All parents – whether in Paris, London, Barcelona, or any other European city or province – wonder what their adolescent children do away from home. And they all have reasons to be extremely worried. Miros?aw Nahacz’s tale confirms those fears in a most perfidious way. In it he tells the story of a group of school leavers (born in 1984) from a small provincial town, somewhere far from the big city centres, who have organised a lads’ weekend out: first they set off in pursuit of soft drugs (magic mushrooms and grass), then have alcohol for afters, then go on a long car journey, then a short walk, until finally they reach a deserted house, where they shut themselves in, only to find they can’t get out. They had wanted to hide from the world, but they’ve done it a bit too effectively. Will someone find them, if even they aren’t entirely sure how to escape from their own youthful freedom? This short summary shows that Nahacz’s Eighty Four can be read as a story or a parable: there are lots of hard facts, some interesting reflections on life, strong language, utterly credible psychological portraits of young people, and at the same time a sort of general message about young people’s obsession with drugs. Why do young people take drugs? Out of a yearning for something more than just everyday life, and at the same time out of fear that this “more” will never happen. Young people dream of a world with deep meaning, while also sensing that once they leave school the only meaning of life will be normality. If they manage to move on from their youthful yearnings, wild adventures and drug-induced trances to lead sensible lives, they’ve won. If they believe in the myth of a great big world that’s always out of reach, they’ve lost. They become addicted to their own memories, hostages to the simple idea that taking flight is the only way to find real life, and that the provinces alone are to blame for their sterile existence. Thanks to this general message, Nahacz’s portrayal fits many places and many provinces, not just in Poland.
- Przemysław Czapliński
Right then I’d much rather have been somewhere else. At home. I’d eat something nice and watch telly. Right through to zero hour. I could sit there for ever, pitting myself against the scheduling. At about three a sign would appear on the screen to say that’s the end of broadcasting. I’d have beaten them. It’s easiest with the Polish programmes because the foreign-language ones are on round the clock. There’s always some guy blathering on, or the news, or a film. On the German channels they’re almost always screwing. What a nation of perverts. They say ordnung muss sein, but every night on TV after midnight there’s hanky panky. Das ist gut, schnella, schnella, ooo sehr gross, macht mir gut. Those silicone women squeal as if the muscular blond guys were stabbing them with metal skewers at least. So you sit and surf the channels. People on a pilgrimage click lady’s girdle ad click holy mass broadcast click gut gut ich liebe click two hundred people killed click take these tablets and your muscles will expand click one hundred and sixty wounded. I sit there clicking away - I hate television, I spend at least six hours a day hating it.Tępy came over, chewing something. “I feel really fucked up,” he said.Somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that he might have been poisoned. Only now. I imagined him having convulsions, losing consciousness and his skin changing colour, going completely cold and white with his mouth open. It could happen like that, like in the films, first we’d bury him, then fuck up and all kill each other, the ultimate massacre to deal with all the insinuations.Actually I didn’t care; I could see I should be concerned, but somehow I wasn’t getting any feeling. After all, Tępy was a great guy, and I was nothing. I did worry a bit, not to be completely heartless, and then I felt calm again. I was tired and gradually I was starting to feel ill. I didn’t realise I’d already drunk several glasses; for a while I thought I’d only been drinking one, but having a sort of déjà vu. Muko kept bringing me more, like the helpful mate he is. As soon as it lit me up, I felt like puking, or rather I felt nausea. I lit a fag and thought, “I’m hungry, that helps, I must just be careful not to think too hard coz usually when we’re hungry we imagine food, and if I do that it’ll all come flying out of me.” I knew that was how it’d end, but I didn’t want to throw up just yet, at any rate I didn’t want to be first.Everyone was talking about something, but all I could hear was a buzzing noise, like the radio in bad weather or when you’re trying to find a channel. The only way out was to throw myself into the swing of the rave, keep chatting to just about everyone without stopping, listen to the music, and for it to be thumping loud and strong, no thoughts, just dance and think about nothing but bullshit.I got up and went to the tent, just like that, leaving them by the bonfire, without saying anything or looking at anyone. I neatly avoided the obstacles, I got knocked over once, but I tried to be tough. In the hangar-like tent I was surprised by what I saw. Tępy was lying in the corner holding his belly. I was convinced he’d stayed by the bonfire. It completely threw me off kilter. On top of that Połka was tinkering with some sort of gadget fixed to the socket and the tape recorder. He should have been by the bonfire too, not here. Połka was big and dumb, but terribly nice. He always went about in the same track suit, black with yellow stripes, and he had catarrh. I liked chatting with him because he always talked in such a funny way.“Hi, Połka, how’s it going? what’s that you’re fiddling with?” I asked casually.“It’s a stroboscope, but the rheostat’s fucked and won’t go for long coz it’ll blow. If I had four zlotys I’d buy a better one and it’d all be OK.”“Isn’t it better to have it unplugged from the current? Doesn’t it fuck you sometimes?”“Eeee, no problem.”“Great, you’re a brave guy.” I decided that was quite enough chat for now. With Połka anyway. I’d stopped feeling like talking again, but it was less of a problem now. A year ago he’d finished a professional electrician’s course, he knows his stuff. He repairs lots of things for us, walkmans and stuff like that. Połka is best mates with Todek. I don’t know him all that well, coz the way it works out I only ever see him when we’re stoned and at those times he always laughs at what I’m saying. Maybe that’s why I like him, with him I feel valued and funny.Tępy was lying in the corner trying to say something, but for some reason he couldn’t spit out his words. Along came that so-so Heidi in the red fleece, that’s how I recognised her. She leaned over Tępy and started mothering him, saying: “What’s up, Tępy, can’t you tell me?” I immediately put in a word, telling her there was no need to worry. “He just got drunk too fast and it’s caught up with him, he feels like throwing up. I’ll help him.” I did him a good turn and didn’t let her meddle in the business with the mushrooms. Why spoil the party for others?
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones