RETURN TO THE PAST – RHETORICAL DEVICES IN MARCIN WROŃSKI`S RETRO CRIME NOVELS
Retro crime novel is a genre which meets the needs of a contemporary reader of popular fiction. On the one hand, it uses well-known and popular models of intrigue, but, on the other hand, it makes use of a historical costume, which is highly attractive for the reader. The interwar period, which is presented in a number of novels, is the time full of chaos, political conflicts and social change. Although this period is distant in time, it seems to be particularly close to a contemporary reader. The culture of the 20s and 30s has been constantly fascinating. What is more, it is experiencing a major revival in popular crime books. The author tries to make his reader believe that his books are interesting and plausible but above all he wants to persuade him to buy these novels. The aim of this article is to present rhetorical devices used for building ethos and artistic expression by Marcin Wroński - a retro novelist from Lublin. It should be highlighted that a contemporary writer of popular fiction has stopped to be anonymous and in order to successfully persuade the reader to read his or her books the writer has to convince the reading public to him- or herself.
In the last decade one can see the increase of interest in the pre-war era. To celebrate the 90. anniversary of regaining the independence, the Museum of History of Poland have organized in the Royal Palace in Warsaw an exhibition entitled “The twenties. The images of modernity.” (The exhibition was opened from 11.11.2008 to 1.03.2009). The exposition was transmitting the visitors to the multi-national and multi-cultural II Commonwealth, showing its complicated political situation and economy problems, but also the colorful social life. The authors of the exhibition have presented the epoch as a time of great changes, i.a. of beginning of the mass culture, objectively reconcilliating the sentimental and apologetic legend of the twenties with its black counterpart. This particular period of time became a subject of the academic reflection of the researchers being members of the Polish conference entitled: Sensation in the twenties (press, literature, radio, film (The conference was being held in Lublin on 20-21 Sept. 2010. The organizers: Konferencja odbyła się w Lublinie 20-21 września 2010 roku. Organizatorzy: Wyższa Szkoła Przedsiębiorczości i Administracji in Lublin and Wojewodzka Biblioteka Publiczna im. Hieronima Łopacińskiego in Lublinie), concentrating on the processes of changes in communication and culture which contributed to the development of sensation as an esthetic, sociological and anthropological category. Moreover the artistic references to the epoch are still visible in the cinema and in the theatre: year 1920 Bitwa Warszawska is the subject of the newest movie of Jerzy Hoffman and the pre-war cabarets and other movie songs were the basis of the spectacle on Theatre Studio Buffo, entitled “Tyle miłości.” [so much of love]
The fascination by the interwar period can be found also in popular literature, especially in the fashionable trend of retro-criminals. The historical costume in the crime stories has different functions. It can be a pretext for the criticism on the contemporary times (histories of the mask). It can be a pure decoration – concerned about the effect of old ages is an attractive fabula background. It can be also a trial of reconstruction, subjective recreation of the past reality in cognitive, popularization or ludic causes. It can describe the position of the author towards the historical events and save a fragment of history before it vanishes. Independently on the intentions of the writer, use of the retro costume demands not only the knowledge about the presented material but, above all, the persuading of the reader to his knowledge and vision. The analysis of literature and literary attributes – the fictional existences which persuasively can be unreliable, (besides works of tendency, parenesis or didactic character), with use of the rhetorical instruments, can be doubtful, but it lets to inscribe to the zone of reflection also the non-literary phenomena.
As it would seem, a work of fiction can be treated as a rhetorical communicate, which is a goal and a tool of persuasion in one. One should then diversify two levels of rhetorical influence: in the brad sense – met persuasion, because the essence of the communication between the writer and the audience is convincing to the reading (buying) the work-communicate and in narrow – one can show the persuasive content inscribed in work of art (specific vision of the world, propagated attitudes). Most often the researchers concentrate on „immanent didactism” (Martuszewska 1998:78), analyzing the rhetorical potential of the work or specific genres.
