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Below you can find the information about the author, the book, the sample translation and the reviews.

About the Author

Zbigniew Minda was born in 1972 in Radom. He received legal education at the University of Warsaw and the Parisian Sorbonne. He lived in France and Italy. He is fluent in English.
Currently, his home is in Warsaw.
The novel “Twoja dusza była perłą” is his literary début.


Abstract

Subtle high-school and university romance novel. The book tells the parallel stories of two young people, Agnieszka and Krzysiek, both of whom were born in 1989. She comes from a small village in the hilly Świętokrzyskie Region, where the Holy Cross Mountains are located. He was born into an intelligentsia family from the Warsaw district of Żoliborz. She is of difficult character, knows what she wants, and is a sensitive loner slightly suppressed by her complexes. He is a handsome dreamer, ever hesitating, with great ambitions, sometimes starry-eyed and detached from reality. At the age of 17, independently of each other, they are drawn to a mysterious inscription on a historical monument. Gradually, this verse will change their lives and cause their fates to resemble each other, in a way unexpected for both of them. Will they decipher its meaning? Will they figure out that following it might add depth and sense to their lives? Or will they shun or ignore it as if it were something random? The novel takes us through their school and university dilemmas, both petty and crucial life decisions, and choices centered on the mysterious inscription. This is a story of discovering God, the Church, one's neighbors and one's earthly vocation.


Sample translation by Katarzyna Bartkowiak


Zbigniew Minda
Twoja dusza była perłą
(working title: Your Soul Was a Pearl)
Part One
I.
Down the stairs he tore, just like a bolt of lightening. He got to the ground floor with a loud thump, and impatiently stuffed his feet into a pair of brand-new roller-skates, a gift from his parents for his birthday. They bought them in New York, somewhere in West Side, these big skates with these big wheels that had a radius of ten centimeters. He put his shoes into a small backpack. Now that the roller-skates were on his feet, he no longer ran, but glided into Wilsona Square, which was basking in the rays of the morning sun of a June Saturday. Paying hardly any attention to passing cars, he set off down Mickiewicza Street. He was quite fond of this street’s architectural perspective, of how it was embraced by the towering buildings of the residential estate in Klaudyny Street. Maybe it was because he liked looking at the thousands of windows set ablaze by electrical lights in the gentle evening dusk. At all the people, all the thoughts, feelings, desires and aspirations teeming within those big boxes. Mom told him that when she was with dad in Brooklyn Heights, admiring all the Manhattan scyscapers, those enormous boxes, they suddenly noticed that one emerged from behind the others and was moving horizontally towards the bay. It was not at once that she understood she was gazing at a huge translatlantic liner.

Mum’s story stuck in his mind and he could not pass by the high-rises in Klaudyny, Mickiewicza or Potocka Street without imagining that all those towers lay their sides and started floating away in an unkown direction, taking all the people inside with them, and in his mind he would race over the waves between them, boyishly teasing those floating giants, yet always managing to skilfully escape their massive hulls pushing down on the elusive waters under them. In one of these towers overlooking Klaudyny Street, right along the route he took today, was the apartment of his best friend, Adam. How beautiful a view it was from the seventeenth floor!

Adam wasn't there though, he had left right after the school year ended.

He turned into Potocka Street, some driver honked his horn, but he didn’t even bother to look back, he kept sailing on, perched on those ten-centimeter wheels of his, a source of his uttermost pride, because no one but him had such amazing roller-skates. Finally, he reached the cycling lanes along the canal. It felt summery and intoxicating, one could sense the budding heat in the morning air. He caught the scent of lime tree flowers. People were having picnics in the park. Whole families were cycling up and down the pathways. Mothers were pushing strollers. Down on the narrow canal, daddies were taking their delighted daughters for boat rides.

He had only just graduated from the first grade of high school. And that he managed to do quite decently, one had to give it to him. Freshman year at Batory High School was anything but easy. This catered for some sense of achievement. The exit exam, the dreaded Matura, was still two years away. And now, it was summer. That pleasant carefree feeling. Once again beyond wintry constraints to freedom. Holiday trips were soon to come. But right now, it was the end of June. Which other moment in the entire year is as magical as this one?


- Krzyyysiek! Krzyyyysiek! – a young female voice, audible somewhere behind his back, made him abandon his playful oceanic encounter with the transatlantic liners. As he braked carefully, very carefully – as he had yet to master the arts of roller-skating – he felt as if something in him melted, and warmth spread through his body. He recognised the voice. Finally, he turned around and saw two young women, clad in summer dresses, walking in his direction.


