Swallowing Mercury

by Wioletta Greg

Swallowing Mercury is as close to a family photo album in words as you are likely to get. Each chapter tells a story, one viewed through the eyes of Wiola, a young Catholic girl brought up in rural Poland during the 70s and 80s. Even though there is more than a hint of the significant changes going on in Polish society, the child's eye is never lost and always at the centre of the stories.


Collecting matchbox labels turned out to be a difficult hobby. Because how can you bring your razor blade to bear, with the necessary precision, on the label of that matchbox calling to you from the table during a name-day party, when Uncle Janek, the happy owner of the box, isn't drunk enough yet for it to be pinched, and there are no more vodka bottles in the crate behind the curtain? Familial singing had not managed to put my uncle to sleep, and neither had my grandfather's stories about the Soviet tank that drove into Balwierka's yard instead of into Warsaw. He even stayed awake through all my father's monologues on subjects such as taking a 'friendship train' to Russia, the smuggling of jewellery, the use of sulphates in the preparation of stuffed animals. So I decided I'd have to resort to drastic measures.
Translated by Eliza Marciniak


Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

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