The description of mechanism of literary metapersuasion is rare, because the situation when the transmittant (the writer) delivers a communicate (the book) before the audience (potential leader) in practice does not happen (the closest could be the author reading fragments of his books in media or on the meetings with readers or an audiobook recording. For example Marek Krajewski, Dżuma w Breslau).
The specific of metacommunication is the diversification of space and time of its members – either the listeners indirectly connect with the communicate or the transmittant connects with the audience. The glue merging the three fundamental elements of the process of Communications can be the ethos of the author – built both Turing the contacts with the audience and presented in the book on the level of inventio, dispositio and elocutio. As writes Marek Skwara (2010: 263), analyzing the statements of Volkmann about the ethos:
One cannot discuss on ethos of the orator without considering his person and the Texas which he delivered. And the ethos is being created in the psychic of the audience thanks to some community of emotions, connecting the transmittants and the listeners.
The goal of this article is the analysis of rhetorical measures used by Marcin Wroński – the author of retro-criminals in Lublin in the background – in building of the ethos of the writer in his relations with the audience and in his novels.
2. THE CHOICE OF CONVENTION
The existence of writer from Lublin who writes a cycle about the investigations of commissioner Maciejewski is connected with the readers’ demand on the novels inscribed into historical events. According to Umberto Eco (2008: 17) „(…) author of the fabula – similar to Aristotle, who joined the problems in Poetic and Rhetoric – has to know what his audience wants from him. Captatio benevolentiae or the gaining of audience’s favor begins in the stage of the choice of the genre. Retro-criminal is a genre which from the end of the ’90 of the last century had an enormous career in Poland. The pioneer of this fabula form is Marek Krajewski, the author of the series about the crimes in Breslau. To other writers reaching for this genre we can enlist: Artur Górski, Konrad Tomasz Lewandowski, Paweł Jaszczuk and Krzysztof Maćkowski. Polish interest in crimes from the past is inscribed in the world fashion for the books in the history against in the background, which proof can be the book by the winner of the Nobel prize, John Maxwell Coetzee, Master from Petersburg, where the detective is Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Crime story evokes the encoded specific vision of the Word based on the common knowledge that the crime should be punished. Apart from the “topoi-like character” (Martuszewska 1998: 84) the foundations of thought inscribed in this type of literature, in the retro variant the lay of the topic has also the historical background. The image of the interwar period is constructed in accordance with the criminal convention and co-creates the creation of the world dominated by crime. Therefore it is a confrontation with the sentimental, “golden” legend of the interwar period, according to which even the criminals had their ethical codex (See. Chomiuk 2011).The combination of positive and negative features of the epoch inscribes in the circle of contemporary readings of the pre-war times in spirit if objectiveness, proposed i.a. by the authors of the “Images of Modernity” exhibition.
Moreover the returns to criminal past provide that the historical, social and cultural changes fascinate the contemporary reader of popular literature. The description of the pre-war world, the trials of defining the mental atmosphere of the epoch and showing the old political propaganda of patriotic and press character became a magnet which attracts more than the very crime story. The leader is not interested only in „who killed”, but also in how influenced the killer was by the location and time of the deed, that’s why the action of retro-criminals is put in specific Polish cities. The background of the scenes became as important as the interview. The example can be the great popularity of Swedish writers like Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, who in their crime books write about social problems and analyze the changes happening in the country and the mentality of the inhabitants. The histories of retro character additionally are moving the reader to the past and show the ageless motives of crimes and the trials of aspiring the justice. Paradoxically this, which historical and old, for the receiver of popular literature became actual and desired.
The genre convention one can treat as a common place for the intention of the author and the demands of the leader. This is the answer for needs, fascinations and interests of the readers and the first stage of building the communicative community. Oscillating between measures adjoining to the literary production (choice of thematic and the composition) and the demand of originality (narration, story, language let us compare the writer to a professional rhetorician and interpret his work from the perspective of rhetoric.