Reviews

A sip of clean water
"Twoja dusza była perłą" resembles a sip of clean, refreshing water drawn from a mountain stream. This novel offers a respite from the overwhelming deluge of rubbish, banality, rudeness and outright evil to which we are subjected every day. Irrespective of readers’ age, this book reminds them of what is dearest in life. It is not only exceptionally well-written, but also simply enthralling. The Author succeeded in avoiding the trap of blunt didacticism and artificiality. It is for this reason that I take the liberty of recommending this novel to young people, as I am acutely aware of how sensitive they are to even the slightest trace of dishonesty. This is a book about searching for sheer beauty, genuine goodness and pure love, and it also touches upon adolescent rebellion, experiencing doubts and loneliness, and suffering through partings with one’s beloved. The Author describes seemingly ordinary events – first love, selecting a university faculty or family and peer relations – yet his narration is so charming, deep and heart-felt that it persuades readers to adopt the same perspective when thinking about their own every-day routine, and inclines them to discover that these mundane actions are much more beautiful than meets the eye. "Twoja dusza była perłą" is a valuable source of knowledge or a powerful stimulus to revise one’s awareness of how to build wonderful, strong and intimate relationships, how to creatively and enjoyably while away the hours instead of engaging in boring and detrimental ready-to-use entertainment. For young readers, whose hearts are particularly exposed to the unceasing inundation of stupidity, cynicism and indifference; immersing themselves in this book can be an escape from the difficulties of real life, as well as an incentive to change for the better. The language of the novel is its undoubted advantage – it is elegant, yet natural, and not divergent from that which is actually used on an every-day basis. For youth tired of rudeness and vulgarity, and willing to search for beauty in the midst of high-quality prose, yet not ready for the sacrifice of reading themselves to sleep with Orzeszkowa's novels, Zbigniew Minda's book is the perfect choice!

Agnieszka Żurek, journalist


Twoja dusza była perłą

Are people destined to be together? How many times are young people misled before their life path leads them to the one person with whom they will enjoy growing old? Not everyone might be asking themselves these questions out loud, but they do linger at the bottom of one’s soul and fuel one's search for sheer beauty, and this pursuit might end with finding a rare pearl.


When writing this novel, which is also inspired by the concept of searching, the Author availed himself of his vast experience in working with youth. The story takes off rapidly already in the first scene, as one of the characters puts on his roller-skates and speeds off for a ride. The reader becomes increasingly engrossed in the adventures of Krzysiek, whose story comes first, and Agnieszka, who enters the stage a bit later. At first, their stories unfold parallel to each other, and it is not until a significant part of the plot unravels that the two meet. The only (to a certain point of course) common trait of Agnieszka and Krzysiek is the fascination with an inscription they both – separately – stumble upon at the Holy Cross Mountain. The discovered verse reads "Your Soul Was a Pearl (Twoja dusza była perłą)”. As they pursue their life paths, they develop youthful fascinations, experience love-related disillusionments and suffer through serious tragedies, which capture readers' interest and hold it until the very last page.


One of the great advantages of this story is that it reveals the Author’s in-depth knowledge of young people's hearts, as well as his skill of describing emotional states and family and peer relations. The story takes place in a myriad of locations: not just in Poland, but also in Spain (Global Youth Days), in France and in Italy, as nowadays youth is very mobile. The characters portrayed in this novel, with all the reliability of their successes and failures, are at the same time a beacon of hope: in times of constant complaints about youth, we encounter characters for whom faith and patriotism certainly do not rank last in their hierarchy of life values.


More or less halfway into the novel, Krzysiek is told that "The time of taking has ended for you. It is now time for you to give". We accompany Krzysiek in his discovering that love is not limited to mere fascination, though undoubtedly it is one of its important components. This is exactly why it is worth encouraging both younger and older recipients to read this book. Younger readers will gain insight into their world and learn about their outlook for the future, whilst older readers might learn to better comprehend the souls of young people who are still attracted to something larger than life itself.

Paweł Zuchniewicz, journalist and author



ZBIGNIEW MINDA, TWOJA DUSZA BYŁA PERŁĄ
NOVEL REVIEW

The novel "Twoja dusza była perłą" by Zbigniew Minda instantly captured my interest and proved to be such a gripping read that I delved into the typescript right away and finished it almost immediately (in a mere two days). This fact alone ought to be considered the best recommendation.

