In his two previous books, THE POLISH COMPLEX and A MINOR APOCALYPSE, Tadeusz Konwicki has blurred the conventional distinction between author and narrator; in MOONRISE, MOONSET he obliterates it. The result is something like a freewheeling diary-- though just to confuse the issue, Konwicki includes excerpts from an unpublished novel which he wrote in his early twenties in the immediate postwar years, in the first flush of his enthusiasm for People’s Poland. (These excerpts are suitably callow, yet it is entirely possible that Konwicki fabricated the whole story of the unpublished manuscript: He is often at his trickiest when he appears to be most candid.)
MOONRISE, MOONSET has no real plot, but two motifs give it a certain continuity. First there is Konwicki’s struggle to get the book written; he begins by lamenting that he no longer has the knack of writing fiction, and at intervals throughout the book he comments on the process of writing it. The second principal motif is the fate of Poland; Konwicki’s “diary” covers the period from the zenith of Solidarity to the imposition of martial law. Given these themes on which to improvise, Konwicki recalls his experiences in World War II, discusses fellow Polish writers such as Stanislaw Lem and Czeslaw Milosz (whose novel THE ISSA VALLEY he is adapting for film during the time covered by the narrative), and indulges in comic diatribes on a variety of subjects, all the while interweaving incidents from his everyday experiences in 1981.
Can such hodgepodge be called a novel? Let the professors decide. To read the book, and to enjoy its pungent mix of the petty and the metaphysical, one need not categorize it.
The New York Times. Review. CXXXVI (August 13, 1987), p. C28.
The New York Times Book Review. Review. XCII (August 30, 1987), p. 3.
Publishers Weekly. Review. CCXXXI (June 26, 1987), pp. 66-67.