3. ETHOS OF THE WRITER
The form of a crime story of retro character is imposes to the author some attractive to the readers display of old reality, where the action is happening. Referring to the past demands from the writer some historical, topographic and social knowledge.
Let’s say at once that the history in this trend is not told but used and the point of exit of this uses is a specific conception of the relations connecting the past with the present, where it functions like a storage of threads and props. The ways of gaining their richness are inscribed in the basics of the culture of repetition which we like what we know and this, what is known transforms into new forms of sequels, prequels of remakes. (Chomiuk 2011: in print).
The novels from the discussed genre are not only the stores of heroes and crimes, but also the stores bout the pre-war cities. They can interest the lovers of described regions, most of them of critical kind, who look for the historical truth and seeing all the details. The readers’ belief in the work of the author is connected with the faith in his literary and historical competences. That is the reason why the ethos of the writer is so important – it is and emotional bridge between the speaker and the listeners (Lausberg 2002: 147). As Dorota Gostyńska (2003:19)writes, it’s an unbreakable element of the sentence „Even without the will of the speaker, as is he seen and heard, he is also written of.”
Ethos is a multi-functional and multi-significant term (Skwara 2010: 249), used „at the same time in many different, not always defined meanings” (Grad 1987: 111-113). As a rhetorical term it evolved for the ages, and as writes Marek Skwara (2010:274) contemporary Polish handbook of rhetoric does not describe the full essence of the phenomenon in its complexity, concentrating mainly on deliberations of Aristotle.
In his theory Aristotle the trust of the audience, which is one of the conditions of the persuading the audience, the speaker can get with “favor, honesty and prudence” (Aristotle Rhetoric 1377b 5-10). According to the philosopher the character of the rhetorician also influence credibility of his arguments. The philosopher wrote:
Credibility depends in majority (…)on the attitude of the very speaker and how is he going to be judged by the audience and what attitude they will have. ” (Aristotle Rhetoric: 1377b 25-30) And „the credibility dependant on the attitude of the listeners one achieved then, if the speech will move them.(Aristotle, Rhetoric: 1356a 5-15).
The ethos constructed by the writer of the retro-criminals has a persuasive functions and its main task is to confirm the credibility of the author and gain the favor from the audience. The social psychologists (Kenrick, Neuberg, Cialdini 2002: 192) have diversified three contemporary desired features of the image which can be compared to the features of the speaker listed by Aristotle. The competence can be the same as prudence, liking can be the same as favour and the high social status and power – honesty. For the time of writing of the article the terms ethos and image I will use interchangeably [though the author knows the difference between them(Jaroszyński C. i P.Jaroszyński 2008: 47)]
When analyzing the image created by the writer Marcin Wroński, one can see the care for showing all of the abovementioned features. The main tools of self-presentation used by the writer are: the website, blog, profile in Facebook, numerous interviews and meetings with the readers and the promos on the covers of the books. The contemporary writer of the popular literature cannot be anonymous. To convince the audience to his books he has to win their trust and liking.
In case of Marcin Wroński one of the measures building credibility of the writer is listing his professions: former and actual. He was a teacher, a journalist, a felietonist, an author of cabaret programs. He is the alumnus of the Polish Philology, a writer with some experience (he debuted in the ’90), an editor and, above all, a “declared inhabitant of Lublin” and a passionate of history of his city. (Wroński 2007; 2008). The roles chosen in biographical notes are completely professional. There is virtually no information on his private life – the writer does not describe himself as a father, husband or a pet owner. By using the topos of a profession (Lausberg 2002: 224), he builds a cohesive image of a professional who gained his abilities doing things in different way connected with the literature. In the interviews the writer present himself as a practitioner, Polish Philologist, editor and even as a literary critic. For example, in the conversation with Filip Modrzejewski he diagnoses the popularity of the retro criminals:
It is not a popular opinion, but the phenomenon of popularity of the retro criminal, subgenre of historical and topographical I understand in wearing up and in the same time in hanging in air the need of continuation of so-called literature of small motherlands. This is something more that a biggish group of writers Got envious over Marek Krajewski’s success; in my opinion the readers decided and their desire to read about Little and big history in noncommittal form. (Wroński 2010)
In this short interview Wroński, giving an interesting criticism thesis, complements his readers, nobilitates his own work and cuts away from the accusations of copying Marek Krajewski’s books.
