, where he goes in search of his father, who is believed to be able to communicate with the angels of frost. Gierosławski is told that he will get money to repay his debts if he goes on a long journey on the Trans-Siberian railway to Irkutsk in search of his father. No one has had contact with the elder Gierosławski for a long time, after he was exiled for his participation in a conspiracy years ago. However, the old political issue is irrelevant. The point is that the father is able to communicate with the Lute.

Thousands of rubles in cash would free Benedykt from his debts, but isn’t the mission too dangerous? It soon becomes clear that for Benedykt, this journey will be a life-changing experience…

Because the world in 1924 is conquered by eternal ice. In June 1908, the Tunguska meteorite fell in Siberia, and ‘in the spring of 1909, news about new meteorological phenomena started coming from the north, namely about a never-ending winter, and cruel, unprecedented frosts, which continue to paralyse central Siberia despite the formal change of seasons’. After a while, the frost enveloped parts of Europe, including Warsaw.

1908 is thus the border of fiction for Dukaj. Due to the cataclysm, events played out differently – World War I never happened, there was no Bolshevik revolution, Polish independence did not come in 1918, the Russian Empire is still doing well. Because the rebels, and history in general, have been frozen: ‘Lenin now only bites the calves of Swiss nurses’, in the Duma ‘the Trotskyists are no longer in a tactical alliance with Stolypin’s Trudoviks. (…) What difference does it make to a Pole? These Russian authorities or the other ones.’

The word ‘warming’ takes on different meanings in the novel. Of course, there is the basic sense – everyone is terribly cold and dreams about the end of winter, even the Americans want to somehow invest their capital in this process. ‘Siberian companies and the Tsar pour money into research’ in order to understand more about the angels of Frost. In politics there are two factions: the first hope that the cold will go away, and the others believe that stagnation will continue. Although Warsaw and Poland in the 20s are largely Russified, our national cause, as you would expect, does not matter at all. The mayor of Irkutsk is a Pole, and many Polish merchants trading in Siberia have made a fortune in this new situation.

While Jacek Dukaj’s writing has generally been described as science fiction, “Ice” defies easy categorisation. This is because “Ice” is traditional in form or rather deliberately styled as traditional; it might even be called a pastiche of the traditional novel. Dukaj’s narrative has a broad perspective; it strives to provide a great panoramic view in a geographical sense – European and Asian, and also in a chronological sense – a full description of the great history of the era. At the same time, Jacek Dukaj is not afraid of detail; he gives a faithful representation of the start of the century, skilfully uses archaic language, even plays with old orthography, and willingly throws in Russicisms. He refers to many authentic names and people, and it is only after 1908 that he adds fictional elements to their biographies.

Although “Ice” can be called a novel with a spectacular plot, its most interesting feature is the alternative view on history. Dukaj does not subject himself to the dictatorship of fast-paced action; he often takes a pause to describe a secondary event. It might not be relevant to the main plot, but it creates atmosphere. We already get a detailed description of a street accident in the first pages of the novel.

The story is fraught with breath-taking twists and turns, with political, love, crime, and economic, scientific and metaphysical intrigue; it is full of fascinating characters, and the action stretches between dirty buildings in Tsarist Warsaw, the luxury of the Trans-Siberian Express with a frozen Asia in the background, salons of the rich Polish bourgeoisie in Irkutsk and the palace of the governor-general – it is a novel which all fans of real adventure have been waiting for; it is intelligent, intellectually stimulating, changing our view on reality.

Ice is a novel about history, or rather, about a history which does not exist. In this literary masterpiece by Jacek Dukaj readers are not only able to get to know a fascinating and chilling alternative history of the world, but also have the opportunity to go on an extraordinary journey on the Trans-Siberian Express together with the main character and stand face to face with the Other.

Jacek Dukaj has once again proven that the polish science fiction has a lot to say.

Apart from writing, Dukaj has involved himself in other literary activities and has been the editor of PL+50. Historie przyszłości, an anthology of visions of the future of Poland. He is also a keen reviewer and essayist, his most reverberant essay having been Lament miłośnika cegieł / The Outcry of a Brick Lover (published in Gazeta Wyborcza daily), a piece expressing Dukaj’s longing for the traditional realistic novel which has been ostentatiously abandoned by the Polish writers, especially those of the younger generation. The fact that such a reflection has been penned down by a science fiction writer is extremely thought-provoking and sheds a totally different light on his writing.

