The Noonday Cemetery & Other Stories, selected by Herling himself shortly before his death in 2000, is a collection of thirteen brilliant stories spanning the last twenty years of his life. His novel The Island was published to great acclaim in 1993, and his memoir, A World Apart, is among the most powerful accounts of life in the Soviet gulag. Volcano and Miracle, published in 1996, contains short fiction and prose writings from his Journal Written at Night. But nowhere before have Herling's best stories--and Herling was indeed a master of the short story--been compiled and published in English translation.
In The Noonday Cemetery, an eerie graveyard on an Italian hillside overlooks the sea and hides the secrets of a murder (or suicide?). Beata, Santa describes the plight of a young Polish woman raped by Serbs, who is pressured by the Catholic Church to keep her child. In A Madrigal of Mourning, a Russian woman musicologist becomes obsessed with Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1613), Prince of Venosa, a madrigalist and murderer.
These timeless stories, dealing with moral, often historical, subjects and written in passionate, deeply affecting prose, affirm without a doubt the assessment by The Boston Globe that Herling is a writer of stylistic mastery and moral depth, who deserves to be placed among the best in any language.
Gustaw Herling was born in 1919 in Kielce, Poland. In 1940, he was captured by the Russians and spent two years in a Soviet labor camp. After WWII, he founded the Polish magazine Kulture, which virtually sustained Polish culture during Communist rule. He settled finally in Naples, where he died in 2000.
Bill Johnston is the leading translator of Polish literature in the United States. His translation of Tadeusz Rożewicz's new poems won the 2008 Found in Translation Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Poetry Award.
"A striking collection of the late short fiction of an essential European writer."