The Noonday Cemetery and Other Stories

The Noonday Cemetery and Other Stories
Pub date 24th June 2003
Original publisher Czytelnik, 1999
Publisher (US) New Directions

Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston. The stories in this edition originally appeared in Opowiadania zebrane (Collected Stories, volumes 1 and 2).


The Noonday Cemetery and Other Stories, selected by Herling himself shortly before his death in 2000, contains thirteen brilliant stories spanning the last twenty years of his life. Since Gustaw Herling's The Island was published to great acclaim in 1994, the number of American readers of this "genius... [who] by now is the most famous Polish writer" (Peter Levi, The Independent) has grown. Nowhere before have Herling's best stories- and Herling was indeed the master of the short story - been compiled and published in English translation. 

The stories contained herein are profound and beautifully told. In "The Noonday Cemetery," an eerie graveyard on an Italian hillside overlooks the sea and hides the secrets of a murder (or suicide?). "Beata, Santa," Herling's critique of the Pope's abortion stance, raised the ire of the Catholic Church when it was first published; it describes the plight of a lovely young Polish woman, who, raped by Serbs, moves afterwards to a presbytery in Italy, and is pressured by the Church to keep her child. In "A Hot Breath of the Desert" the terrifying deterioration of the lives of a young archaeologist couple, who settle down in the idyllic region of Luciania, is recounted by two old men with heart disease strolling the Naples waterfront.

These are timeless stories, dealing with moral, often historical, subjects and written in passionate, deeply affecting prose.



"A master of the forced unearthing, the sudden revelation of what had been so scrupulously, lovingly hidden."       

- Reamy Jansen, Bloomsbury Review


"Brilliant work. How did the Nobel Committee manage to overlook Herling?" 

- Kirkus Reviews


"Thirteen beautifully crafted, mysterious, often unsettling stories." 

- Jaroslaw Anders, Los Angeles Times


"Breathes the same rarified atmosphere as the novels of W.G. Sebald."

- Tess Lewis, New Criterion


"These...stories contain a subtle question of morality and decency." 

- Florence Clowes, Polish American Journal


"[Herling's] stories are marvellous, each a small gem opening onto a seemingly infinite complexity." 

- Janet G. Tucker, The Sarmatian Review


"An art so quiet that there is little to match the volume of its cries." 

- Dan Halpern, New Republic


"Dispassionate yet intimate...the last word of a poetic sensibility whose legacy remains as affecting as it is convincing." 

- Michael Pinker, Review of Contemporary Fiction


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