The Essential Guide to
50 Facts & Facets
Anna Spysz &
Edited by Anna Spysz
"I invite you on this journey into the depths
of the Polish soul."
—from the Foreword by Lech Walesa
An indispensable reference for travelers,
anyone who knows a Pole or is one,
and the just plain interested
Marta Turek moved from Poland to the United States with her parents in 1981, when she was four years old. Settling first in Chicago and later in Seattle, her whole family decided to return to Poland in 1993. She finished high school in Poznan and graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University with an MA in English Linguistics in 2001. She has taught English as a second language at private schools and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. Marta currently lives in Rokietnica, Poland, and specializes in proofreading translations and English-language texts.
The Essential Guide to
50 Facts & Facets
Edited by Istvan Bori
A book that will teach you how to be Hungarian, even if you already are
Petra K and the Blackhearts
a novel by
M. Henderson Ellis
A dark and magical journey
into one girl’s transformation
from impassive follower into child revolutionary
"A breathless . . . adventure
. . . . Meticulously imagined, Petra's city
is built on ancient layers of cultures and traditions,
with magic woven into its fabric. . . . [A] remarkable
and distinctive offering for devoted fantasy fans."
FICTION • 14 years & up • 978-0-9850623-8-5 • 208 pages •
Trade Paperback Original • February 4, 2014 • $11.99 US ($11.99 CAN) • 5.5 x 8.5 • United States
Cover Illustration: Laszlo Hackl, Cover Design: Hadley Kincade
About the Author
M. Henderson Ellis is the author of Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Cafe (New Europe Books, 2012), which Booklist called “a manic, wild ride. . . . thoroughly enjoyable.” A Chicago native and graduate of Bennington College, he has lived for the past decade in Budapest, Hungary, and lived previously in Prague.
1. How different from or similar to a modern-day city is Pava? Does it remind you of a particular city—or cities?
2. Is Luma’s personality more like that of a pet or a wild beast? Can you see any similarities between the dragonka and traditional dragons?
3. What is the relationship like between Petra K and her mother? What are some of their problems and how might they have been overcome in ways not written about in the book?
4. Petra K’s father is a largely absent, but nonetheless significant figure in her, and Luma’s, fate. How would you characterize their relationship and its evolution over the course of the novel?
5. What are some of the stranger aspects of Jozseftown? Are there any similarities between it and modern urban slums?
6. Do the Zsida, the Half Not communities—not to mention the Kubikula—remind you of minority communities or subcultures in the real world?
7. Petra K grows closer to Deklyn over the course of the novel as a bond¾affection (or even love?) born of mutual respect—takes shape between them. Still, even as each is part of a community (e.g., Jozseftown, the Blackhearts), they are solitary figures. Petra K once comments, “Deklyn was the most alone person I had ever met.” Is it precisely their loneliness that draws them together¾or something else?
8. The ending suggests that Petra K has found a family of sorts among the Blackhearts. Has she? Is this likely to compensate for the lack of a traditional family she can go home to?
9. How does Petra K change over the course of the novel? Where are some of the points in the novel where she is forced to make a decision?
10. Petra K and the Blackhearts can be read and enjoyed as a riveting fantasy novel independent of any larger context—and yet it is seems all the richer for being set in a city in the throes of revolution, in the grip of historical events that seem eerily familiar. What tragic eras of the past, and the twentieth century in particular, does it evoke?
11. Compare Petra K and the Blackhearts to other, similar novels you have read—whether in light of its fantasy elements, its Old World setting, or the real-world history that inspired it.
Translated by Danusia Stok
"Plebanek's crisp and intelligent new novel is full of pitch-perfect descriptions, mostly but not exclusively about sex and its contemplation. . . . A merciless comedy of modern manners, and the politics of desire."
"A remarkable achievement. This riveting novel not only shows that intimate liaisons can feel every bit as 'illegal' as they do dangerous, but it also offers penetrating insights into the confluence of the personal and the political--here, at the heart of a twenty-first-century Europe where conceptions of gender roles and morality clash, comingle, and are redefined. A must for anyone with a mind for the erotic who also values their mind."
—Catherine Millet, author of The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
Danusia Stok is a translator from Polish of long and short literary fiction, TV interviews, and screenplays. She lives in London, England.
1. Illegal Liaisons is concerned with the erotic, but is it “literary erotica”? Is it better characterized as a “literary novel about love that invariably has an erotic edge”? Do such distinctions matter much? What other novels, whether classic or contemporary, does it conjure up? How is it similar to, or different than them in its approach to matters erotic?
3. Illegal Liaisons is set in present-day Brussels, the cosmopolitan, Western European capital of the European Union; and yet its key characters are from Poland, a relatively homogenous, postcommunist nation set in "Eastern Europe"--a country they both miss and are glad to be out of. How does the ensuing cultural tension help shape the novel, driving forward the narrative? Does the novel give a hopeful, progressive view of the prospects of increasing European unity (whether between countries, individuals, or genders), not so hopeful, or neither?
6. How are Jonathan and his friend Stefan alike? How are they different? What insights into Jonathan’s character are we given through his interactions with Stefan?