Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437
Moonrise, Moonset—a journal-novel encapsulating a year created “from juicy life and unfettered fantasy,” to use the author’s words—records events witnessed by the author-narrator during 1981 in Poland, in the aftermath of the “bloodless revolution” effected in the summer of 1980 by Solidarity, the union that became a social movement. The first chapters find the narrator musing on the hard-won freedoms and the strange melancholy accompanying Solidarity’s attainments, as well as on the Party’s embittering humiliation and its isolation from the new movement. The book closes with the declaration of martial law in Poland in December of 1981, the suppression of Solidarity, and the narrator’s interrogation by the police. Tadeusz Konwicki’s wide-ranging narrative—bursting with the daily minutiae of the author’s life, his reflections on Polish-Russian and Polish-Western relations, recollections of fellow writers (living and deceased), adolescent memories, confessions of weakness for various notorious public figures, fictional passages and remarks directed at his cat Ivan, to mention only a few of his subjects—is enclosed within these two startling moments in Polish history: Solidarity’s ascent and its sudden and violent deposition.
Within Moonrise, Moonset’s stream of observations, opinions, reminiscences, incisive political commentary (“The West has the subconscious desire to be raped by Russia”), remarks to the reader, complaints about the narrator’s health, and erotic adventures rise islands of historical fiction and fragments of unpublished novels which the author offers to the reader in answer to, in one case, the beloved Polish dissident Adam Michnik’s request that Konwicki write about his role as a young guerrilla fighter in the Home Army during World War II. In these passages, Konwicki describes his armed struggles against the invading German army and, later, against the Soviet “liberator.”
In the tradition of Polish writers Jozef Mackiewicz and Czesaw Miosz, Konwicki’s pulse quickens as he depicts the landscapes in and around Wilno. The Polish-Lithuanian countryside is rendered with astounding plasticity and precision, lending these segments of the book an immediacy and emotional resonance unmatched elsewhere in the work:I have dreamed of that strange little town so many times, so many times has a sudden stillness reminded me of that place at the bend of the Wilia, so often has a paroxysm of metaphysical dread summoned up from dark oblivion those dozen or so months I spent in that little town not so far from Wilno, where there were three Catholic homes, a presbytery, a police station, my Grandmother Helena’s inn, as well as three or four Jewish homes, a little store, a blacksmith’s shop, and probably a bakery that made challah.