Synopses & Reviews
Before the mafiosi appeared in my apartment in the company of the dark-complected poetess Alberta Lulaj, before they wrenched me from my drunken sleep and set about demanding--first with dissembling pleas, then with ruthless threats--that I arrange for Alberta Lulaj's poetry to be published in the weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, before there began the tempestuous events I wish to recount, there was the eve of those events, there was the morning and the evening of the preceding day, and I, from the morning to the evening of the preceding day, had been drinking peach vodka. Yes indeed, I was drinking peach vodka, brutishly longing for one last love before death, and stuck up to my ears in a life of dissolution. The Mighty Angel concerns the alcoholic misadventures of a writer named Jerzy. Eighteen times he's woken up in rehab. Eighteen times he's been released--a sober and, more or less, healthy man--after treatment at the hands of the stern therapist Moses Alias I Alcohol. And eighteen times he's stopped off at the liquor store on the way home, to pick up the supplies that are necessary to help him face his return to a ruined apartment. While he's in rehab, Jerzy collects the stories of his fellow alcoholics--Don Juan the Rib, The Most Wanted Terrorist in the World, the Sugar King, the Queen of Kent, the Hero of Socialist Labor--in an effort to tell the universal, and particular, story of the alcoholic, and to discover the motivations and drives that underlie the alcoholic's behavior. A simultaneously tragic, comic, and touching novel, The Mighty Angel displays Pilch's caustic humor, ferocious intelligence, and unparalleled mastery of storytelling. In the alco ward a dispute had broken outover plagiarism. Incidentally, when I arrived there for the first time I did not have the slightest notion that I was crossing the threshold of a creative writing program, that I was entering a community of people of the pen, of writers who were incessantly creating their alcoholic autobiographies, recording their innermost feelings in cheap sixty-page notebooks that were called journals of the emotions, laboriously assembling their drunkards' confessions. In the early and late mornings the alcos either wrote or roamed the hallways with their manuscripts, which grew ever thicker during the course of their stay in the clinic, tucked under their arms for hours on end, awaiting inspiration. In the afternoon they had therapeutic conversations with the female therapists, with Dr. Granada, or with the male therapist Moses Alias I Alcohol, and they listened to talks and took parts in discussion groups. In the evenings they attended public readings, after which fierce debates erupted. During one such exchange the sizable gathering put before the alco Marianna the charge that the drinking confession she had just presented to them was eerily reminiscent of the confession of the alco Joanna they had listened to the week before. Since both sides defended themselves with the aid of mutual accusations, the matter of whether the alco Marianna had copied the description of her drunken night from the alco Joanna or vice versa could not easily be resolved. The community of alcos unanimously insisted that the next day there be a showdown in which the two women would read their work; after, there would be a discussion, followed by a vote, in which the verdict would be determined. The piece by the alcoMarianna went roughly as follows: It was December 21st, 1985. I woke up in the middle of the night. I had an awful hangover; I was sweating and shaking all over. I didn't have a penny. I knew my husband, who was asleep in the next room, had money. I crept in, went through his clothes and found his wallet in the back pocket of his pants. I took out fifty zloties, then I got dressed quietly, and went out to the all-night store, which was close by. In the store I bought a bottle of champagne, which I took home. In the kitchen, without turning on the light--it was bright enough in there as it was, since we live on the first floor and there's a neon street lamp right outside the window--in the kitchen, then, I opened the champagne, though the whole time I was afraid that the cork would pop out and the sound would wake up my husband. But I managed to open the bottle without making a noise, and in half an hour I'd finished it all. I felt a lot better. I had the usual rush of courage, and, no longer exercising any caution and even daring to turn the hall light on, I boldly left the building to throw the bottle into the trash container. On the way, however, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to have some supplies for the rest of the night, and since I still had some money, I went back to the all-night store