New World Avenue and Vicinity

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Would NEW WORLD AVENUE AND VICINITY have ever been translated into English and published in the United States had its author, Tadeusz Konwicki, not already been the justly admired author of books such as THE POLISH COMPLEX and A MINOR APOCALYPSE? Probably not, and that would have been an inestimable loss for NEW WORLD AVENUE is no minor work; nor is it the collection of randomly written scribblings that Konwicki, perhaps as a ploy, pretends it to be. Written in 1984 and published in Polish two years later it resembles Konwicki’s earlier memoir, or “real-life novel,” MOONRISE, MOONSET, but proves a far more generous and even more searching text. Addressed to Konwicki’s “first penetrating reader,” the government censor, and offered as yet “another book that nobody needs,” NEW WORLD AVENUE is a brilliantly digressive and blackly humorous autobiography of how the author got to be where and what he is and where he now seems heading.

The title refers to Nowy Swiat, the short but important avenue near which Konwicki has lived ever since arriving in Warsaw from Wilno (via Cracow) in 1947, when the street as well as most of the city was in ruins. More than a place, Nowy Swiat is a vital link, both geographically and personally, a microcosm of the new world and the modern sensibility. Beset by memories he can only imperfectly recall, shoring his fragments against the ruin, and suffering the triple loneliness of a man without his wife (she is in the...

(The entire section is 441 words.)