"Twoja dusza była perłą" tells the story of two young people, Agnieszka and Krzysiek. In the first part of the novel, the 17/18-year-old protagonists’ worlds do not overlap, though a seasoned reader will quickly foresee that at some point these parallel fates will intertwine and that Agnieszka and Krzysiek will be bound by love. Agnieszka comes from a village nestling at the foothill of the Polish Holy Cross Mountains and attends a secondary school in Kielce. She is a sensitive young woman who is slightly suppressed by her complexes, she is fond of solitude and dreams of studying architecture in Warsaw. Krzysiek lives in the Warsaw district of Żoliborz and goes to a reputable Warsaw secondary school. He is an idealistic dreamer whose plans for the future are anything but precise, and he's a social person who finds fulfilment at a scouting association to which his closest friends belong. Both Agnieszka and Krzysiek experience their first love and first disillusionments, their hearts are flooded by youthful fascinations and they pose their first questions about the future, their principles, their calling and God, as well as the value of living for others. They also suffer through difficult moments, such as the death of Agnieszka's mother and the serious accident of Krzysiek's friend.
The second part of the story takes place several years later. Agnieszka and Krzysiek are about to graduate from their Warsaw studies. The trip to the Global Youth Days in Madrid, organized by scouts and joined by Agnieszka, at the invitation of her scout roommates, is where the main characters meet and fall in love. This feeling, for which Krzysiek is at first not ready, is plagued by doubt and break-ups, but only to lead the characters – as they mature and seek answers to questions about principles, vocation, God and the value of living for others (and especially for that one beloved person) – to the decision on entrusting each other with their lives and sealing their mature love by becoming engaged.

When narrating this story, the Author's focus is not just on his characters’ "external" adventures, but rather on their internal experiences and their choices, and it is this inner dimension which drives the developments described in the book, as well as the twists in the story of their budding love. It ought to be admitted that the Author displays great talent when portraying how emotions and events are divergently experienced by male and female protagonists. In some fragments, the Author emphasizes these disparities by differentiating narration.

At the same time, despite concentrating on the characters’ internal world, the book does not bear any traits of pathos or pompousness. It is an enthralling read, as its language is brisk and vivid, whilst the book’s structure is very clear and transparent. The Author skillfully shifts from touching and deeply moving descriptions to truly hilarious situations.

It ought to be noted that though scouting is frequently mentioned in the story, the book is definitely not a “scouting and adventure” book, and scouting-related events only form the backdrop for some plot elements. The Author’s personal experience accrued during many years of supporting scouting organizations has had a beneficial effect on the story, as it contributes to a realistic depiction of certain events and authentic psychological profiles of the characters. It is clearly visible that the Author draws from personal experience, and that some characters are based on members of the Author's scouting group.

As I know the Author and his scouting group personally, I had to ask myself whether this was not the true reason for my fascination with this book, and whether this acquaintance does not undermine the objectivity of my review. I also had to ask myself whether this book will prove appealing to readers not familiar with the scouting environment, especially high school or university students (sadly, I can hardly disguise that I no longer belong to this target group). Nevertheless, I believe that this story of young people is universal enough to win the acclaim of a much broader target group.
By the way, moving on from the book itself to the issue of its marketing, the Author is a very well-known and appreciated figure in the scouting environment not only in Poland but also in Europe and to some extent in the United States and Canada. I am deeply convinced that this will cater for high sales volume within this group.

In response to the question whether and why it is worth publishing this book, I would underline that young readers, i.e. the book's main target group, will perceive its main characters as an embodiment of peers who live by important values and principles, whose love is beautiful and pure, and who have faith and pray. At the same time, faith and religious values are described by the Author in a non-intrusive way, nor in a manner repelling young readers from these concepts. Quite to the contrary, they subtly outline the protagonists' lives. This book undoubtedly fulfils an evangelical mission and, as such, is perfectly in line with the profile of any Catholic publishing house. If I were to describe this novel, its characters and ambience with only one word, I would choose the word "positive", and this is the exact same word which comes to my mind when I recall reading the books of the queen of Polish teen fiction, Małgorzata Musierowicz.


Michał Pac, O.P., Prior of Dominican Monastery in Poznań

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