Witkowski, Michal. “Lovetown”, (translated by William Martin), Portobello Books 2012.
Gay Generational Conflict
Michal Witkowski explores gay generational conflict in “Lovetown”, his first novel written about Poland after communism. Patricia and Lucretia grew up in Poland and during the 70’s and 80’s went underground where they could be themselves. They found glamour in the filthy places they frequented and cruised the parks and public bathrooms. They seduced soldier and preyed on drunks as they watched their friends succumb to AIDS. Now they are ready to go to Lovetown, a place where the younger emancipated gays have gone to live. These youngsters are out and proud in their self-created paradise. They are tanned and have gorgeous bodies and they have money to waste. But they are young as compard with our two heroes and what we read about is a battle between the old and the new, the young and the old when they are all together in a place where “anything goes” but also where the past seems lost.
The world heralded the lifting of the communist yoke but it was not so good for everyone. Our Patricia and Lucretia become relics of the old way—they are pre-solidarity, pre-AIDS and they represent what the new gays do not want to hear about—the shame and secrecy that the older generation was forced to live with. In Lovetown, they are old outsiders once again. Before they were outsiders because they were gay and now they are outsiders because they are old.
Reading the book is taking a journey back in time—first to communist Poland and then we move forward to post-communism to a “gay Decameron” where they talk about the horrible conditions in which they were forced to live. Homosexuality was a criminal offense and a journalist. Michal, has now come to collect the stories. He wants to write a “book of the street” but he looks at it as a way of reclaiming the literature of the period. He gets lurid stories of sex and death told to him in dirty language.
What Witkowski does is to challenge the ideas of what it means to be queer as well as how should one write to tell a story. The novel is actually set in 1980’s Poland and around the political changes that took place there. It is the voices of dissonance that challenge capitalism and its bringing prosperity to a people who are to backwards to understand it. There is a great deal to be learned here and this novel makes education painless and fun.