If Dukaj’s works are to be seen as having something to do with realism, the connection may occur in one of two aspects: either in his care for consistency and probability of the presented worlds or, more profoundly, in his treating of science-fiction as a tool of cognition. One may only wish that a similar attitude be common among the so-called mainstream writers.” – Marek Radziwon :  wiadomosci.gazeta.pl, 23 June, 2008, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, reposted by kind permission.

“Black Oceans” by Jacek Dukaj

“Although the author of Black Oceans revives the classic themes of science fiction, his novel owes a great deal to the pivotal issues and style of cyberpunk prose, i.e. a literature born as much of a fascination with the latest technology as of a phobia about the age of information technology. We are already living in a world run by super-computers – what will happen when they go crazy? asks Jacek Dukaj in his novel.

In Black Oceans, even the most exacting reader of fantasy will find what he is always looking for, and which there can never be enough of in books of this kind: wars and conspiracies, scientific experiments of which the scientists have lost control, as well as endless speculation on the condition and potential of the human intellect. Dukaj has skilfully woven some digressive material from the realm of topics such as politics, economics and psychology into his fast-paced, well-told story. Black Oceans undoubtedly belongs to the more erudite trend in Polish sci-fi, and is descended from the best traditions of the genre, with Stanislaw Lem at the forefront.”  – Dariusz Nowacki

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

“Extensa” by Jacek Dukaj

With his fourth novel, ExtensaJacek Dukaj continues his systematic attempt to extend the conventional boundaries of the genre and to attract more than connoisseurs of science fiction as readers.

Dukaj tells of a world far in the future that has become the last sanctuary of humanity. At first, the story resembles a rural family saga related in a rather melancholic tone of voice. The anonymous narrator-hero, whom we meet as a child, is brought up by a family of horse breeders, grows to adulthood, and lives a normal, peaceful life. Gradually, however, he discovers the truth of his own situation and that of the other inhabitants of this last oasis on Earth, known as The Green Country. It turns out that our planet, along with the entire universe, is ruled by Them — representatives of a higher civilisation who look on humans in much the same way that we look on ants. The tool that gives these Aliens power over the cosmos is the ‘extensa’ of the title, the product of a highly advanced technology, a kind of substance whose theoretical foundations have been known for years as the Einstein-Rosen-Podolski paradox. According to this mental experiment, which was formulated in 1935, elementary particles can exert influence on each other even at distances of hundreds of light years. In this exceptionally original novel, Dukaj weaves scientific and technological concerns together with age-old problems of classical humanism. Extensa is a work not only about loyalty and sacrifice, but about the human desire to live both forever and in more than one world simultaneously. (Dariusz Nowacki)

Jacek Dukaj (born 1974) has already published numerous novels and short stories (see also: “Black oceans”) and has a broad following amongst readers of science fiction and fantasy. He is generally considered the most important Polish science fiction writer after Stanislaw Lem.” – Dariusz Nowacki

Perfect Imperfection

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

“It’s the twenty-ninth century and everything in our galaxy has changed.

Most of all, the galactic hierarchy has changed: there are beings superior to humankind that, despite evolving from the human race, are more accomplished and more powerful than humans. Secondly, the beings that have evolved the most are virtually immortal, because they are able to make use of ‘manifestations’, which, in approximate terms, are biological, nanomatic and virtual incarnations, giving them unlimited potential for existence. Thirdly, travelling about the cosmos is no longer a problem, because space is now subject to non-gravitational modelling. Fourthly, power is concentrated in the hands of the creatures gifted with the highest intelligence. So is this the perfect universe?
It’s ideally imperfect, answers Dukaj. This world has been created by humans striving for security, in other words an existence free from fears of death, illness and war. However, instead of an immortal body, these incarnations have been invented, and instead of tolerance and mutual respect there are galactic governments run by the highest intelligence. Reason has proved to be a life force jostling for supremacy, but supremacy is still rooted in biological adaptation. Where have we heard that before?
Yes, of course – Dukaj’s novel is saying the same thing as our contemporary philosophers, which is that genetic experiments will lead to the birth of ‘post-human’ beings. But Dukaj also says that over the next thousand years, humans will have to delve inside the genes and logical structures that make up the mind, because the cosmos –as Darwin taught us – is subject to the law of evolution; those who fail to adapt will perish. So either humans will transform themselves, or else they’ll fall to the rank of slaves. The anti-utopian tone of the novel is increased by the deliberate linking of evolution with money and power. In short, the future belongs to the rich, who will be able to buy themselves wisdom, and to the intelligent, who will know how to climb up the Evolutionary Curve. Meanwhile, a gulf will grow between the feudally organised aristocracy and the democratic rabble, who do not desire things they cannot have, but rather that which the kitsch of the future can supply.
The story is set at the end of the third millennium, but as we can see, Dukaj supplements it with some developments of contemporary themes, including the issue of globalisation, i.e. events we are all constantly surrounded by.The author calls its sequel ‘cosmologisation’ – the gradual, systematic acquisition of the universe by higher beings, i.e. those who are richer and more powerful. All in all, the book can be read as a novel that tells us about a world that is in sight just around the corner of the present day. This world will entail: ‘the end of mankind’, because it will create a ‘replaceable’ being; ‘the end of geography’, because it will offer the opportunity for virtually unlimited space travel; and finally ‘the end of illusions’, because it will bury faith in the idea that freedom and the achievements of civilisation are for everyone. In Dukaj’s world only the powerful are not afraid of illness, old age, injury or assassination, and it is only the powerful who are not bound by any spatial limitations. The fabulous new world lies spread at their feet. The rest play ball on the beach. They have the sand and the sunset for free – for now. So here we are, it is the twenty-ninth century and everything in our galaxy has changed – and stayed the same.” – Przemysław Czapliński

