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The Mighty Angel [Hardcover]

Bill Johnston , Jerzy Pilch

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Book Description

July 1 2009
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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Open Letter (July 1 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934824089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934824085
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #846,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Jerzy Pilch is one of Poland's most important contemporary writers and journalists. In addition to his long-running satirical newspaper column, Pilch has published several novels, and has been nominated for Poland's prestigious NIKE Literary Award four times; he finally won the Award in 2001 for The Mighty Angel. His novels have been translated into many languages, and in 2002, Northwestern University Press published His Current Woman, Pilch's only other book in English translation.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A drunkard is ashamed to drink, but a drunkard has an even greater source of shame - he's ashamed not to drink. Aug. 20 2010
By C - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When I started this, it was at a time when I needed a good book that was an obviously good book. Not one of those, well, made-it-to-the-end-and-didn't-hate-it kind of books. The Mighty Angel came to me just in time.

This novel has voice. And a dark humor. It's tragic and hopeful at the same time. Maybe it's satirical, maybe it's not. In any case, I loved it, and I read it fairly slowly, savoring the language and the characters and the plot.

"You yourself calculated that in the course of the last twenty years you'd drunk two thousand three hundred and eighty bottles of vodka, two thousand two hundred and twenty bottles of wine, and two thousand two hundred and fifty bottles of beer..."

Jerzy is an alcoholic. He's also a lover of language, a writer because he's a writer as much as a drinker because he's a drinker. He's been in formal rehab eighteen times, but he's been in his own personal kind of pseudo rehab, with women taking care of him until they realize the alcohol takes precedence and drives Jerzy; they're hopelessly committed to his convalescence until they're completely hopeless. Then they leave.

"When I say I do not drink, it is certainly the case that this is not true, but when I say I do drink, I could equally be lying through my teeth. Don't believe me, don't believe me. A drunkard is ashamed to drink, but a drunkard has an even greater source of shame - he's ashamed not to drink. What kind of drunkard doesn't drink? The lousy kind. And what's better: lousy or not lousy?"

Who can't laugh at that even while crying on the inside? Of course the women leave, in the face of this talk, of this futility and absurdity.

Jerzy relates the stories of those on the alco ward, in rehab with him. While he's there, he writes instead of drinking. When he's out, he's drinking and incapable of writing. The stories of his cohort are numerous and the same but particular in the details. Don Juan the Rib, The Most Wanted Terrorist in the World, the Queen of Kent - even his grandfather, long gone, is central but beside the point. All of them are trapped in their addiction, and there are two ways out: To be a lousy drunkard or a superior one.

In one memorable scene, Alberta and two strange men appear to Jerzy as he is longing for his next drink, which is nowhere to be found. They offer him drinks and an agreement: Help Alberta publish her poems so that they're read by the Pope (yeah, the Pope), and he can drink all he wants. She stays with him and recites her pieces, but she can't help but listen to and talk with Jerzy.

"Let me tell you, Ala: only the naive think that there are different kinds of getting out....every getting out is the same...You get out of the hospital, in other words you get out of your illness, and re-enter the world, which itself is one big illness. Do you see?"

The plight of an alcoholic is explained through this kind of logic, and it continues throughout the novel. If anyone has the most complete picture of alcoholism and its ruinous effects, it's Jerzy, writing down the stories of countless other drunks. No one else knows more about this illness than he does, but after countless relationships and stays at a rehab facility, it's unlikely to think that reasons for getting out matters much; what else could compel someone to leave one illness for another, to step from an alco ward and into the illness of the world? In the end, we find out whether Jerzy believes the things he says he does about alcoholism, whether or not he's willing to trade one illness for another, and why.
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendidly sad-funny novel Dec 26 2011
By George Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Just finished this novel by by Polish writer Jerzy Pilch. It's the second book of his I've read (A Thousand Peaceful Cities was the other one) and he's really splendid. Very funny and painful stuff about the urge to innoculate oneself against the disappointments of post-Communist life with large quantities of cheap vodka, the difficulty of connecting to other people (especially through an alcoholic haze) and a vivid portrait of the kind of dreamers and losers who survived the Communist period through sheer dumb luck. He has a rather nice line of tongue-in-cheek magical realism that punctures its own potential for pomposity, and more than a little of kind of absurdist humor that thrived during the post-war years (Vaclav Havel, RIP). Major kudos to Open Letter books for making Pilch's work available in the States in English.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Pathetic Life of a Drunk Jan. 9 2012
By las cosas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The narrator is an alcoholic, the son and grandson of alcoholics who has spent the last 20 years in and out of rehab both formal (in a public institution) and informal (in the care of the various women in his life). If you like to hear about the pathetic and completely stereotyped lives of a bunch of drunks, this isn't a bad example, and is certainly competently translated by Bill Johnston. But the details of alcoholic life, from the vomit to the endless lying and self-deception masquerading as deep insights into human nature were to me simply pathetic and boring. I mean who cares?

Oh yes, I assume one could argue that this whole book is a deeply allegorical tale of the changes in Polish politics in the last 50 years, during which the vodka of choice for the narrator changes with the government and many of those responsible for overseeing his care are as damaged as the narrator. But I think that is way too easy an out for this self-indulgent novel.

There is the predictable banter, wordplay, drunken monologues that are meant to be funny. Fellow drunks have names like Hero of Socialist Labor and Most Wanted Terrorist in the World and are given stories to match. But at its core this book is based on the old saw that drunks are simply broken souls too delicate for the cold unfeeling world. Just saying it doesn't make it true and the short descriptions of his fellow inmates strewn throughout the book are facile and somewhat pointless.

"Drinking, writing and battling with the beast of drunken rhetoric is ghastly, ghastly, ghastly." And reading about it? Even more ghastly!
ARRAY(0xb2a41b4c)

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