Under the glow of a burning red sky a fugitive from war learns of a malevolent serpent that once inhabited the caves outside Kyiv.
In the dark ages of Ukraine a charismatic tribal leader defies supernatural sacrificial rituals and counsels his people to live in unity and peace so that a nation can arise.
A cemetery in the old city of Khastiv stirs with the ghostly Haidamaka people who keep vigil every Easter, awaiting their promised liberator.
In medieval Vinnytsia a powerful and sadistic monk mutilates local women, invoking the fury of the tormented villagers.
On a quiet summer’s evening flickering lights reveal a mass of pilgrims paying homage with a prayer and song at a life-giving sacred well.
A man returning to his homeland, ravaged by Tsarism and the Bolshevik revolution, visits the ruins of an ancient castle where treasure is said to be hidden for posterity, protected by ferocious flames.
Treasure of the Ages invites the reader into a mystical, ancient world but one that also reflects the harsh reality of the lives of ordinary Ukrainians during the turbulent times of the socialist revolution that the author Klym Polischuk inhabited.
Klym Polischuk was born into a Ukrainian peasant family at the end of the nineteenth century but his considerable talents saw him become active in the world of art and literature. His writing career was disrupted first by exile to Russia and then mobilisation to fight in World War I. During the 1920s his literary output included a range of novels and accounts of the Soviet revolution. He was fascinated by folklore and in 1921 produced his collection of Gothic tales, Treasure of the Ages. In 1929 he was again arrested and for eight arduous years he was incarcerated in Soviet labour camps, including the notorious Solovky prison, with other members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. He was executed in 1937 in Sandarmokh, Russia, along with 1110 prisoners.
For Adam Zagajewski—one of Poland’s great poets—the project of writing, whether it be poetry or prose, is an occasion to advance what David Wojahn has characterized as his “restless and quizzical quest for self-knowledge.” Slight Exaggeration is an autobiographical portrait of the poet, arranged not chronologically but with that same luminous quality that distinguishes Zagajewski’s spellbinding poetry—an affinity for the invisible.
In a mosaic-like blend of criticism, reflections, European history, and aphoristic musings, Zagajewski tells the stories of his life in glimpses and reveries—from the Second World War and the occupation of Poland that left his family dispossessed to Joseph Brodsky’s funeral on the Venetian island of San Michele—interspersed with intellectual interrogations of the writers and poets (D. H. Lawrence, Giorgos Seferis, Zbigniew Herbert, Paul Valéry), composers and painters (Brahms, Rembrandt), and modern heroes (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke) who have influenced his work.
A wry and philosophical defense of mystery, Slight Exaggeration recalls Zagajewski’s poetry in its delicate negotiation between the earthbound and the ethereal, “between brief explosions of meaning and patient wandering through the plains of ordinary days.” With an enduring inclination to marvel, Zagajewski restores the world to us—necessarily incomplete and utterly astonishing.