A romance in the provinces (Kornel Filipowicz, 2017)

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Kornel Filipowicz

I just read A romance of provinces (1960), by the Polish poet, novelist and screenwriter Kornel Filipowicz (1913-1990), who was for more than twenty years, and until his death, life partner (each one, in his house) by the poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012), Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. The affinity of worlds and tones is noted in the story. A romance of the provinces is about Elzibieta, a 24-year-old girl who plays and teaches piano and lives in a modest floor of a town, facing the square, with her widowed mother and sick, an old-fashioned woman who controls her and always places her to fulfill angry housework. Very soon we attended this revealing scene: “From the window of the house where Elzibieta lived, piano chords sounded; The? Granddaughter played a ballad of Chopin. Soniewicz, sitting next to him, turned the pages of the score. Elzibieta’s mother drank tea at the table. With his bony and agile fingers, he would crush a bread bun and put small pieces in his mouth. ”

Soniewicz is an engineer, a good, bland and nondescript man who courts the girl, with the support of the mother, with a view to an orderly marriage project despite the age difference. But Elzbieta doesn’t love him.

That tedious and dull scene, described with the simple and impressionistic realism that characterizes the novel, is common in the monotonous days, afternoons and evenings of the tasteless life of Elzibieta, a girl to the window force, between curtains, who don’t It conforms to the sun’s rays and the flight of sparrows and swallows to brighten their existence. Young, attractive, read, and with an incipient rebellion,  Elzibieta aspires to something more than being transferred from the care of an absorbing mother to the care of an irrelevant husband.

That homemade print is one more vignette of the whole of a provincial fresh pointillist. The priest, the doctor, the pharmacist, the Blessed, the madman of the town … As a backdrop, with an impact on the dramatic adventure that Elzibieta, Filipowicz will masterfully portray the narrow atmosphere and gossip of village life, just encouraged by errands, the arrival of a traveler, the preparation of a religious party or an occasional dance.

And one day he arrives at the town from Warsaw, to give a talk, the poet Fabian Milobrzeski, of certain fame and, as will be seen, good-looking and stunned. A poet! There goes  Elzibieta, ready to meet a man who will be interesting and intelligent, it is possible to think, an artist who can evade it, even for a while, from his anemic existence. Their eyes converge in the conference hall.

And, as expected, they lock up the conversation.  Elzibietais willing to teach him the next day how little to see in the town. And that’s where it all begins. The poet will not be in a hurry to leave and – without a doubt, he is used to it – he will know how to narrow the fence and throw the nets to capture a responding girl and, in principle, something elusive, but also fatally inexperienced and too eager to find a way out or, by At least, live an exciting experience. Bad business for a town of murmurs. And a bad choice is that of a poet whose conceit and cynicism rival his dissimulation and his Donjuanesque tricks.

A romance of the provinces, as it moves towards its devastating outcome, gives off an air of sadness that reveals Kornel Filipowicz as an accomplished and conscientious creator of small urban and human landscapes. Apart from Filipowicz’s dedication to the cinema, A romance of provinces reminded me of the minimalist realism of some films, back in the early 60s, of the then young directors ( Forman, Menzel …) of the new waves of the countries of the East. They appear and read very well in black and white.

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