“Swimming in the Dark” by Tomasz Jadrowski— Youth, Love and Loss

Jadrowski, Tomasz. “Swimming in the Dark”, William Morrow, 2020.”

Youth, Love and Loss

Amos Lassen

I want to tell you a. bit in advance about a new book coming our way in April. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Tomasz Jadrowski’s “Swimming in the Dark” and it is going to be a big book come Spring. I finished it three days ago and cannot stop thinking about it.

Set in Poland in 1980, anxious and  disillusioned Ludwik Glowacki, is due to graduate university. He has been sent along with the rest of his class to an agricultural camp where he meets Janusz and the two of them spend a summer swimming in secluded lakes, reading forbidden books and falling in love. Their meeting had come by chance but it did not take long before it became intense and their love for each other became totally consuming. They were lucky enough to be in a beautiful natural world removed from society and the constraints it puts on people. But the real world is still there and it is repressive and Catholic as was Poland at that time. Now that the summer has ended, they are sent back to Warsaw, and to the realities of life under the Party. They have been exiled from their personal paradise and must decide how they will survive; and in their different choices, they find themselves torn apart. It seems they each are looking for a new and different kind of paradise.

Janusz rises quickly in the ranks of the Communist party and receives a very special and highly coveted position in the government. Opposite him is Ludwik who is drawn toward protest and the reality of the world that they two men live in. Of course, their love had to remain secret and they understand that both personal and political differences are tearing them apart. They struggle to survive in a world whose governmental regime is facing collapse.

We have all been there and we are all well aware of the difference between first love and maturing to the point that people grow apart. We realize that the place where one is born and/or lives is arbitrary as is privilege. I often think about how my life might have been if I had been born five or ten years earlier and somewhere else. Yet, we all feel the pull of home even though it is never how we once imagined it. Not much has changed in Poland where those members of the LGBTQ community are in need of comfort, support and reassurance. They still hide but this is not unique to Poland and we know that it happens all over the world. Can we used Ludwik and Janusz for examples to live as we feel we should? You will find this and many other questions in the book and if you are lucky, you will find the answers in yourselves. I do not want to say any more about the plot because I want you to discover it by yourselves like I did. The prose is gorgeous in this novel about “youth, love, and loss – and the sacrifices we make to live lives with meaning.”

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