The King of Warsaw by Szczepan Twardoch audiobook

The King of Warsaw: A Novel

By Szczepan Twardoch
Translated by Sean Gasper Bye
Read by Stefan Rudnicki

Brilliance Audio 9781542044462
12.94 Hours 1
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A city ignited by hate. A man in thrall to power. The ferociously original award-winning bestseller by Poland’s literary phenomenon—his first to be translated into English. 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.

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Summary

Summary

A city ignited by hate. A man in thrall to power. The ferociously original award-winning bestseller by Poland’s literary phenomenon—his first to be translated into English.

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.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

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…for all its physicality, this novel also has a dreamlike quality, with the logic of an especially grim fairy tale…populated by a multitude of unsavory characters, from politicians, journalists, and unlucky civilians to one of the more memorable psychopaths of contemporary fiction…the revelations are cathartic, tying all the raw and bloody ends together at last with a beautiful, fierce justice. The Boston Globe
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…The reader follows Bernsztajn’s descent, recognizing the danger and glamour of the self-appointed king of Warsaw. Szczepan Twardoch’s book was a bestseller in his native Poland. Newly translated, this extraordinary novel deserves a wide audience. The Times (UK)
April 2020 Book of the Month —The Times (UK)
Ultimately, The King seems a study in extremes: love and violence, sympathy and revulsion, fantasy and reality. That Twardoch can balance these extremes is a testament to his skill. World Literature Today
This is what Twardoch probably does best—he writes about Warsaw like it was [the] New York or Chicago of the time, and does it in fine style. Łukasz Grzymisławski
Something like a Polish version of Inglourious Basterds, in which the oppressed Polish Jews, supported by a likable Polish gangster, take revenge on Polish anti-Semites. Or simply a gangster picaresque novel set in an era that is increasingly popular. Juliusz Kurkiewicz
The novel is an action-packed gangster tale, moving at rip-roaring speed, ably preserved in the translation…counterbalanced by an almost loving attention to detail: the fetishist interest of the hoodlums in various calibres of gun and exclusive makes of car, or the topography of Warsaw itself—the cramped streets of the Northern District, the fashionable bars of the city centre, the cityscapes seen at night from a fastmoving car. Not all the poetic imagery is explained: an intriguing recurring image is the sperm whale visible in the sky singing his ‘hunting’ song above the latter-day Nineveh…Integral to the plot’s development is a planned coup by Polish military top brass and their supporters, including unofficial antisemitic movements as well as establishment figures—prosecutors, policemen, prison-camp guards and political journalists. Hinting at what is to follow, this aspect seems to pose the question as to where the greater violence may lie. European Literature Network
Mix The Godfather with Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, Leon Uris’s Exodus, and maybe a touch of Rocky, and the result will still not give the full picture of the powerful page-turner The King of Warsaw…Almost everything about The King of Warsaw is gripping: the range of characters, the rich descriptions, and the plot twists, including one big stunner. New York Journal of Books
Not just a good read but a welcome reminder of the full range of Jewish life in interwar Poland…a lush panorama of characters who range from the wholesome to the grotesque…Twardoch has an uncanny ability to pluck real-life events and people out of history and slot them into his fictional depictions of gangland Warsaw in 1937…He manages to create a truly believable simulacrum of interwar Warsaw, its streets, its clattering markets, its whorehouses, its upscale restaurants, and its denizens—Jews and Poles of all persuasions—all of which sucks the reader into an atmosphere in which Jewish and Polish Warsaw abutted one another, were intertwined, and yet were also completely separate. He doesn’t shy away from depicting harsh Polish antisemitism but does avoid the tangled thicket of religious culture because this story is one of secular Jews, though they are certainly not entirely denuded of tradition. Moreover, Twardoch is completely dedicated to his characters. He is never done with exploring their personalities—at least not until he kills them off…Twardoch has reached deep into Poland’s blood-soaked earth and has seized its Jewish history with both hands. In doing so, he has created a stunning portrait (recently adapted for Polish television) of a multicultural Poland that no longer exists…As it homes in on one of the city’s forgotten Jewish subcultures, The King of Warsaw also touches on many others. An intense, provocative read, it lifts the massive stone sitting on Warsaw’s history and reanimates what squirms beneath. Jewish Review of Books
Twardoch is clearly a pro at keeping the pages turning…propulsive. Tablet Magazine
Gripping…smartly and crisply translated. Los Angeles Review of Books
Arresting…The book’s ingenuity stems from the way it uses point of view. We float like a butterfly around our central story…But arguably what’s most impressive about The King of Warsaw is the architecture of the words on the page…how do you read a story told by nobody? Twardoch is a deft writer. On this insecure foundation he lays a whole world. The reader goes along, despite all warning. Then Twardoch, somehow, collapses everything, leaving us to come to in a different story altogether, as though we’ve been struck a blow. To be too specific about this would be likely to ruin the effect, but see for yourself. It’s an impressive sleight of hand…There are metaphors to be scratched at, layers to be uncovered. Even as it stares into the abyss, it seems to me that this text is getting at something beyond bleak nothingness. Either way—whatever way you want to read it—read it. The King of Warsaw is a fine and accomplished work that ought to be read widely and thoughtfully. Irish Times
