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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

His Current Woman

Jerzy Pilch

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase His Current Woman

Title: His Current Woman
Author: Jerzy Pilch
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: Polish
Availability: His Current Woman - US
His Current Woman - UK
His Current Woman - Canada
Andere Lüste - Deutschland
  • Polish title: Inne rozkosze
  • Translated by Bill Johnston

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Our Assessment:

B+ : light, enjoyable comedy of manners

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 6/7/2000 Andreas Breitenstein
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2002 Brian Budzynski
World Literature Today . 4-6/2003 Norbert Schurer

  From the Reviews:
  • "But what constitutes plot (...) is more the first inning of a misguided and involuntary game of self-discovery than a scenario of absurdity to create humor for humorís sake. (...) But this novel is hardly misadventure. Misadventure bespeaks a comedy of coincidence, of random events that spiral on their own. Control, in this novel, is always apparent (...) That this novel is truly hilarious at times is just a bonus." - Brian Budzynski, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "The entire work combines a dreamlike quality reminiscent of Franz Kafka with a slapstick comedy closer to Jaroslav Hasek. (...) However, the ultimate reason for His Current Woman is difficult to discern. The book might be a stylistic exercise, a satire on deception, an investigation of postcommunist society, or a look at gender and generational relationships. Unfortunately, as long as the overarching message is unclear, the several witty aspects of the novel hardly hold together." - Norbert Schurer, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       His Current Woman begins with veterinarian Pawel Kohoutek looking out the window of his country home and seeing "his current woman" -- the latest of his many big-city conquests -- walking across his lawn. She's come with all her belongings, determined to make real the fantasies Kohoutek spun out for her, a life together in his beloved Cieszyn region. Setting out a vision of their lives together "was the key to his successes" with the ladies, but this was the first time one had acted on them.
       Given that Kohoutek lives with his extended family -- which still includes a wife and child -- his current woman's appearance is more than a minor inconvenience. But Kohoutek heads her off, establishes her (i.e. hides her away) in the attic of the slaughterhouse on the property, and hopes for the best. Needless to say, it's not a situation likely to go well.
       Given the household, it's not that surprising that Kohoutek seeks escape, whether in women or his imagination. From his child -- barely a presence, and inevitably described as "doleful" -- to the retired pastor given to spontaneous sermons, it's a domestic arrangement that's somewhere between oppressive and absurd. The pressure of trying to keep his mistress out of sight, and of keeping her under control, also gets to Kohoutek, and leads him to ponder how he got himself in this position.
       He recognises the problem as a general one in his life, one that has merely now merely come to a head. Unable to focus entirely on the overwhelming task at hand, he daydreams of his youth, recalls family stories (including "the unbelievable story of his great-grandfather's funeral", one of several hilarious bit-pieces in the book), and talks at length with his dying mentor, Dr. Oyermah.
       Set early on a course to become a veterinarian, with "the mythical Book of childhood" being, in his case, a Stalinist-era Soviet veterinary encyclopaedia -- a book of fascinating horrors, but one that left such an impression that Kohoutek still uses Russian terminology instead of the common Polish (and Latin) -- Kohoutek has also never escaped from under the terrifying watchful eyes of his mother and grand-mother. His wife easily diagnoses him:

(Y)ou're still a little boy and the reason for all your troubles is that you're still living like a little boy in the world of prohibitions. I'm referring, of course, to the issue of carnal tribulations that is so fundamental for you. As far back as you can remember, you lived under an absolute taboo on carnality.
       Kohoutek is powerless against the various catastrophes around him -- and yet he's also only a bit player: things work out around him, regardless of his own actions. The current woman turns out also to be very much her own woman, and Kohoutek's family ... well, they (understandably) never bothered to take him all too seriously anyway.

       His Current Woman is a genial tale, the author not worried about offering a carefully rounded portrait, but rather focussed on this slice of life -- which nevertheless is all one needs to know and see of Kohoutek. Light, amusing, and clever, His Current Woman is an enjoyable little entertainment.

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His Current Woman: Reviews: Jerzy Pilch: Other books by Jerzy Pilch under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Polish author Jerzy Pilch was born in 1952.

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