Krakow Diary Day #7 (Saturday Sep. 23)

This is Tanja Malarczuk, a Ukrainian autobiographical novelist with three books (collections of short stories and novellas) under her belt at 23, and she is a Xenologist (?), which, she claims, means she can understand languages without learning them. Three months ago she didn't speak English. Then she went to Germany for a visit and everyone was speaking English and she felt frustrated, until a couple of weeks passed and she could suddenly speak English. Just like that. I believe her. (Maybe it helped to have watched a lot of English-language movies all her life).

In this photo she is speaking not English, but a more international language, one far more powerful and widespread than English, and in course you don’t understand what she is saying, this is the translation: Don’t take my picture!

Last night I came down into the kitchen to get a beer before retiring and there was Tanja. Cagey Tanja, who does not like to talk much about herself. Ah, but I knew I would catch her in a talkative mood someday, and today was the day. Finally she talked about her autobiographical novels. "Sometimes I think I am sick," she said. "I think everyone in the world around me is a character in my novel. I could write about you right now and in the novel you would die."

Am I the only one who finds aggressively, intimately personal writing sexy? There is something forbidden about it, like Noah's son Ham seeing him naked. There is something courageous and mad about it, it is the spiritual equivalent of bungy-jumping or of the things they do on "Jackass.".

She said her father will no longer tell her personal things because she wrote about her family in one of her books and they didn't like what she wrote. She's not the kind of writer, I think, who puts a lot of harmony, love, understanding and universal warmth into her books. I get the feeling they are interesting books, though. I understand the heartbreak that her parents felt, but I know also that intimate and true writing can touch countless souls and enrich many lives without her parents ever knowing, and I believe it is worth it and good for her to write those things. Tanja's parents, if you can hear me: forgive her and continue to tell her your secrets; even if it embarrassing for you, it is healing and wisdom-making for people like me.

It would be an honor for me to appear in one of her books. If I die in it, that would be a small price to pay.


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