The credibility of the writer is strengthened by the descriptions of his connections with Lublin. This is not only his Home but, above all, a subject of his interest, searching and inspirations. The author describes the history of the city, because he is fascinated by it and wants his readers to feel the same. The choice of the perspective of the hobbyist seems to be profitable from the point of persuasive action, because the writer show his emotional and intellectual engagement in the subject and the audience can evaluate him as honest and authentic. The perspective of the Man of passions creates a chance of building the relations with the public based on the community of interests. By referring to Aristotle one can assume that this is a way of showing a positive attitude of the speaker and the trial of gaining the favor of the readers. On the cover of his newest book Wroński persuades:
(…) personally I look for the pretext to dig in the past and in my own roots. I seek for this Jewish and Polish town, which I couldn’t see and thanks to my writing I’m Winding the people equally interested, the readers, historians, researchers, amateurs… This people convince me that I should go on, so I write, because I have people to write for. (Wroński 2011).
In the quoted fragment the writer enlists the groups of people who share his passion and appreciate his work. The specific list enhances the impression that his prose finds favor in numerous readers and he has a solid positions in the literary market. The described induction can gave the receiver a conformist result – it is worth to read on, because others are doing it (all of them). The important prop of competence, used by the author, seems to be also “his not-a-diary”. The blog described as Wroński as a space of “normal communication” (Wroński 03.2008) “with his readers, is, above all, a self-promotional space. The statements ostensibly not concerning his work as a writer, have many positive information on his writing. For example, his post entitled “Siedlce after 10 years” , which begins with a reflection on reluctance to travelling (close to Marek Krajewski) one can read that commissioner Maciejewski have met with good receive and favorable opinions of journalists and readers from Siedlce. In the meanwhile the author recalls the former visit connected with the published anthology of short stories “Od nowa” and exposes his literary experience.
Besides the post one can call personal there are articles and mini-essays concerning Lublin. They are meticulous and diligent. Writer refers to historical sources (for ex ample he presents the statistics of policemen killed in action in the interwar period and in contemporary times, Kryminalnie i statystycznie), reminds famous Lublin inhabitants (Lubelski tygiel; Lewactwo, prawactwo and Web 2.0), describes places important for the action (Magia Grodziska, Wojna pomnikowa, Pierwszy lubelski kryminał). In this way Wroński shows that Lublin is an important key to his work, although the writer would like that the city stayed “half a step behind a hero” (Wroński 26.08.2011). Though the statements are of purely informative and cognitive character, the dominant is self-promotion.
The image of a Professional is built in one side by the choice of thematic of the posts and from the other by the language layer of the blog, written with humor and irony. The choice of narration close to an essay creates the image of a writer – erudite, well accustomed to the historical material. In his interviews he emphasizes that writing about Lublin connects with the lecture of academic monograph, research in archives and consultations with the experts (Olszewski 2011; Wroński 2010). Thanks to this unofficial character the persuasive content is not so pushy. “Not-a-diary” [Niedziennik autora] co-creates the image of a Professional concentrated on his literary work, unrest archivist penetrating the mysteries of Lublin and a smart commentator. Numerous references to his own books, quotations form books about Maciejewski, which are a pretext to different deliberations and should be an incentive for the reader to begin of continue the adventure with the commissioner.
