Friday, June 22, 2012

Stefan Grabinski, “The White Weyrak,” 1921

"Above me, several feet beyond the blade of my hatchet, I saw in the half-light of the flue a snow-white being staring at me with a pair of huge, owlish yellow eyes."
                                   -- Stefan Grabinski, "The White Weyrak"

Yea, this one is weird. As in see things and you can't unsee it. It's rather marvelous that way.

The introduction to the story states that Grabinski has been referred to as the "Polish Poe" or "Polish Lovecraft." There are definitely aspects of both authors present in the narrative. A Poe-esque sense of dread builds as two apprentice chimney sweeps are sent out to clean the chimney of a certain abode, but never return. Darkness, and more to the point, blackness, is a very real and physical presence in "The White Weyrak." The story ends in a way that, I think, would have made Lovecraft squee

with delight. You really want to know more, but also really, you really don't.

The weirdness of having a occupationally segregated space - the chimney - attached to a house becomes a very unsettling notion as the story progresses. Grabinski gives small clues as to what might be hiding away in the dark, enclosed vestiges of Santa's ladder. Up until this point, dread has steadily been building through the information we are given, and that which is left out.

When a third chimney sweep and his teacher decide for themselves to investigate the house's chimney that has seemingly swallowed their co-workers, we are given a reveal that is unexpectedly brutal and violent. The story does not end here; as readers, we are forced into the same darkness as the unlucky chimney sweep, closed in with the grotesque being that has been - well, I won't give it away.

Grabinski is another writer I will now actively look into reading more of. My own background (on my father's side) is Polish, even though I'm about a generation removed. Literature may be a good place to start from, and Weird literature may indeed be the best option for this endeavor, since I find it somehow weird that I haven't made a real effort at learning more about my Polska roots after all this time.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

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