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The King of Warsaw: A Novel by [Szczepan Twardoch, Sean Gasper Bye]
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The King of Warsaw: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 706 ratings

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Length: 379 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product description

About the Author

Szczepan Twardoch is the author of the bestselling novels Morphine, Drach, and The King of Warsaw. He is the recipient of numerous honors for his work, including the Brücke Berlin Preis, Le Prix du Livre Européen, and Nike Literary Award: Audience Award. Rights to his novels have been sold in over a dozen countries. The King of Warsaw is the first of his books to be translated into English. A TV series based on the novel is being produced by Canal+. He lives in Pilchowice, Upper Silesia. For more information, visit

--This text refers to the paperback edition.


"Streaked with magic realism and dream logic, the novel slides eerily between reality and illusion, 1930s Poland and 1980s Israel, where Moyshe has morphed into a retired Israeli army officer typing out his Warsaw memories. Driven by a ruthless energy, the first of Twardoch's novels to be available in an English translation is astonishing and heartbreaking in equal measure. It never runs out of revelation. A wickedly enthralling novel by one of Poland's emerging literary stars." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Brutal...Compulsively readable...Twardoch's willingness to stare into the abyss elevates this racing work to sublime heights." --Publishers Weekly

"Dense but powerful...spins the convention of the unreliable narrator in multiple directions: not only may the narrator be deceiving the reader, he may also be deceiving himself. All of this storytelling legerdemain adds complexity and fascinating psychological texture to the book, which at its heart is a gripping tale of a Godfather-like power struggle between warring mobs, one largely Jewish, the other anti-Semitic and pro-Fascist. The Tarrantino-caliber violence can be overwhelming but is never gratuitous in a novel that is fundamentally about a country and its people on the verge of decimation." --Booklist

"[An] intelligent and literary novel...original." --Library Journal

"Szczepan Twardoch has brought Poland back onto the world literature stage." --Die Welt

"Bold, powerful, occasionally surreal, a blend of historical fiction and noir thriller, multifaceted, intense and unsettling...Twardoch is one of the most fascinating and exciting storytellers of our day." --Buchkultur

"Wonderful literature, a festival of language, a dance atop a volcano that toys deftly with narrative perspective, a gallery of colorful, sharply contoured figures." --Tages-Anzeiger

"A great joy to read...This elegantly constructed and linguistically virtuosic book has a unique aura that's practically impossible to resist." --Deutschlandradio, Book of the Week

"A wild book, a crazy book, and a wise book but also a book full of cruelties, since it's about boxers, gangsters, and other words, it has everything you'd expect in a good novel, a very good novel." --WDR 5

"Twardoch wins the reader over through gripping dialogue, compositional finesse, suspense that continues until the very end, and an unsettling story." --Neue Zürcher Zeitung

"Twardoch's depictions of individual characters, atmospheres, and political currents are precise, vivid, and ecstatic, almost to the point of madness." --Rolling Stone (Germany)

"A brilliant and inventive novel about the Polish-Jewish underworld of the interwar period...highly suspenseful." --Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"There is no doubt in my mind--Twardoch is at present a writer endowed with creative powers of which his peers can only dream...The King of Warsaw is a deftly written thriller with a subtle and unimposing issue behind it." --Dariusz Nowacki, Gazeta Wyborcza

"The King of Warsaw reads terrifyingly, embarrassingly well--together with the author, we are immersed in a whole swamp of sick ideology, brutality, and infinite baseness." --Marcin Fijolek,

"This is a real 'boy's' novel. It begins with a punch--with a fast-paced description of a boxing match. All of Twardoch's fetishes are in place: weapons, cars, suits. There's exciting violence, a locker-room atmosphere, sexual fantasies, and voyeurism--we first see the main protagonist, the Jewish mafioso boxer Jakub Szapiro, through the eyes of an anxious skinny boy...A retro detective story in the spirit of Tyrmand, but darker and more brutal." --Witold Mrozek

"After reading The King of Warsaw, it is hard to just put it back on the shelf and pretend that we have merely read a great book. The King of Warsaw rummages around in our guts and plunges deep into our consciences." --Krzysztof Varga