The elements confirming the professionalism are information put on the website by the writer on the subject of the nominations of criminal books to prestige literary awards (Nagrody Wielkiego Kalibru granted by Stowarzyszenie Miłośnikow
Kryminału i Sensacji „Trup w szafie” and the Instytut Książki and Paszport
„Polityki”), and the information on granting Wroński with a honorary title of Bene Meritus Terrae Lublinensi (Well distinquished for the Lublin Land). Referring to the awards the writer doesn’t praise himself for his success.
3.2. THE LIKING
Creating the image of the likable and favorable person is possible thanks to creating a relation based on the respect. In case of the writer an important role is played by meetings with the readers and creating occasions for direct contact with them. Marcin Wroński not only promotes his work, but also participates in different cultural events, for example „Night of Culture” in Lublin, “City of poetry”, Cracow’s “Big Night of Reading” or “Summer with Good Book“ in Darłowo. The writer promotes the meetings (website, Facebook) and invites readers to them. It proves his openness for a dialogue and lessens the distance between the creator and the audience. Informing about important events, posting relations, pictures, multimedia and posting interviews, gives the readers the chance of knowing and “liking” the creator of the figure of the commissioner. The important self-promotional element is his engagement in commenting the posts – the questions are not left without the answer, what is very respectable. The occasion to gain the liking of broader public are, above all, the interviews, where Wroński gives away the inside story of the work of the writer.
I cannot let myself to write only when I have a good day. I often work 12 hours a day. It can be only compared to having a 1 person firm, where are the commissions, deadlines, negotiations, remakes – the prose of life, not lyrics or outbursts of soul . But in prose I find myself very well. (Bożko 2009)
By using the analogy the writer tells the leader about the toughness of his Job. When he is saying about the financial problems, giving his time and energy (Choroś 2009) and breaking away the myth of inspired artist, the writer uses the strategy of ingratiation and creates the similarity to his equally overworked readers, whom he entertains (Comp. Kenrick, Neuberg, Cialdini 2002: 196). He creates in this way a level of agreement based on the community of the prose of life and identifying with the audience.
The community of the receivers of the prose of Wroński is created by different readers. Asked about the controversies evoked by the history in the novel A na imię jej będzie Aniela:
(…) I have a very horrific feeling – horrific in sense of creating the media image – that everybody likes me. Madam vice-voivode from the PO list is present on my meetings with readers one mister from SLD was very happy that thanks to the figure of Zakrzewski I presented so nicely the pre-war Lublin leftist party(…) the president of one of the Jewish organizations saw that I described the Jews without any false, the young rightist activisionist was happy that by references to the pre-war age I propagate the ideas of pro-nationalism and some undercover agent told me after the meeting that when he reads about Maciejewski’s office, he has a feeling that he is in his own. Only once I was told I am a Jew, and I AM a Little dog of the pink saloons, but these words were written by some frustrated men on Internet forums and not by someone import ant, alas. (Olszewski 2011)
The quoted sentence proves the author’s sill in using the inductive thinking. The writer plants the in the mind of the leader the reason that he is readable and appreciated by everyone. The exceptions which were pointed out and were rejected at once. The public is created of people of different political opinions, of different professions, but one thing that links them is the liking for retro-criminals (and for the author). One should emphasize that the writer does not list the completely accidental people: voivode and president are people of high social position. Thanks to such a collection the writer uses a strategy of self-presentation of “shining a reflected light” (Leary 2007:40), which helps in building of the image of a respected person and referring to Aristotle – an honest one.
Summing up the issue of creating an ethos by the author of retro-criminal novels one should describe the role of giving thanks which are an integral part of the books. Mariusz Czubaj (2010:184) emphasizes their rhetoric function of confirming the competences of an author but he also treats them as a sign of “moving from the borders of literary world”. In Morderstwo pod cenzurą he explains the Genesis of the book by showing the criminal history of Lublin, in Kino „Venus” he points out a contemporary dimension of the problems of the interwar period and in his last novel he announces next volumes of the series and describes his vision of history in retro-criminals. In the context of the rhetoric the thanks on one side are using a topos of modesty [“Many people have helped me in creating this human truth (…)(Wroński 2011: 435)], , on the other side an argument of authority. The experts consulting the novels, referred to bon a different occasion, should prove the credibility of the works. Thanks to the metatext formula the author can present as a likable professional.
