Mieczysław Wojnicz got off the train, looked to the right, looked to the left and what did he see? Gorbersdorf. We can magically enter his eyes and see the same thing. By what miracle? Miraculously, colorful postcards he sent to his father and uncle. He wrote them often and some have survived. We’re sure of four, maybe even five. They show Görbersdorf from a distance and up close. A charming, peaceful spa town in the mountains. A map has even been preserved, which Wojnicz may have used to facilitate the choice of hiking routes. After all, walks in Görbersdorf were extremely important, and not just because it was nice to spend time taking walks with other patients, but the walks were an important, if not essential, part of the treatment procedures prescribed to patients at sanatoriums, which we can be seen on the successfully saved postcards. Görbersdorf was a place where people hoped for a cure for tuberculosis, and Wojnicz was a tuberculosis one.
Mieczysław Wojnicz got off the train and went to the gentlemen’s guest house. This is an important detail because, of course, only men lived there, but – and surprisingly – not everything that happens during his treatment involves only male companionship. In fact, these gentlemen of the guesthouse intended for them are just a backdrop to what is most important in his life. He leaves Görbersdorf totally changed, and not because he experiences intellectual pupation, because he is immersed in walking and dinner conversations with his companions who suffer from throat and throat ailments. He leaves as a completely different person. How it is possible? Does he discover within himself something that has hitherto been most carefully hidden? Will it gain courage to remove the world’s bloc from its foundations? Definitely not, although the absoluteness category probably isn’t quite placed here.
We can walk with Mieczuś on hiking trails almost at hand, thanks to the aforementioned map of Görbersdorf. We also have a few postcards that limit our imagination to what we see and what is written on it. What can we read there? Mainly reports of meals, often described in detail. Wojnicz, an engineer specializing in water and sewerage, had no gift for creating reality and was more limited to describing than creating it. And what is incredible, and even frightening, since he is part of a natural-therapeutic horror, with no intention of changing the world, Mieczysław was able to change himself in this world.
How? Play a charade of fear and dread in reverse? We can’t see into the guest house for men. Probably no photos survived that would make it easier for us to navigate the rooms and nooks and crannies Wojnicz looked at when he lived there. And that was in 1913. It would be unusual to look into Klara Opitz’s room, but it’s still a miracle that we can even see a few postcards and a map of Görbersdorf now, as they cover two world wars and a few others. have survived, historical horrors. One thing about these cards is incomprehensible, and in fact it is nothing but a bit of text that we can read on one of them:
“Every day things happen in the world that cannot be explained by the laws we know. Every day, after making some noise before that, these things are forgotten, and the same mystery that brought them takes them away, and the riddle becomes oblivion. Here is the law: what cannot be explained must be forgotten. Sunlight still regulates the way the world works. Strangeness looks at us from the shadows.
How can a plumber, ill-educated in world literature, write such a thing? But the facts speak for themselves and the page with the view of Görbersdorf lies in the distance, as if it were not there.
Or maybe the doctor treating him is right when he says:
“You, Mr. Wojnicz, how should I address you,” he continued, “you represent an intermediate world, difficult to bear, because it is unclear. This view keeps us in a kind of instability and does not allow any dogma. The Lord gives us a land “in between” that we wouldn’t like to think about, enough of our own black and white problems. The Lord shows us that it is bigger than we thought, and that it concerns us too. The Lord is a bomb – he said, articulating the words emphatically – The worst that can be is to feel valued once and for all, and so to speak, full-fledged This makes us literally and pause in a movement that, after all, any undervaluation … perfect and fulfilled, he should commit suicide”.
Wojnicza is mainly surrounded by men of different ages and interests. Quite interesting, if smug at times, but what else can you expect from a sex determined by a defective chromosome? He is also fascinated by women, those of flesh and blood and those of paintings. Those of flesh and blood rather in distance and embarrassment, those of paintings in a symbolic fourfold, or rather fourfold dimension. Anyway, this relationship is always marked by fear and shrouded in mystery, and clearly ambiguous.
The doctor, for whom Mieczuś does not want to undress, because he claims that he is prevented by religious restrictions, informs him that the tuberculosis has been cured. Mieczyslaw Wojnicz leaves Görbersdorf. Where? Apparently he was seen “at his father’s grave in Lviv in the late 1920s”.
All quotations, unless otherwise stated, for:
Olga Tokarczuk, “Empuzjon”, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2022.