Cloak of Illusion
A translation of Disneyland, by satiric Polish novelist Stanislaw Dygat.
Stanislaw Dygat is known in Poland as a writer of gently satiric “light” novels and short stories. “His stance is one of deliberate naiveté; when he narrates (usually in the first person) he likes to identify himself with a starry-eyed, disorganized, and helpless human being.” (Czeslaw Milosz, History of Polish Literature)
This is a translation of Dygat's novel Disneyland in which the hero is a member of the disaffected young generation of Eastern Europe. Marek Arens is a famous athlete whose ideals for moral honesty conflict with the generally accepted hypocritical conventions of society. Though he is defeated, he does not give up his attempts to piece together a moral system he can live by. This existential drive gives Dygat's work a certain university beyond the story's setting of Cracow, Poland.
At a masquerade ball, Arens has a brief encounter with a girl. She disappears, but her image endures in his mind as “the one bright and pure happening in my life.” Meanwhile he develops a relationship with another girl. But he is unable to stop playing the roles of deception society imposes on him. Blaming himself for his failure, he seeks to be punished. Too late, he discovers that everything on which he based his beliefs were illusions created by misunderstandings. Arens realizes he can never become an “absolutely honest” man. “Integrity can only have meaning when it is collective property.”
“Dygat's casually structured plots go together with a colloquial, nonchalant language...” (Milosz). Though much of the natural idiom is untranslatable, the reader will find this an interesting insight into the life of Polish youth today. Throughout the story, the Mound of Cracow looms as a symbol of the futility and at the same time the permanence of life.