Andrzej Stasiuk was born in 1960 in Warsaw, where he received only the most basic education. He dropped out of the middle school and spent a year and a half in prison for refusing to serve in the army. He lives now in an isolated hamlet in the Carpathian Mountains, where he keeps a herd of goats and llamas, while in his free time he runs, together with his wife Monika, his own little publishing house named CZARNE.
A book of short stories based on his prison experience, entitled "Mury Hebronu" (Walls of Hebron) appeared in print in 1992. In 1993 CZAS KULTURY published a story entitled "Bialy Kruk" (White Raven). It was actually a fragment of a novel, which was later published under the same title by OBSERWATOR. It soon became a best-seller. OBSERWATOR also published his book of poems "Wiersze milosne i inne". Today Andrzej Stasiuk is one of the most popular writers of the young generation. In 1995 he published "Opowiesci Galicyjskie" (Stories from Gaicja) and in the following year "Przez Rzeke" (Across the River). "Bialy Kruk" has also appeared in Finnish and German.
Here we present a short story from "Walls of Hebron". The stories in this book are based on Andrzej's observations of the prison life. Andrzej himself calls his time in prison "an enlightening experience", which he gained, as he says, "without having to murder anyone".
The corridor swells with echoes of raised voices. There, at the end, is the seg: a few single and four-person cells for those who do time the hard way.
A swarm of uniforms surrounds four half-naked men. In the dim electric light the blood is black.
The youngest has his throat slit. Slit with the precise graze of a razor. The cut is not deep. It rips the top layers of his skin making the wound open wide. It gapes. It dazzles. The oldest, oil-cloth on sticks, has his belly slashed in several places. The dark gaps criss-cross. The blood flows over the bleached, washed out trousers. It stays behind on the concrete floor.
The huge gorilla of a man has marked his forearms.
The last one, fat and big-bellied, wears only a pair of shorts. His legs are ripped from the knees up to the hips. General's stripes drawn with a nervy line.
They walk slowly. They want to give the flowing blood as much time as possible. They watch, pleased, as the dark patches spread over the expanse of pale skin. They smile. The pain will come later, in ten, fifteen minutes. The black boot of the one in shorts marks the floor; it's full of blood. The blood sloshes and squirts out from behind the low top.
"Fuck. Sergeant! What's going on here?... Fuckin'ell..."
"Captain, sir, they've slashed themselves, cut up. I don't know how, when... Honest, I don't. I frisked them and all, honest I did. They're from the 6th. Murderers, every one of them. Captain, sir, I searched everything, checked the cell beforehand. Someone must've passed them a razor..."
The youngest smiles cunningly. His teeth are brilliant white against the red that wraps around his neck like a scarf. He feels safe. A flat, sharp-edged piece of stainless steel rests cold under his tongue. The coldness fills the young man with peace.
"What...? What's got into your stupid heads? Speak! No, let the doctor stitch them up first. Shit, what a mess..."
"Captain, sir, these bastards won't say anything. They want to speak to the gov'nor but the gov'nor said he won't talk to them. He already told them what he had to say - fourteen days of the hard one and they should be pleased it's not the solitary. But they say it ain't fair..."
"Doctor, will you manage or should we take them to the hospital?... "
"There's no rush, we'll handle it. It'll do them good to lose some blood. They'll be calmer. Nurse, sewing gear ready? What injections? Anaesthetics?... I'll give them anaesthetics... Bring in the first one. The rest back on the cell. Let them bleed. Let them bleed empty..."
The fat doctor takes off his clean white coat. The nurse hands him another one, splashed with blood and iodine.
Translated by Wiesiek Powaga