Reviews

01.2021 Jewish Review of Books Eddy Portnoy


Szczepan Twardoch’s newly translated novel, The King of Warsaw, about a Yiddish-speaking hitman with a side hustle as a professional boxer, then, is not just a good read but a welcome reminder of the full range of Jewish life in interwar Poland. (…)


(…) Twardoch should be thanked for delving into the lower depths of Jewish gangland because he has...

21.04.2020 Boston Globe Clea Simon

Of course, not everything is as it initially appears in this work, the first of the noted Polish author’s to be translated into English. In Twardoch’s world, the brutality is constant, with killings and dismemberments recounted in almost loving detail. It is also, as translated from the Polish by Sean Gasper Bye, often poetic. (…)

As that passage suggests, for all its...

17.12.2020 Tablet Mag Dara Horn


(…) it’s worth looking at The King of Warsaw objectively as literature, and the many clues its author drops about what exactly he is after. Those hints ultimately reveal that this isn’t a novel about Jews, but about their absolutely pervasive absence. For an author in Poland today, that may well be a story that is very much worth telling. (…)


The most obvious...

15.02.2020 Kirkus Reviews

Set in late-1930s Poland, this haunted epic recounts the violent life of an aging Jewish prizefighter who finds another outlet for his brutish skills as a powerful drug lord’s enforcer. A hero in Warsaw’s Jewish community for demolishing the stereotype of the weak Jew by battering his boxing opponents, 37-year-old heavyweight Jakub Szapiro thinks nothing of murdering Jews as well...

22.01.2020 Publishers Weekly

Twardoch’s brutal, messy, and compulsively readable English-language debut portrays boxing, the underworld, and the rise of fascism in 1937 Poland. (…)

While the novel’s pulpy atmosphere and phantasmagoric set pieces are excessive (a flying sperm whale surveys Warsaw with its “burning gaze”), the conclusion offers surprising insight into the narrator’s failure to come to terms...

01.03.2020 Library Journal Vicky Gregory

Obsessed with power and influence, Szapiro also has a compassionate side, and because of both his athletic strength and his willingness to help people, he enjoys a loyal following and the moniker “King of Warsaw.” (…)

This intelligent and literary novel about the Jewish situation in Poland is presented from an original vantage point. It will be of interest to readers of...

27.05.2020 Historical Novel Society Susan Lowell

It’s a terrible novel in the root sense of the word: it stands your hair on end. This tough thriller is the first English publication of the Polish writer Szczepan Twardoch (well translated by Sean Gasper Bye), but it won’t be the last. (…)

Twardoch insists his novel is not about prewar Warsaw but about violence. It’s about both, but it’s about much more as well. It’s about...

01.03.2020 Booklist Bill Ott

All of this storytelling legerdemain adds complexity and fascinating psychological texture to the book, which at its heart is a gripping tale of a Godfather-like power struggle between warring mobs, one largely Jewish, the other anti-Semitic and pro-Fascist. The Tarrantino-caliber violence can be overwhelming but is never gratuitous in a novel that is fundamentally about a country and its...

07.04.2020 The Times Antonia Senior

BOOK OF THE MONTH – APRIL 2020

Warsaw in 1937 is a place of factions. Jew against Christian. Fascist against socialist. In this febrile atmosphere a 17-year-old Jewish boy becomes the unlikely sidekick of a boxer-turned-gangster. Jakub Szapiro, a titan of the boxing ring, is the brutal and charismatic enforcer for a notorious crime lord; he is also the killer of the boy’s...

23.05.2020 The Irish Times Niamh Donnelly

The book’s ingenuity stems from the way it uses point of view. We float like a butterfly around our central story. The biblically named “Jakub” Szapiro, our aforementioned handsome Jewish boxer, is at the centre. He is a ruthless enforcer for a notorious crime lord and a celebrated pugilist in the ring. But it is through the eyes of young Moyjesz (or Moyshe) Bernsztajn, a bereaved and...