Maslowska, Dorota 1983–

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Maslowska, Dorota 1983–

PERSONAL: Born 1983, in Wejcherowo, Poland; children; one.

ADDRESSES: Home—Lublin, Poland. Agent—Lampa I Iskra Boza, Redakcja "Lampy," Galeria Raster, Ul. Hoza 42/8 m (pietro 3), 00-516 Warsaw, Poland.

CAREER: Writer and novelist.

AWARDS, HONORS: Nike prize, and Polityka prize, both 2003, both for Wojna polsko-ruska: pod flaga bialo-czerwona.

WRITINGS:

Wojna polsko-ruska: pod flaga bialo-czerwona (title means "Polish-Russian War under a White-Red Flag"), illustrated by Krysztof Ostrowski, Lampa i Iskra Boza (Warsaw, Poland), 2002, translated by Benjamin Paloff as Snow White and Russian Red, Black Cat (New York, NY), 2005, published as White and Red, Atlantic Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Also author of Paw krolowej, a prose-poem.

Author's works have been translated into twelve languages.

SIDELIGHTS: Polish author Dorota Maslowska became a literary phenomenon in her native country and around the world, both at an early age. Her debut novel, translated into English as both White and Red and Snow White and Russian Red, was written while she was preparing for her high school exams and was published when its author was nineteen. The book drew immediate critical attention and earned Maslowska much commercial success. The novel "boasts a bold, original, astoundingly confident tone, with as little traditional reverence for the great Polish poets—Wislawa Szymborska, Czeslaw Milosz—as Catholic prudery," observed Ina Hartwig for Sign and Sight online. A college student and young mother as well as a literary sensation, Maslowska has matured in the years since her book appeared, but she remains the "unchallenged queen of the young Polish literary scene," Hartwig noted.

Andrzej "Nails" Robakoski, a young, listless malcontent and nihilistic drug user, narrates the events of three days of his life throughout the course of the novel. Nails is "mindlessly nationalist, misogynist, homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic," commented a Publishers Weekly, noting that the Polish slacker tells his story through a disjointed stream-of-consciousness narration. He concocts unlikely business schemes that will never get off the ground. In his drug-induced haze, he imagines a Polish-Russian war in which he serves as the spokesman for the dissident population. He goes through a quick succession of girlfriends after being dumped by slutty, stoned, and pregnant Magda, whose abrupt departure leaves him unexpectedly morose: Goth-living, socially conscious supporter of animal rights and all things natural Angela, who timidly surrenders her virginity to him; domineering Natasha, who physically assails Nails for hiding his drugs from her; and Ala, a thoughtful type who manages to demurely resist Nails's sexual advances while trying to raise him above his slovenly and chauvinistic ways. After a run-in with local police, Nails is accused of stealing a soft drink and a walkie-talkie from a local McDonalds restaurant, and is tossed in jail. There, he encounters Maslowska herself, first in her capacity as a typist in the jail, and then as a part of a hallucinatory state induced after he hits his head on the jail cell wall. Nails relates the remainder of the novel from this state, a condition "not much different from his waking life," noted the Publishers Weekly critic.

Although many critics thought Maslowska's metafictional use of herself in her narrative is unsuccessful, other elements of the narrative have been soundly praised. "Maslowska's extraordinary use of language—frequently vulgar and obscene but sophisticated and inventive too—is the book's strongest point, and one which may unfortunately hold it back in the English-speaking world," commented a reviewer for Three Monkeys Online. "Nails's wild narration keeps the tone light-hearted, and at times hysterical, because he's such an ineffectual chump," noted Steve Horowitz on PopMatters.com. Nails's "voice is one of the most authentic to emerge in fiction in years," at the same time "chaotic and brilliantly idiosyncratic," commented Tania Barnes in Library Journal. A reviewer in Bookseller called the novel "something fresh and different."

In Snow White and Russian Red Maslowska "presents modern day Poland, its McDonalds and discos, disenfranchised youth and sell-out politicians, as a society in which there is no place for love, but where it grows anyway," Horowitz commented. "Communism was bad, capitalism hasn't made life much better, but optimism remains."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Bookseller, February 4, 2005, review of Snow White and Russian Red, p. 30.

Guardian (London, England), May 22, 2005, Hepzibah Anderson, review of Snow White and Russian Red.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of Snow White and Russian Red, p. 1159.

Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Tania Barnes, review of Snow White and Russian Red, p. 94.

Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2005, review of Snow White and Russian Red, p. 40.

ONLINE

Polish Writing Web site, http://www.polishwriting.net/ (September 3, 2005), biography of Dorota Maslowska.

PopMatters.vom, http://www.popmatters.com/ (June 17, 2005), Steve Horowitz, review of Snow White and Russian Red.

Sign and Sight Online, http://www.signandsight.com/ (September 3, 2005), Ina Hartwig, "The Sweet Taste of Underground," profile of Dorota Maslowska.

Three Monkeys Online, http://www.threemonkeysonline.com/ (September 3, 2005), Robert Looby, review of Snow White and Russian Red.