Other Songs

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Other Songs is the latest demonstration of Jacek Dukaj’s unusual and highly fertile imagination. This time he has invented a world where ancient Greek ideas about nature are in force, with the theory of the elements at the fore, despite which it is a reality dominated by advanced technology. Naturally, this world is nothing like ours, but has its own calendar; the information that the action takes place in the twelfth century after the fall of Rome does not tell the reader much, because we are not told when Rome fell. Some of the settings where events take place are more recognisable, including Europe, Africa, and the Moon, which people have colonised, and also what is loosely termed “cosmic space”. But the most tangible element in the book is the main hero, a valiant commander battling against the forces of evil, who is at the same time a subtle rational thinker. At ground level Other Songs belongs to the genre of science fiction, but you can also find elements of fantasy, political fiction and above all philosophical debate in it (including some successful paraphrasing of ancient Greek thought). This is one of the most ambitious, and also one of the longest (at over 600 pages of dense print) works of Polish fantasy literature to have appeared in the past decade.” – Dariusz Nowacki

The Crowe

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

“The Crow” is an unusual fable full of violence and cruelty about the kind of martial law that was imposed in Poland in mid-December 1981 until the mid-July 1983. In this period, the country was ruled by the Military Council of National Salvation, known in Polish by its acronym WRON – its similarity to the word wrona, meaning “crow”, made it a favourite tool for opposition satire. It is for this reason that Dukaj has chosen the crow to represent a force of evil in this book of the same name.

Although the main character is a small boy, and the work is modelled on stories for children, this is a magical fairytale aimed at adult readers. Who is the Crow of the title? He is a large black bird who kidnaps little Adam’s father. The big bird barges his way into the family’s flat, and then the Corvine Corps take the boy’s other relatives away. Adam has been saved by a neighbour called Mr Concrete. Together, though losing each other several times along the way, they roam the gloomy city in search of Adam’s family. Sometimes the boy flies above the city, carried by the Flier. Adam’s adventures are a grim phantasmagoria. The city is under the control of the iron Bitchbulls (monsters that look like huge dogs), the Evilones (mechanical dragons that wave seven truncheons each) and the Chokermotors (enormous whales that swallow people), at every step there are Snarks and Spykes lying in wait, and the trees and roofs are crowded with nasty big birds ready at any moment to attack the Positionists, also known as the Resistants. In Polish, these names are puns based on recognisable figures and objects associated with the martial law era, such as the ZOMO riot police and the UB secret agents.
Dukaj’s fable opens with an epigraph taken from Lewis Carroll. And in fact this book has much in common with “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Firstly, there is a lot of Carrollian linguistic inventiveness here, not just making up words, which is one of the attractions of “The Crow”. There are also some comical rhymes that interrupt the story. Secondly and more importantly, like Alice, Adam wants at any price to get to the bottom of the adults’ mysterious world, naturally in order to expose the rules that govern it. However, the author’s intentions are not entirely clear. “The Crow” not only pitches into the still live debate about martial law, but could also be read as a form of artistic excess specific to Jacek Dukaj. In it we can see an extremely refined literary game, a Dukajan exercise in fantasy and style, but we can also ascribe a wide variety of political meanings to it. Without doubt it is an impressive, important work, not just for aesthetic reasons.” – Dariusz Nowacki, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Jacek Dukaj, The Old Axolotl (cover)

©Allegro

Promo : https://vimeo.com/119228459

The Old Axolotl: Hardware Dreams” by Jacek Dukaj

“The new book by Polish science fiction guru Jacek Dukaj may seem like an apocalyptic vision of the future devoid of man (or at least, man as we know him), but it also offers interesting insights as to the future of electronic literature and reading in general. Far from being only a practician of science fiction, Dukaj is also a theoretician of the literature to come – and his book can be seen also as an attempt at redefining what the future of literature, that is, books read on electronic devices, will be. The writer formulated some of this thoughts on the future of literature in a recent article, properly entitled ‘Bibliomachia’ in the magazine Książki.

