Przepraszam, nie mówie po polsku is the most used sentence by the narrator who opens and closes Inside the Chopin’s Heart. It translates as: “I am sorry, I don’t speak Polish”. Mònica Batet guides the reader through a country whose people are welcoming, sentimental but hurt by their history and introduces them to a poet who doesn’t want to follow the system, two brothers who see how, on one December night, different tanks cross Warsaw, families that, on Christmas Eve, set a table with one extra place and pianists who compete to win the Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition. These shorts stories bring us, through a journey to a different place and in a different period, inside the heart of ourselves.
Can I tell a story that is not my own? What am I allowed to share, what must I keep back? These are some of the questions the six narrators in this story ask themselves. The story they tell speaks of a past that might not be so in the past after all, of islands that despite being near seem to be the most distant in the world, of exotic trees that flower inexplicably on white nights in just one town on the island of Skogen, of the ferry that takes day-trippers to the mainland on Sundays in the summer, of how we all often enjoy talking about things we know nothing about…
But, beyond the luminous Nordic landscape, these voices tell us how a series of coincidences lead to a teacher with a scar, a professional traveller, a tree merchant and a foreigner of uncertain origin all coming together beneath some trees and weaving together this story which is indubitably a love story.
Sarah, whose father is a world-famous singer and who will never forget what happened one evening when she and her siblings were playing together in the lounge. Alice, a singer who has spent some time now trying to write the lyrics to a song and who receives a call from a man she hasn’t seen for years. Jane, who works as a museum guide and has a Polish neighbour who loves making lists. These three women are the protagonists of this story. A story that speaks of lost love, of the past, of expectations, of what happens after a reunion in a café in a Village called Berlevag and of how, with invisible threads, one song can weave together the lives of people who will never meet.
A young girl has been left to live with her paternal grandfather as, for political reasons, her parents have had to flee from their home in an Arctic country where they are suffering from a weather phenomenon known as the Great Snowfall. Her parents’ destination is Paris.
Over time, the young girl starts to understand why they left so quickly and how her father was connected to “We Think Differently”, a literary and political movement that has been feeding the resistance to the dictatorship and inspiring the minds of the next generations.
The young girl, yearning to travel to Paris to see her parents again, will discover a host of atrocities in her Arctic country and will find just one source of solace for her soul: the memorable feat of the explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott whose bravery will become her refuge during the Great Snowfall of the oppression.
In a central European city that straddles a mighty river, strange things are happening. The incidents are connected to what is believed to be a hypnotic state which takes hold when people look at the River and leads to irrational behaviour, sometimes even suicide. Concerned by the phenomenon and the tragic drownings, some members of the community have started to investigate what might be the cause of the psychological anomaly that is affecting some of the city’s families.
Martina, a girl who suffers from feeling isolated, Vera, a young swimmer obsessed with winning and Konrád Wesszler, a university professor whose own family has been affected by the drownings, are the protagonists of Don’t Look at the River, a great mystery novel that envelops us in exquisite literature and draws us in with a sense of uncertainty that may seem as disconcerting as it is relatable.
There is a town called Mir and there has been a bookshop in this town for many years. There are two men who spend three hours each day reading. There is a young girl who likes the rain and another who doesn’t like playing the piano. There is a room with some wellies, a suitcase and a broken clock inside. There is a man who writes poems to get away from everything and a woman who, when she reads his poems, wants to know what colour his eyes are. There is a book with this woman’s name on the front and there are grey walls that hide many secrets.