The book has been longlisted for the EBRD Literature Prize 2021.
It’s 1937. Poland is about to catch fire.
In the boxing ring, Jakub Szapiro commands respect, revered as a hero by the Jewish community. Outside, he instills fear as he muscles through Warsaw as enforcer for a powerful crime lord. Murder and intimidation have their rewards. He revels in luxury, spends lavishly, and indulges in all the pleasures that barbarity offers. For a man battling to be king of the underworld, life is good. Especially when it’s a frightening time to be alive.
Hitler is rising. Fascism is escalating. As a specter of violence hangs over Poland like a black cloud, its marginalized and vilified Jewish population hopes for a promise of sanctuary in Palestine. Jakub isn’t blind to the changing tide. What’s unimaginable to him is abandoning the city he feels destined to rule. With the raging instincts that guide him in the ring—and on the streets—Jakub feels untouchable. He must maintain the order he knows. Even as a new world order threatens to consume him.
The developing events pull the reader into the jeopardous world of prewar Warsaw. Here conflicts are resolved by force, and the weak have no say in the matter. We encounter the fascinating and colorful figures of gangsters, gamblers, bourgeoisie, salesmen, athletes, prostitutes, and corrupt politicians from both sides of the fence. In his inimitable style, with impeccable care for historical detail, Twardoch portrays the life of the city and its criminals, as well as the political elite. He skillfully weaves in an unconventional romantic subplot and startling plot twists, ensuring his audience a truly intense read.
About the translator: Sean Gasper Bye is a translater of Polish literature, including books by Lidia Ostałowska, Filip Springer, and Małgorzata Szejnert. A native of Bucks County, PA, he studied modern languages at University College London and international studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He spent 5 years as Literature and Humanities Curator at the Polish Cultural Institute New York. He is a winner of the Asymptote Close Approximations prize and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowship.