The narrator is an aging writer and film director constructed by Konwicki as an obviously autobiographical authorial persona that is both intimate and detached. His is the all-seeing eye, the filtering presence which conducts a dialogue with the reader, shares its observations of “the Polish earthquake” (the Solidarity movement), bemoans Poland’s history as “a mound of graves,” and bares old Communist sympathies. The narrator describes the travails of making a film of Miosz’s book Dolina Issy (1955; The Issa Valley, 1981) and dissects relationships with fellow writers—Stanisaw Lem, Jerzy Putrament, Stanisaw Dygat—and with actor Zbigniew Cybulski, the Polish James Dean. Through observation, confession, reminiscence, and fictional remnant, Konwicki tries to grasp the many Konwickis, his own elusive essence.
Polish society also figures as a character and subject of this work as it is the workings of the Solidarity trade union, its battles, achievements, and aspirations (and the narrator’s marveling at them) that feed and underlie the narrator’s skeptical yet hopeful musings: “To exist, other countries need good borders, sensible alliances, disciplined societies, but a decent miracle will do us just fine....”
In the fictional passages of Moonrise, Moonset, the reader also encounters the character of Adam (named in honor of Adam Michnik). It is through this character that Konwicki’s narrator strives to create a bridge between the World War II experiences of his generation and those of Michnik’s. The aging writer wants toshift the Adam of today to that scorching summer and have him experience that chain of episodes in my life.... I wanted to give Adam a little piece of my youth so that he too would have a war record.... I wanted to see how he, the darling of salons and temporary arrests, would bear up to that first burst of machine-gun fire, how he would take the sight of blood, and how he would react to the resurrection of freedom wearing the coarse-cloth uniform of slavery.