Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The World of Stone” is an unusual story in that it has no real characters or plot. It still has considerable art: It is objective, careful, and maintains a very delicate ambiguity throughout; yet it is transitional, marking a point at the end of Borowski’s literary career and the beginning of his propagandistic journalism.

One of the best descriptions of the story’s style, as well as of Borowski himself, can be found in Zniewolony umys (1953; The Captive Mind, 1953), by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czesaw Miosz; “Beta” is a thinly disguised portrait of Borowski. Miosz wrote of The World of Stone: “The book comprised extremely short stories devoid of almost all action, no more than sketches of what he had seen. He was a master at the art of using material details to suggest a whole human situation.”

In the story “The World of Stone,” Borowski goes beyond a human situation and reaches a literary cul de sac with no escape. It asserts a destructiveness and contempt that are supposed to inhere in the world, yet the links with their causes are totally severed. “The World of Stone” is almost a work of madness, and this is its eerie, irrational art. The narrator is filled with disgust at the world, and he makes a last effort to present this, to deal with it, in a calm, detached manner. Afterward, he abandoned the calm, the detachment. He found shrill, strident propaganda much more satisfying.