and bought a quarter-liter of regular vodka. This time, after I got back home I went into the kitchen again, but I no longer meant to drink there. I took a half-liter bottle of raspberry juice out of the cupboard, which, by the way, I had made myself in the summer with raspberries grown on our allotment. I poured half the contents of the bottle of juice down the sink, then I tooka funnel and poured the quarter-liter of vodka from the all-night store into the half-empty juice bottle. Actually, it wasn't even a whole quarter-liter--I started feeling sad while I was pouring the juice down the sink, and so I took a sizable swig straight from the bottle before I made the mixture. I gave the bottle several good shakes, both to make sure the vodka and the juice were properly mixed together, and to make sure the bottle looked as if it simply contained juice; I intended to take it to my room and drink it while I was in bed. I knew it would help and that I'd sleep well, and that if I woke up I'd be able to have a drink whenever I wanted, which would help me. But I took into consideration the fact that I might fall soundly asleep, and just in case my husband woke up before me in the morning and saw the bottle standing by my bed, I wa
"The Mighty Angel of the title is both the pub where this eloquent antiherolike his creator, a writer named Jerzyescapes sobriety and the fiery messenger from the Book of Revelations. As he tells his story, mingled with those of his fellow inmates in rehab, Jerzy captures both the ecstasies and ugly despair of inebriation. The novel, which offers no excuses, is as funny and charming as it is gruesome and tragic. In addition to being an alcoholic, Jerzy is addicted to words. This interferes with his ability to lead a fully engaged life as much as his fondness for peach vodka does. Translator Johnston deserves credit, too, for the precise rendering.
A candid, caustic, intensely human depiction of alcoholism."Kirkus
"The modern literary traditionin particular, the Lost Generation writers and their contemporarieshas done something curious in romanticizing the throes of alcoholism. Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald were all raging alcoholics and filled their novels with characters who acted likewise. But never before, and rarely today, does a novelist confront addiction so intimately and personally as Jerzy Pilch in his recently translated novel, The Mighty Angel.
A darkly humorous, yet undeniably serious, look into the life of a repeatedly relapsing alcoholic (also named Jerzy) and his recovering brethren in and out of rehab comes as no great surprise from one of Polands most celebrated writers. The Mighty Angel” cemented Pilchs reputation, earning him Polands NIKE Literary Award in 2001. It was well-deserved. Pilch unflinchingly confronts the emotional reality of alcoholism and suggests a more sobering reality beyond sobriety."Will L. Fletcher, The Harvard Crimson
"Although Jerzy Pilch is acclaimed in his native Poland, "The Mighty Angel" is only the second of his books to be translated into English. In morbidly funny, hallucinatory prose reminiscent of Malcolm Lowry's, Pilch tells the story of a novelist, also named Jerzy, and his struggle with alcoholism. Jerzy has voluntarily committed himself 18 times to an alcohol rehabilitation center, but he always winds up stopping for a drink at the nearest pub, "The Mighty Angel," on his way home.
To better understand his own anguish, Jerzy tells the zanily bitter stories of his fellow alcoholics ... each of these men and women provide trenchant insight into the human predicament. But by far the novel's most powerful image is that of the titular angel, who enters Jerzy's life by turns to tempt and threaten and, at last, to save."Rebecca Oppenheimer, Book Bag
The funniest novel about an alcoholic writer you'll ever read. And also one of the most tragic.
The funniest—and most poignant—book about alcoholism you'll ever read. Eighteen times Jerzy has woken up in rehab. Eighteen times he's been released. In rehab, he collects the stories of his fellow alcoholics in an effort to tell the universal, and particular, story of the alcoholic and his motivations.
About the Author
Jerzy Pilch is one of Poland's most important contemporary writers. In addition to his long-running satirical newspaper column, Pilch has published several novels, and has been nominated for Poland's NIKE Literary Award four times; he finally won the Award in 2001 for The Mighty Angel.
Bill Johnston is Director of the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University and has translated works by Witold Gombrowicz, Magdalena Tulli, Wieslaw Mysliwski, and others. He won the Best Translated Book Award in 2012 and the inaugural Found in Translation Award in 2008.