Joanna Bator (born 1968) is a novelist, journalist and university lecturer. Her first publication was an academic work entitled Feminism, Postmodernism, Psychoanalysis (2001). A year later her first novel appeared, A Woman. Her third book, The Japanese Fan (2004), brought her wide acclaim, a book of reportage resulting from a two-year stay in Japan. Her major breakthrough came with the family saga Sandy Mountain (2009), followed by its sequel Cloudalia (2010), about several generations of a family living in Bator’s own home town, Wałbrzych. Once again, her new novel is set in Wałbrzych, in south-western Silesia.
Featured Reading Group Title
Ciemno, prawie noc (Dark, Almost Night)
The story is set in the modern day. A young woman called Alicja Tabor returns to Wałbrzych, the town where she was born, which was part of Germany until after the war. She moves into her family’s former home, which is now empty, and from which she set off into the world many years earlier. An investigative journalist, she has come to research the mysterious disappearance of three local children. In an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion, the townspeople are behaving strangely. As their growing discontent becomes more palpable, some violent attacks on animals follow, and finally a self-styled prophet appears, claiming to have been addressed by the Virgin Mary in person. After the prophet’s death a group of rebellious citizens forms around his self-proclaimed “son”, Jerzy Łabędź. Alicja’s task is to write a report about the missing children, but her return to Wałbrzych also marks a return to the dramatic events of the past that have severely affected her own family: her parents’ death, and the suicide of her beautiful older sister, who was fascinated by the local legend of Princess Daisy and Książ Castle. As a result, Alicja’s investigation inevitably involves the discovery of secrets from her own past.
Joanna Bator uses a mixture of genres to tell her story, including straightforward narrative, Gothic horror, and chat-room banter.
From the reviews: “[Bator has] an ability that’s rare in modern Polish literature to build up a story, not just an atmosphere, by accurately observing and describing the small details of daily life, where so-called major issues mix with marginal ones.”