It’s a book of often extraordinary brutality—and often extraordinary beauty of language, superbly translated by Sean Gasper Bye…The King of Warsaw, then, is more than just a chronicle of violent events, of gangland murders and thuggery. This is the action front-of-house: behind the scenes swirl the ideas, the ideologies, the politics and the personal stories that bring the action into focus, reveal the events for what they really are: the descent of a nation and its communities into brawling and blind confusion, born of arrogance, corruption and the assumption that power guarantees success. Twardoch does not glorify violence and gangsterism; he shows how, ultimately, they diminish those who make them their way of life—including the real-life politicians and military men who mingle with the fictional people in these pages. It is a book in which every word counts and every action has unforeseen results. It is not an easy read, not in any way an escapist thriller, in spite of the final twist in the story…an object lesson and a warning. Bookanista
Imagine a Polish, Jewish Godfather. Imagine one more brutal, more alien, more complex, eerier, and better written than Mario Puzo’s 1969 blockbuster. Like its gangster antihero, The King of Warsaw seizes you by the throat (or beard)…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…For aesthetic brutality Twardoch has been compared to Cormac McCarthy, but the unputdownable Stieg Larssen is probably closer kin. As is Twardoch’s great fellow Pole and fellow explorer of the heart of darkness, Joseph Conrad. Historical Novel Society
After reading The King of Warsaw, it is hard to just put it back on the shelf and pretend that we have merely read a great book. The King of Warsaw rummages around in our guts and plunges deep into our consciences. Krzysztof Varga
This is a real ‘boy’s’ novel. It begins with a punch—with a fast-paced description of a boxing match. All of Twardoch’s fetishes are in place: weapons, cars, suits. There’s exciting violence, a locker-room atmosphere, sexual fantasies, and voyeurism—we first see the main protagonist, the Jewish mafioso boxer Jakub Szapiro, through the eyes of an anxious skinny boy…A retro detective story in the spirit of Tyrmand, but darker and more brutal. Witold Mrozek
Szczepan Twardoch has brought Poland back onto the world literature stage. Die Welt
Bold, powerful, occasionally surreal, a blend of historical fiction and noir thriller, multifaceted, intense and unsettling…Twardoch is one of the most fascinating and exciting storytellers of our day. Buchkultur
[An] intelligent and literary novel…original. Library Journal
Dense but powerful…spins the convention of the unreliable narrator in multiple directions: not only may the narrator be deceiving the reader, he may also be deceiving himself. 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 people on the verge of decimation. Booklist
Streaked with magic realism and dream logic, the novel slides eerily between reality and illusion, 1930s Poland and 1980s Israel, where Moyshe has morphed into a retired Israeli army officer typing out his Warsaw memories. Driven by a ruthless energy, the first of Twardoch's novels to be available in an English translation is astonishing and heartbreaking in equal measure. It never runs out of revelation. A wickedly enthralling novel by one of Poland’s emerging literary stars. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Brutal…Compulsively readable…Twardoch’s willingness to stare into the abyss elevates this racing work to sublime heights. Publishers Weekly
Wonderful literature, a festival of language, a dance atop a volcano that toys deftly with narrative perspective, a gallery of colorful, sharply contoured figures. Tages-Anzeiger
A great joy to read…This elegantly constructed and linguistically virtuosic book has a unique aura that’s practically impossible to resist. Deutschlandradio, Book of the Week
There is no doubt in my mind—Twardoch is at present a writer endowed with creative powers of which his peers can only dream…The King of Warsaw is a deftly written thriller with a subtle and unimposing issue behind it. Dariusz Nowacki, Gazeta Wyborcza
The King of Warsaw reads terrifyingly, embarrassingly well—together with the author, we are immersed in a whole swamp of sick ideology, brutality, and infinite baseness. Marcin Fijołek, wPolityce.pl
A brilliant and inventive novel about the Polish-Jewish underworld of the interwar period…highly suspenseful. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Twardoch’s depictions of individual characters, atmospheres, and political currents are precise, vivid, and ecstatic, almost to the point of madness. Rolling Stone (Germany)
A wild book, a crazy book, and a wise book but also a book full of cruelties, since it’s about boxers, gangsters, and monsters…in other words, it has everything you’d expect in a good novel, a very good novel. WDR 5
Twardoch wins the reader over through gripping dialogue, compositional finesse, suspense that continues until the very end, and an unsettling story. Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of 2020’s “Best Fiction in Translation” titles

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Szczepan Twardoch

Author Bio: Szczepan Twardoch

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, CD
Category: Fiction/Literary
Runtime: 12.94
Audience: Adult
Language: English