Marian Pilot













Marian Pilot (born 1936) is a novelist, journalist and screenwriter. His novel Pióropusz (Quill Feathers) won Poland’s top literary award, the NIKE, in 2011.

Featured Reading Group Title: 

Pióropusz (Quill Feathers)













The action of Quill Feathers is set in the countryside in the early 1950s, but the main story is framed by a present-day time-scale, in which the father of an acclaimed writer lies dying. The father is a simple, illiterate peasant; moved by the old man’s demise, the son decides to tell the tale of his stormy life, as if in his name, as his deputy. The story begins at the point when the authorities launch a campaign against illiteracy. The main character is a small boy at the time; his father is an indigent peasant, thief and troublemaker, who smashes up the school house and destroys the blackboard used to teach the alphabet. He is branded “an enemy of the people” and sent to a secret police prison. Since time immemorial rural society has held the attitude that it is better to be illiterate (“everyone knew it was better not to write – to be sure not to sign something stupid one day”). But there is also a superstition alive and well in the village which says the written word is capable of moving mountains. At his mother’s insistence the boy, who can barely form letters, writes lopsided messages to the authorities, asking for his father’s release. When the old Dog (we only learn the father’s real name on the penultimate page) comes home a few years later, the son is convinced that his written intervention was the deciding factor.

The major events and motifs in Quill Feathers have a symbolic dimension. In a folder belonging to the father who has just back from prison, there are two objects: a pair of glasses and a newspaper cutting containing a socialist-realist story. The boy puts on the glasses – the symbol of an intellectual – and immediately gains visual acuity. As soon as he has read the socialist-realist story he decides to become a writer. Word by word, he will copy out the text he has found in the newspaper and send it out into the world. But the most important symbolic object in the book is a fountain pen which his father deliberately steals from an office for the would-be writer (who for now is still a little boy at his first school). At a future date, when the young Dog is at high school, the secret policeman recruiting him as an informer tells him to write the truth with the stolen pen. And so it turns out the central character has written not just elegant prose, linguistically as fancy as the quill feathers of the title, but he has also written shameful denunciations as an informer for the secret police. Marian Pilot’s novel is about the power and the curse of the written word, about faith in words and the consequences of being intoxicated by that faith.

Dariusz Nowacki

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Powered by WordPress | Deadline Theme : An Awesem design by tg