Published: 1998, (2000 in English)
Translated from the Polish by Agnieszka Kolakowska
Set in 1960’s Warsaw. This is a lovely coming of age story about an out of the ordinary 18 year old school boy and his passion for and pursuit of his French teacher – the unattainable and beautiful “Madame”.
More than anything though, it is about the narrators love of art, especially literature and his belief in the power of art to transcend even the most mundane circumstances he is faced with on a daily basis.. Frustrated by the encouraged mediocrity and endless restrictions of life behind the Iron curtain and driven by his passion for “Madame”, he boldly seeks out new experiences in an attempt to experience her world and to get closer to her.
The author did a really good job of creating a sense of what it was like to live in Warsaw at that time and for me this was the most enjoyable part of the book.
I became quite engrossed with this story and was quite disappointed to finish it. The ending though seemed right and complete and it felt like this particular chapter of the narrators life had come to it’s natural end. The book contains a treasure trove of information about literature, history, painting etc and with his love of words, the narrator explains these in quite a lot of detail. At times these passages seemed a bit long to me but were worth perservering with. At some stage I would like to re read this and take the time to learn something about each of these topics – I’m sure I would end up a lot wiser (and older!).