The Second World War. Poland. Our narrator has no intention of being a hero. He plans to survive this war, whatever it takes.
Meticulously he recounts his experiences: the slow unravelling of national events as well as uncomfortable personal encounters on the street, in the café, at the office, in his love affairs. He is intimate but reserved; conversational but careful; reflective but determined. As he becomes increasingly and chillingly alienated from other people, the reader is drawn into complicit acquiescence. We are forced to consider what it means to be heroic and how we ourselves would behave in the same circumstances.
Written in 1961, this is the masterpiece of one of the great Polish writers of the 20th century.