He left the house and hasn’’t been seen since

Photo: Peter Župník Ever since I can remember I’’ve been fascinated by notices of young people gone missing, posted at railway stations and bus stops. And although the Itaka Foundation shows that people of all gender and age groups go missing, the ones that really scream out at you from the poster pillars are the young ones. Imagination goes into overdrive. If someone has left home to see a friend and hasn’’t come back in years it must mean he has fallen through the cracks of reality into a realm ordinary mortals have no access to, one we can only […]

Four Postcards from NYC

Photo: Peter Župník Reading books is not an innocent occupation you can indulge in with impunity. The more and the longer you read, the more you filter everything you see through everything other people have seen and said. This is most likely to occur while you’’re visiting foreign parts because that’’s when the eye has the greatest tendency to detect what is and to seek in it patterns of things previously learned. Jogging along the Hudson River in the evening I seem to hear the following words in my ears: Dehnel makes me go jogging in the evenings but jogging […]

The Reformist Plague

Going against the flow, Krzysztof Kieślowski used to say that the first step toward making the world a better place is to clean one’’s shoes in the morning. How un-Polish! In Poland improvements have to start with a big bang. Then we’’ll see what’s next. Clean shoes are just a metaphor. However, a medical conglomerate in the US took it quite literally. They have launched a reform that made doctors and nurses wash their hands. Everyone entering a ward has to spend a minute by the sink first. If they don’’t, they set off an alarm operated by a computer […]


I don’’t get travelling. It’’s a bit like saying, while gasping for air, that I don’’t get breathing because, although I don’’t travel less frequently than I used to, I tend to cover shorter distances. No more six-week journeys to Siberia or Mongolia for me. All I know is that I have to travel – only to come back every time. Obviously, these words are not mine, I’’m quoting the Marquis from the The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke. Except that I do come back, whereas the Marquis didn’t. And once you come back, you […]

Confessions of a Mamone

Given that ever since the Renaissance Europe has been so definitively split into Catholicism and Protestantism and so entrenched in its habits, I wasn’’t in the least surprised to learn from a Swiss acquaintance that coffee was more Protestant while tea was more Catholic. In response, I ostentatiously sipped from my cup, proud of the fact that it happened to contain coffee. And even though no one on either side of the barricade really believes in God that much, the dichotomies of habit remain, allowing us to speculate endlessly and to keep dividing the world in two halves. Thus the […]

Rasizmus náš každodenný / Esej

Počas istého stretnutia v Štokholme, v kruhu významných osobností, zastávajúcich vysoké funkcie a predstaviteľov rodov, ktorých potomkovia sa už nemusia štverať vyššie, staršia predstaviteľka význačného rodu sa zdvorilo prihovorila vysokopostavenému manažerovi, ktorý sedel vedľa nej: „Ako fantasticky ste sa naučili hovoriť po švédsky!” „To preto, lebo som sa tu narodil – vysvetlil muž a kultivovane zdvihol vidličku. – Som Švéd.” „Ach!” – riekla dáma a obrátila striebornú hlavu k susedovi z druhej strany. Manažér, pôvodom zo Somálska, pokojne zhltol kúsok sobieho mäsa na švédsky spôsob. Čoskoro potom som na pár dní skočila do Varšavy. Zasa som sedela pri stole, zajatá […]

Waiting for Jesus

It was a sunny morning. A man alighted at a small railway station… This is how a short story might begin. Although, as far as I was concerned, I just could not begin at all. After all, lots of short stories begin this way.  But this is a feuilleton, not a short story, so I ought to begin as follows:  It was a sunny morning. I alighted at a small railway station. A tall, bald man met me on the platform and helped me carry my luggage to the car.  I soon discovered that the man, Alain Baton, was the caretaker at the place I was being driven to. Alain did not speak any Polish, […]

K & K Gloom

  Having written of Kaiserlich und Königlich ennui a little while ago, I would now like to write of sadness, melancholy, spleen or – to invoke the official language of one half of the Empire – Weltschmerz. Not far from the Serenissima’’s borders, where the Austro-Hungarian coast came to an end, Maria Theresa was gripped by the desire for her own Venice: a large, multicultural port with picturesque canals. And since the Austrian Empress approached every task in an orderly and systematic fashion, after issuing toleration edicts abolishing customs duties to attract settlers (adherents of a variety of faiths but of a single, mercantile […]

You’’ve got to love yourself!

The following scene takes place in Kiev; a change of flights has necessitated spending a night at an airport hotel. The very topic of Ukrainian hotels would be sufficient for a sizeable feuilleton. It’’s worth adding that no major hotel chains operate in this country.  The standard of this hotel was therefore, as was to be expected, typically Ukrainian – complete with no running water, water-taps falling off, peeling wallpaper, cockroaches and mice in the lift. Two kinds of room were on offer: normal , without a bathroom and lux.  The lux room was dirty and miserable as if it […]

Travel Files

Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum I went for a walk in Amsterdam with a German friend of mine. In the De Balie quarter we came across a sort of classicistic arcade attached to the typical seventeenth century architecture.  The arch bore the following words, engraved in a beautiful font: Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum, which translates as follows: a sensible man does not pee against the wind.  We stood there stunned by this slogan above our heads.  My friend commented that had this arch been built in Germany it would most certainly have been adorned by a quote […]