For the first time I had the feeling that this was actually a kind of life, that I had finally found it, that life was no longer elsewhere.
Western Europe, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall: Two queer teens from Eastern Europe journey to Vienna, then Zurich, in search of a better life as sex workers. They couldn’t be more different from each other. Milan, aka Dianka, a dreamy, passive naïf from Slovakia, drifts haplessly from one abusive sugar daddy to the next, whereas Michał, a sanguine pleasure-seeker from Poland, quickly masters the selfishness and ruthlessness that allow him to succeed in the wild, capitalist West—all the while taking advantage of the physical endowment for which he is dubbed ‘Eleven-Inch’. By turns impoverished and flush with their earnings, the two traverse a precarious new world of hustler bars, public toilets, and nights spent sleeping in train stations and parks or in the opulent homes of their wealthy clients. With campy wit and sensuous humour, Michał Witkowski explores in Eleven-Inch the transition from Soviet-style communism to neoliberal capitalism in Europe through the experiences of the most marginalized: destitute queers.
‘Michał catalogs his work in numbing detail, though he charms with his wit, which Martin captures excellently in his smooth translation (“It was his ego that needed stroking . . . he wanted someone to emotionally shine his shoes,” he says about one of the johns). . . . [A]n electrifying dive into a memorable demimonde.’—Publishers Weekly
Praise for the Polish original:
‘A story that sparkles and shimmers with the glitz of a collapsing culture, but also draws you down to the sticky metro stations, shady bars, or empty sad streets, the lifelessness of which is emphasized only by shop windows shining with a wall of Rolexes or cigars.’—Szymon Kloska
Praise for Lovetown:
‘This hilarious, scabrous, sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued (and brilliantly translated) novel is essentially and life-enhancingly political—if by politics we mean who gets to live, and how. Treat yourself; buy it.’—Guardian
Praise for Lovetown:
‘A boisterous journey through communist and post-communist Poland. It’s a riotous, anarchic, self-proclaimed “faggot Decameron”—a cacophony of voices that proudly recount their queer exploits in toilets, parks and army barracks before homosexuality was decriminalised. . . . This is also a project of literary reclamation. In everything from his smutty language to his chaotic narrative structure to the lurid detail with which he describes death, sex and shit, Witkowski is challenging inherited notions not only of what it means to be queer but of how a writer should write, and even what it means to tell a story. The outcome is jubilant, subversive and hilarious.’—Observer
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