To understand where we come from is to understand who we are.
To understand who we come from is to understand what we are.
Ever since I first encountered Sleszynski’s extraordinary first book Wolka, a handmade examination of prison life (which he continues to release periodically, albeit in tiny quantities), I have become accustomed to an unsettling intensity that is implicit in his work.
After 2020's (highly recommended) Prologue which charted the turbulent pregnancy of his wife Urszula, we now arrive at Sleszynski's latest offering, Bewitchments.
Throughout all of his work there appears to be a constant quest for the notion of self.
A quest to try and comprehend and perhaps make peace with the man he has become.
To attempt to trace the path and follow in the footsteps of those who have led him to his point of arrival - his now - and also to try and look ahead and possibly to grapple with the path he may have unwittingly been complicit in setting his offspring upon.
Bewitchments is his family's story told in blinks and twitches, in suggestions and flashes. Moments grabbed from memory and gleaned from photographs and recollection. Histories passed down through years, crystal moments no doubt blended with the Chinese whispers resultant from the careering helter skelter of time.
For us the narrative may appear disjointed but the confusion of archaeology can be a frequent companion when trapped in the hazy fog of anecdote and discovery.
A notable inclusion in Slesznski's projects has become the incorporation of text , which has formed an integral feature of Sleszynski’s books. Thus far his wife Urszula has been the main contributor, however, possibly due to the intensely personal nature of Bewitchments, Kamil has written the introduction himself on this occasion.
"Mother died first. But for a time, she came to her daughter whenever she woke up crying. The household said that at night they had heard footsteps and the steady creaking of the cradle. And the crying stopped. However, the family wanted the mother to stop coming. That’s why, following the advice of a neighbor, they scattered peas in the room. It helped."
Kamil Sleszynski, Bewitchments
It beautifully pulls the book together and swiftly moves the narrative from the suggestion of the supernatural and occult hinted at in the title, to the dark and tainted gift of genealogy, grief and mental health.
What begins with the tragedies of a family at the time of war moves through alienation, the destruction of family and the trauma of loss, grief and the anguish of unanswered questions.
Questions for the past that can be seen but never truly answered through the fractured individual hourglass of memory in which each of us is encased.
Surrounded by the sands of time that inform our realities, but only able to see as far as the border of glass that in turn keeps us separate from the shifting sands whispering those same tales seen from a different perspective of those around us.
Billions of hourglasses each with subtly different landscapes.
Sandy fingerprints composed of millions of shifting grains.
And those questions for the future that will be answered but only one day at a time.
Truths and realities that will only step out of the shadows when they are ready.
Outside of his hourglass each successive generation's DNA blends and developes and if the dice land in their favour the shadows of the past begin to recede, replaced by chinks of light that continue to chase them away.
The tale told in Bewitchments may be Sleszynski's but the uncertainties and fears described are universal.
Bewitchments by Kamil Sleszynski is self published in an edition of 100 numbered copies.
It is available from Bewitchments book – Kamil Śleszyński (kamilsleszynski.com)