He starts off by charting some of the recent technological developments which have changed the face of literature. He notes, that in the age of mass transmission of images, literature has gradually abandoned the habit of painterly depictions:

Everyone has already seen the icy landscapes of the Arctic, the deserts of Africa, Manhattan and Hawaii, the palaces and dungeons, the Middle Ages and antiquity, the orbital panoramas of the Earth and the depths of the cosmos, the inside of the brain and the atom – why would you describe them again?” – Dukaj asks.

But it’s not only literary description that is gradually disappearing from the electronic literature of the future. Now, with the new possibilities of contexuality, the digital book rids itself also of everything that is ‘googleable’.

This means that reading on a device with easy access to internet, one is at all times encouraged to check words, follow hyperlinks, etc. But it’s not only about looking up words in dictionaries and encyclopedias. ‘You read about the heroes walking up Fifth Avenue in New York – you open Google Maps Street View and you see what they see’, is the example Dukaj gives. While this all is part of the new process of ‘layered reading’, as he calls it, it is not part of the proper work, he concludes and goes on to give a little definition of a literary work of art in the age of e-books: “In the domain of electronic literature, the book is autonomous and independent only in as far as it is extracted from the reality of the ‘googleable’ text.” So how does The Old Axolotl fit into this definition?”

The Old Axolotl: Hardware Dreams Kindle Edition

The Old Axolotl is an exhilarating post-apocalyptic tale about a world in which a cosmic catastrophe has sterilized the Earth of all living things. Only a small number of humans have managed to copy digitalized versions of their minds onto hardware in the nick of time. Deprived of physical bodies, they continue to exist by uploading themselves onto gigantic industrial robots, sophisticated medical machines, mechs designed for hard labor, military drones, star troopers and sexbots based on Japanese manga. 

Drowning in nostalgia for the lost world, the survivors create civilization after civilization, life after life, humanity after humanity. They form alliances and fight wars. They develop their own politics, ideologies and crazy hardware religions. And they face dilemmas no one has ever confronted before. 

What makes us human? Is it possible to copy a soul? Who really lives, fights and dies in those metal bodies? Who plays out the melancholy drama of physiology and the flesh? 

The Old Axolotl depicts the reversal of old oppositions between life and death, progress and stagnation, the organic and the mechanical, exploring the mystery of the human soul and the eternal solitude of the human individual, whether trapped in a body or the reinforced steel of a robot.” 

©Lampa, Poland

JACEK DUKAJ’S MOST IMPORTANT PRIZES AND DISTINCTIONS

SFinks Award for “King of Pain” (2011)

SFinks Award for the short story “King of Pain and the Grasshopper” (2011)

Jerzy Żuławski Literary Award for “The Crowe” (2010)

Mackiewicz Literary Award for “The Crowe” (2010)

PPNW Prize: Autumn Book 2009 for “The Crowe” (2010)

European Literary Award for “Ice” (2009)

Kościelscy Award for “Ice” (2008)

“Polityka” Prize: Book of the Last Two Decades for “Ice” (2008)

Prize in the Wirtualna Polska (website) public vote: Polish Novel of the Year 2007 for “Ice” (2008)

Śląkfa Prize: Author of the Year 2007 for “Ice” (2008)

Sfinks Prize: Polish novel of the Year 2007 for “Ice” (2008)

PPNW Prize: Autumn Book 2007 for “Ice” (2008)

Zajdel Prize: Novel of the Year 2007 for “Ice” (2008)

Zajdel Prize: Novel of the Year 2004 for “Perfect Imperfection” (2005)

PPNW Prize: Autumn Book 2003 for “Other Songs”(2004)

Sfinks Prize: Polish Novel of the Year 2003 for “Other Songs” (2004)

Zajdel Prize: Novel of the Year 2003 for “Other Songs” (2004)

Sfinks Prize: Polish Novel of the Year 2001 for “Black Oceans” (2002)

