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The Mighty Angel Hardcover – April 15, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 155 pages
  • Publisher: Open Letter; First Edition edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934824089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934824085
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jerzy Pilch is one of Poland's most important contemporary writers. In addition to his long-running satirical newspaper column, Pilch has published several novels, and has been nominated for Poland's NIKE Literary Award four times; he finally won the Award in 2001 for The Mighty Angel.

Bill Johnston is Director of the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University and has translated works by Witold Gombrowicz, Magdalena Tulli, Wieslaw Mysliwski, and others. He won the Best Translated Book Award in 2012 and the inaugural Found in Translation Award in 2008.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I started this, it was at a time when I needed a good book that was an obviously good book. Not one of those, well, made-it-to-the-end-and-didn't-hate-it kind of books. The Mighty Angel came to me just in time.

This novel has voice. And a dark humor. It's tragic and hopeful at the same time. Maybe it's satirical, maybe it's not. In any case, I loved it, and I read it fairly slowly, savoring the language and the characters and the plot.

"You yourself calculated that in the course of the last twenty years you'd drunk two thousand three hundred and eighty bottles of vodka, two thousand two hundred and twenty bottles of wine, and two thousand two hundred and fifty bottles of beer..."

Jerzy is an alcoholic. He's also a lover of language, a writer because he's a writer as much as a drinker because he's a drinker. He's been in formal rehab eighteen times, but he's been in his own personal kind of pseudo rehab, with women taking care of him until they realize the alcohol takes precedence and drives Jerzy; they're hopelessly committed to his convalescence until they're completely hopeless. Then they leave.

"When I say I do not drink, it is certainly the case that this is not true, but when I say I do drink, I could equally be lying through my teeth. Don't believe me, don't believe me. A drunkard is ashamed to drink, but a drunkard has an even greater source of shame - he's ashamed not to drink. What kind of drunkard doesn't drink? The lousy kind. And what's better: lousy or not lousy?"

Who can't laugh at that even while crying on the inside? Of course the women leave, in the face of this talk, of this futility and absurdity.

Jerzy relates the stories of those on the alco ward, in rehab with him.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is exceptional--very well written, interesting but also difficult to read at times. Situated in the Polish reality, it is an honest look at how alcoholics think, act and cope with life, stress and addiction.
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By Juls on May 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
True Polish Bible of alcoholism, which won the talented author the most prestigious literature prize in Poland, NIKE, in 2001. It poses the question: Why do we drink? But nobody could give an answer. Even Jerzy Plich's character confesses: “I drink because I drink.” Period. So, the novel does not simply tell us about the drunkenness, and does not simply tell us about the addiction. Paraphrasing Tadeusz Muczek "The Mighty Angel" without any doubt is a novel about the alcoholism, but to restrict ourselves to such a definition is the same as to say that "A Flood" by H. Sienkevicz is a book about the flood (which is not). I guess you'll just have to read and see for yourself.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Just finished this novel by by Polish writer Jerzy Pilch. It's the second book of his I've read (A Thousand Peaceful Cities was the other one) and he's really splendid. Very funny and painful stuff about the urge to innoculate oneself against the disappointments of post-Communist life with large quantities of cheap vodka, the difficulty of connecting to other people (especially through an alcoholic haze) and a vivid portrait of the kind of dreamers and losers who survived the Communist period through sheer dumb luck. He has a rather nice line of tongue-in-cheek magical realism that punctures its own potential for pomposity, and more than a little of kind of absurdist humor that thrived during the post-war years (Vaclav Havel, RIP). Major kudos to Open Letter books for making Pilch's work available in the States in English.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By las cosas on January 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The narrator is an alcoholic, the son and grandson of alcoholics who has spent the last 20 years in and out of rehab both formal (in a public institution) and informal (in the care of the various women in his life). If you like to hear about the pathetic and completely stereotyped lives of a bunch of drunks, this isn't a bad example, and is certainly competently translated by Bill Johnston. But the details of alcoholic life, from the vomit to the endless lying and self-deception masquerading as deep insights into human nature were to me simply pathetic and boring. I mean who cares?

Oh yes, I assume one could argue that this whole book is a deeply allegorical tale of the changes in Polish politics in the last 50 years, during which the vodka of choice for the narrator changes with the government and many of those responsible for overseeing his care are as damaged as the narrator. But I think that is way too easy an out for this self-indulgent novel.

There is the predictable banter, wordplay, drunken monologues that are meant to be funny. Fellow drunks have names like Hero of Socialist Labor and Most Wanted Terrorist in the World and are given stories to match. But at its core this book is based on the old saw that drunks are simply broken souls too delicate for the cold unfeeling world. Just saying it doesn't make it true and the short descriptions of his fellow inmates strewn throughout the book are facile and somewhat pointless.

"Drinking, writing and battling with the beast of drunken rhetoric is ghastly, ghastly, ghastly." And reading about it? Even more ghastly!
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