Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize
"Achieves a form of literary alchemy that mesmerizes."--The New York Times
In this celebrated debut from prize-winning poet Wioletta Greg, Wiola looks back on her youth in a close-knit, agricultural community in 1980s Poland. Her memories are precise, intense, distinctive, sensual: a playfulness and whimsy rise up in the gossip of the village women, rumored visits from the Pope, and the locked room in the dressmaker's house, while political unrest and predatory men cast shadows across this bright portrait. In prose that sparkles with a poet's touch, Wioletta Greg's debut animates the strange wonders of growing up.
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About the Author
WIOLETTA GREG is a Polish writer; she was born in a small village in 1974 in the Jurassic Highland of Poland. In 2006, she left Poland and moved to the UK. Between 1998-2012 she published six poetry volumes, as well as a novel, Swallowing Mercury, which spans her childhood and her experience of growing up in Communist Poland. Her short stories and poems have been published in Asymptote, the Guardian, Litro Magazine, Poetry Wales, Wasafiri, and The White Review. Her works have been translated into English, Catalan, French, Spanish, and Welsh.
ELIZA MARCINIAK is an editor and translator. She lives in London, England. Her recent projects include Swallowing Mercury, by Wioletta Greg, translated from Polish.
"Warm, subversively funny and elegiac for a lost rural life but unflinching in its depiction of the darker strands of Polish society, Swallowing Mercury is constructed around a spine of resistance and individuality."--Times Literary Supplement
"The book's appearance in the U.S. is a great gift . . . Greg's masterful first novel is charming, seductive, and sinister by turns."--Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Greg's fictional debut combines the opposing literary styles of socialist realism and magic realism in intoxicating sentences that convey sensuous detail so delightfully that one feels as though one is eating watermelon outdoors in summer."--Booklist (Starred Review)
"Marciniak's deft translation amplifies the engrossing sensory details of Greg's heartbreaking and enlivening novel."--Publishers Weekly
"This enchantingly elliptical fiction debut by British-domiciled Polish poet Wioletta Greg sparkles with a gem-like quality. Thanks to Eliza Marciniak's crisp translation, it brings freshness even to the crowded genre of the novella-sized bildungsroman, and can be devoured alongside the best coming-of-age translations of recent years, such as Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera and The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov."--The Guardian
"Wioletta Greg's first novel shines with a surreal and unsettling vigor. As an award-winning poet, Greg writes with a lyricism that brings alive the charms and dangers of Wiola's life."--The Financial Times
"Swallowing Mercury is both magical and sinister, a memoir and a fairytale and, like Wiola, completely captivating."--The Irish News
"Greg writes with a precise, strange charm, and the poet's acute sensitivity to detail. Little by little, I felt the presence of young Wiola appear beside me--vital, quick-witted and curious, picking her way through the dark woods of faith, family, sex, and politics as if in some melancholy fairytale. I experienced the book like a series of cool, clear drinks, each more intoxicating than the last."--Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent
"I have been utterly 'swallowed' by this odd yet oddly familiar folk novella--somewhere between memoir and fairytale--which has magic and menace in perfect measure."--Sarah Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither
"I really loved this strange book, which is sometimes sinister and sometimes lovely, and many other things besides."--Evie Wyld, author of All the Birds, Singing
"This book comes the way memory does, in fragments, like something overheard or glimpsed through a gap in a door. It might feel as if you shouldn't be listening, should turn away, but it is impossible to do so."--Daisy Johnson, author of Fen
"A sparkling little gem of a book--there is a freshness and truthfulness in Wioletta Greg's writing that reminded me of Elena Ferrante and Tove Jansson."--Carys Davies, author of The Redemption of Galen Pike
"Swallowing Mercury shows how the overwhelming forces of beauty, politics, mortality, violence, and hope can animate even the smallest moments of life."--Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You