"This is what Twardoch probably does best--he writes about Warsaw like it was [the] New York or Chicago of the time, and does it in fine style." --Lukasz Grzymislawski

"Something like a Polish version of Inglourious Basterds, in which the oppressed Polish Jews, supported by a likable Polish gangster, take revenge on Polish anti-Semites. Or simply a gangster picaresque novel set in an era that is increasingly popular." --Juliusz Kurkiewicz

"Ultimately, The King seems a study in extremes: love and violence, sympathy and revulsion, fantasy and reality. That Twardoch can balance these extremes is a testament to his skill." --World Literature Today

April 2020 Book of the Month --The Times (UK)

"Not everything is as it initially appears in this work, the first of the noted Polish author's to be translated into English. In Twardoch's world, the brutality is constant, with killings and dismemberments recounted in almost loving detail. It is also, as translated from the Polish by Sean Gasper Bye, often poetic...for all its physicality, this novel also has a dreamlike quality, with the logic of an especially grim fairy tale...populated by a multitude of unsavory characters, from politicians, journalists, and unlucky civilians to one of the more memorable psychopaths of contemporary fiction...the revelations are cathartic, tying all the raw and bloody ends together at last with a beautiful, fierce justice." --The Boston Globe

"Warsaw in 1937 is a place of factions. Jew against Christian. Fascist against socialist. In this febrile atmosphere a 17-year-old Jewish boy becomes the unlikely sidekick of a boxer-turned-gangster...The reader follows Bernsztajn's descent, recognizing the danger and glamour of the self-appointed king of Warsaw. Szczepan Twardoch's book was a bestseller in his native Poland. Newly translated, this extraordinary novel deserves a wide audience." --The Times (UK)

"The novel is an action-packed gangster tale, moving at rip-roaring speed, ably preserved in the translation...counterbalanced by an almost loving attention to detail: the fetishist interest of the hoodlums in various calibres of gun and exclusive makes of car, or the topography of Warsaw itself--the cramped streets of the Northern District, the fashionable bars of the city centre, the cityscapes seen at night from a fastmoving car. Not all the poetic imagery is explained: an intriguing recurring image is the sperm whale visible in the sky singing his 'hunting' song above the latter-day Nineveh...Integral to the plot's development is a planned coup by Polish military top brass and their supporters, including unofficial antisemitic movements as well as establishment figures--prosecutors, policemen, prison-camp guards and political journalists. Hinting at what is to follow, this aspect seems to pose the question as to where the greater violence may lie." --European Literature Network

"Mix The Godfather with Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, Leon Uris's Exodus, and maybe a touch of Rocky, and the result will still not give the full picture of the powerful page-turner The King of Warsaw...Almost everything about The King of Warsaw is gripping: the range of characters, the rich descriptions, and the plot twists, including one big stunner." --New York Journal of Books

"It's a book of often extraordinary brutality--and often extraordinary beauty of language, superbly translated by Sean Gasper Bye...The King of Warsaw, then, is more than just a chronicle of violent events, of gangland murders and thuggery. This is the action front-of-house: behind the scenes swirl the ideas, the ideologies, the politics and the personal stories that bring the action into focus, reveal the events for what they really are: the descent of a nation and its communities into brawling and blind confusion, born of arrogance, corruption and the assumption that power guarantees success. Twardoch does not glorify violence and gangsterism; he shows how, ultimately, they diminish those who make them their way of life--including the real-life politicians and military men who mingle with the fictional people in these pages. It is a book in which every word counts and every action has unforeseen results. It is not an easy read, not in any way an escapist thriller, in spite of the final twist in the object lesson and a warning." --Bookanista

--This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07VTLQRXX
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Amazon Crossing (21 April 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 3972 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 379 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.0 out of 5 stars 706 ratings

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Top reviews from Australia

Reviewed in Australia on 18 June 2020
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Reviewed in Australia on 24 June 2020
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M. Dowden
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 June 2020
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sperm Whale in Poland's Capital!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 May 2020
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Karl Wiggins
5.0 out of 5 stars Szczepan Twardoch is a master of the written word
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 October 2020
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Hu P
4.0 out of 5 stars A difficult violent read but compelling
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 February 2021
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Cookery Girl
4.0 out of 5 stars A very absorbing book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 October 2020
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