REVIEWS

JAKUB NIKLASIŃSKI

THE SECRET DIARY OF HENDRIK GROEN, AGE 83¼, HENDRIK GROEN

This is a Dutch hit which was on bestseller lists in Holland for thirty weeks, and which publishing houses in 25 other countries have bought the rights for. A film series based on it is currently being made, in the style of Britain’s The Office. What has caused the staggering success of this book about old age? Surely it’s due to the authenticity, humour and eternal – as it turns out – universality of this topic, which is portrayed in such a way that it can be meaningful to readers in nearly every age group. It presents a gentle reflection on how old age really feels in our society. Hendrik Groen is a pseudonym, and for a while now the book market has been buzzing with speculation about who the talented, emotion-stirring writer is behind the pseudonym. This book delights with its sincerity, the tragicomic adventures of Hendrik in a retirement home with even a few love affairs, and, above all, bits of brilliant, instinctive knowledge about how to enjoy every day, even late in life.

Albatros

HEN: IN NORTHERN NORWAY, ILONA WIŚNIEWSKA

Northern fever: it seems that whoever becomes afflicted by it is unable to be cured. Wiśniewska flirted with the North on annual vacations to Estonia, Finland and Norway. She peeked at views of it offered by internet cameras located here and there. She came across Spitzbergen – she ended up spending five years on the island. She fell in love with old Norway and wrote to the Polish press about life in the land of eternal ice and deserted settlements, so diametrically different from everything that happens everywhere else, even on mainland Norway. Hen is her second book of reportage after White, written in a similarly unpretentious style and with an equally good feel for the topic. And, like the previous book, its main strength is that Wiśniewska really listens to and comes to know the people she writes about and is able to describe them honestly. She’s far from being an outsider. And though, after moving to the South – to Lofoten – she had to once again get used to her surroundings, she writes better and sees more, as if she has been living there for years.

CZARNE