Things I Didn't Throw Out
Winner of the Nike Literary Prize 2018
Winner of the Polityka Passport 2017
Winner of the Witold Gombrowicz Prize
Shortlisted for the Gdynia Literary Prize
An intimate, unconventional and very funny memoir about everything we leave behind
Lamps, penknives, paperbacks, mechanical pencils, inflatable headrests. Marcin Wicha’s mother Joanna was a collector of everyday objects. When she dies and leaves her apartment intact, Wicha is left to sort through her things. Through them, he begins to construct an image of Joanna as a Jewish woman, a mother, and a citizen. As Poland emerged from the Second World War into the material meanness of the Communist regime, shortages of every kind shaped its people in deep and profound ways. What they chose to buy, keep – and, arguably, hoard – tells the story of contemporary Poland.
Joanna’s Jewishness, her devotion to work, her formidable temperament, her weakness for consumer goods, all accumulate into an unforgettable portrait of a woman and, ultimately, her country.
‘Wicha is Poland’s answer to David Sedaris, devastatingly funny about the minutiae of family life and the foibles of the elders.’ – Irish Times
‘I loved it; so funny, clever and moving. So impressively unsentimental. And, of course, I adored all the bits about books and the precise, unflinching portrait of Joanna.’ – Cathy Rentzenbrink
‘[A] vivid and sharply written book. The sentences are themselves like broken pieces or unfinished business. The book shows how objects are often where memories reside. It also expresses, with irony, the impossible human effort to end up with an adequate inventory of what was lost.’ – Hisham Matar