Fall 1981 • Vol. III No. 4 Fiction |

My Warszawa

Agent-provocateur. In room 371 of the Hotel Europejski in Warsaw a bellboy in a tight-fitting uniform is asking Carl Walser a question. In English. But it is not an English Carl or Judith can understand—like Polish it slips and hisses on the tongue, and flows past their heads too rapidly. Does he want a larger tip, Judith thinks, shocked and angered (for she has brought to Poland hazy but stubborn ideals about the "people"), is he offering them a service of some kind—? Her mind hits upon, and immediately discards, one or two possibilities. The bellboy is not a boy, he is perhaps thirty years old. His lips stretch in a quick unconvincing smile, as if he is in the presence of fools or deaf-mutes; his short blunt nicotine-stained fingers make an appeal that is both prayerlike and impatient. As he repeats his question to Carl—only to Carl, he ignores Judith—Judith cannot stop herself from observing that his skin is unpleasantly oily, his teeth are crooked, his eyes are sligh

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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. Her memoir The Lost Landscape was published by Ecco in September 2015. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

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Agent-provocateur. In room 371 of the Hotel Europejski in Warsaw a bellboy in a tight-fitting uniform is asking Carl Walser a question. In English. But it is not an English […]

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