Zajdel Prize: Novel of the Year 2001 for “Black Oceans” (2002)

Fantom Prize for “In the Land of Unbelievers” (2001)

Sfinks Prize: Book of the Year 2000 for “In the Land of Unbelievers”

Śląkfa Prize: Author of the Year 2000 (2001)

Zajdel Prize: Story of the Year 2000 for “The Cathedral (2001)

Srebrny Glob (Silver Globe) Prize: Story of the Year 1998 for “Heart of Darkness” (1999)

Sfinks Prize: Polish Story of the Year 1998 for “Heart of Darkness” (1999)

JACEK DUKAJ’S BIBLIOGRAPHY

Novels

Extensa” (2002), Wydawnictwo Literackie

Inne pieśni” (Other Songs”) (2003), Wydawnictwo Literackie

Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość” (Perfect Imperfection) (2004), Wydawnictwo Literackie

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Córka łupieżcy” (The Plunderer’s Daughter) (2002, reprint 2009); short novel in anthology “Wizje Alternatywne 4″ (Alternative Visions 4), Solaris 2002

Czarne oceany” (Black Oceans) (2001, reprint 2008),

Lód” (Ice) (2007), Wydawnictwo Literackie

Wroniec” (The Crowe”) (2009), Wydawnictwo Literackie 

©Powergraph

Science Fiction” (in the anthology “Science Fiction”, 2011, Powergraph)

Starość aksolotla” (The Old Axolotl), 2015, Allegro

Short story collections

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Xavras Wyżryn and Other National Fictions” (2004, reprint 2009)

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

W kraju niewiernych” (In the Land of Unbelievers) (2000, reprint 2008)

©Wydawnictwo Literackie

Król Bólu” (King of Pain) (2010)

Bibliography:

Xavras Wyżryn“, SuperNOWA 1997.

W kraju niewiernych” (In the Land of Unbelievers, collection of stories), SuperNOWA, 2000.

Aguerre w świcie” (Aguerre at Dawn) in: “Wizje Alternatywne 3” [Alternative Visions 3, Anthology], Solaris 2001.

Czarne oceany” (Black Oceans), SuperNOWA 2001.

Extensa“, Wydawnictwo Literackie 2002.

Inne pieśni” (Other Songs), Wydawnictwo Literackie 2003.

Xavras Wyżryn i inne fikcje narodowe” (Xavras Wyżryn and Other National Fictions, Wydawnictwo Literackie 2004.

Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość” (A Perfect Imperfection: – Pierwsza tercja progresu / First third of progress), Wydawnictwo Literackie 2004.

Lód” (Ice), Wydawnictwo Literackie 2007.

Wroniec” (The Crowe), Wydawnictwo Literackie 2009.

Król Bólu” (King of Pain), Wydawnictwo Literackie 2010.

Translations:

©Allegro

©Dedalus

English:

“The Old Axolotl”, Allegro, March 2015

“The Golden Galley” (Złota Galera) in: “The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy“, trans. Wiesław Powaga, Dedalus/Hippocrene 1996

©Heyne Verlag

German: “Die Goldene Galeere” (Złota Galera) in: Wolfgang Jeschke’s anthology “Auf der Straße nach Oodnadatta”, trans. Jacek Rzeszotnik, Heyne Verlag, 2001

Italian: “Gli imperi tremano” (Xavras Wyżryn), trans. Francesco Annicchiarico, Massa: Transeuropa, 2012.

“La Cattedrale” (Katedra), trans. Marco Valenti, Justyna Kulik, Milano: Editioni Voland, 2013

 

©Laser

Czech: “Katedrála” (Katedra) in: “Polská ruleta” [the Czech anthology of Polish fantasy], trans. Pavel Weigel, Plzeň: Laser, 2003

“Srdce Temna” (Serce Mroku) in: “Polská ruleta 2” [the Czech anthology of Polish fantasy], trans. Pavel Weigel, Plzeň: Laser, 2005

extensa.jpg

©Typotex

Hungarian: “Extensa” (Extensa), trans. Mihályi Zsuzsa, Budapeszt: Typotex, 2012

©Typotex

“Zuzanna és a világmindensé” (Córka łupieżcy/The Plunderer’s Daughter), trans. Mihályi Zsuzsa, Budapeszt: Typotex, 2012

©ACT

Russian: “Мухобой” in: “Польская фэнтези” (the Russian anthology of Polish fantasy), ACT (Ast), 2002

Jacek Dukaj’s Wikipedia page : https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Jacek_Dukaj

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