The Krakow Diaries

75 days in Krakow. On a literary grant from the German Kulturstiftung der Länder. In the Guesthouse of the 16th century Villa Decius, with 10 other writers from Poland, Germany, Belarussia, Ukraine and Georgia. Beautiful city. Nice Krakovians. Fun nightlife. Beautiful women. And in the guesthouse: Meetings of the minds. Too much vodka. Good friends. One of the great pleasures of my life.

Best New Writing Hope: Tanja Malarchuk

"I don't even want to be a writer," said Tanja, who has published two books of novellas and has a contract for a fourth. "I think I will never write anything again. I hate writing."

Ironically, though we hardly spoke, and though I could never understand what she wrote, I had the feeling that Tanja was one of the most interesting writers there. She never took anything too seriously, which I thought was a good prerequirement for writing. She was always laughing. When I asked her what she regretted about her stay in Krakau, she said she should have not bothered to write a word and simply used the opportunity to travel all around the place and see everything she could. She didn’t want to leave.
She wrote about her family, which grounded her writing in the real. And then there was her tendency for big myth. She told me tales of the forests and countrysides in the Ukraine, where she is from: the molfars, the mavkas, the legendary robber Ivon Soly whose ghost still roams the highways, the ghosts of dead women that haunt the forests and are beautiful, but have holes through their backs, and when they seduce young men, they eat them. She loves that stuff, and she loved watching old Hollywood movies on DVD in her room. We discussed the proper way of doing the Robert De Niro-in-front-of-the-mirror scene in Taxi Driver. I thought: That's a real writer.
So I told her: "You're a writer, Tanja, I can feel it."

She said: "You only think that because I talk like one when I'm speaking English. But when you speak a foreign language you are a different person."

I told her: "You have to get out of Kiev." She gets the prize for Best New Writing Hope.

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