4. RHETORICAL TRICKS IN RETRO-CRIMINALS
In rhetorical Communications the most import ant role is player by the relations between the speaker, the subject and the audience. The favor of the public has an influence for its relation to the subject (See Wasilewski, Skibiński 2008: 107-116).The opinion of the writer, taken from reviews, internet commentaries or created in the interviews can decide on the lecture of his books. That’s why so important a role has the care for self image, constructing the ethos of a professional author. Although the authority of an author gained in the world outside the literature should find a mirror in his artistic statement. If it happens otherwise, the creator is not going to convince the public and will not create a solid community of the readers.
4.1. JUSTIFYING THE LITERARY WORLD
One can risk a thesis that the created credibility of the writer finds confirmation in the Word constructed by him. Marcin Wroński creates an image of pre-war Lublin , basing on archive materials, what is confirmed by described details of topography or maps addend to his first two novels. The writer shows the readers different faces of the city – from the exquisite Hotel Europejski to the Jewish Quarter and the den of criminal life – Kośminek.
Dealing with concrete terms, listing authentic street and describing characteristic areas of the city gives the readers a possibility of identifying the space (there are organized some city walks on track of Maciejewski). In the same time for the readers who don’t know Lublin the described city looks like a “provincial metropoly”, which heart “have beeped with slow rhythm of and old phlegmatic” (Wroński 2007: 40).
Next to the skillfully described parts of the city, the scenes of the everyday life also seem to be realistic. For example the debt collector’s execution in the apartment of Cytryn family (Wroński 2008: 59-64) shows the poverty in the Jewish Quarter. In Morderstwo pod cenzurą he compares the atmosphere of the dive (Wroński 2007: 113-124)with the ordinary evening in hotel restaurant (Wroński 2007: 206), showing the ostensible gap between the elite entertainment and the activities of normal inhabitants of the city. The social background is elaborated the most in the third volume of the cycle, A na imię jej będzie Aniela and shows Lublin in the conditions of war and occupation. The story of the heroes are closely connected with the historical events and in fictional world there appear some authentic figures [for example: Szama Grajer – “king of Lublin’s ghetto” (Szlachetka 2010)]. In the statement of the hero there are some intertwined sentences in jidysh (even some vulgarisms). One should ass, that the also the supporting characters, Jerzy Trabicz and Józef Zakrzewski are modeled on biographies of Lublin’s poets: Józef Czechowicz and Józef Łobodowski.
The truth in the whole cycle of Lublin’s retro-criminals is given by the intertextuality: allusions to popular literature of these times (Salka Cytryn is enchanted with Trędowata, Zyga Maciejewski reads Kafka in original), references to the movies of the interwar period (especially in the Kino”Venus”) or old songs (Ta ostatnia niedziela by Mieczysław Fogg). Referring to the popular cultural contexts has the function of argumentative character, making the historical costume more credible.
The described world is also lent credence to by some editorial measures, inscribing between the normal text some clippings from gazettes, advertisements, municipal office notes. In the novel of war times the chapters begin with the press notes with the title of the gazette (especially of the gutter “Nowy Głos Lubelski”), the price and the date which are loosely connected with the action of the novel, but are referring to the historical events and illustrate social moods. In the promotional strategy also the graphic dimension of the books was used.
The seeking for the reality effect (term by Aleksandra Chomiuk) in the retro criminals one should consider as a rhetorical measure, lending credence to the past and confirming the competence of the author. Because the elements of the described story can be verified basing on the archive, the retro novel in the variant proposed by Wroński can function in cognitive character, or fulfill the postulate of rhetorical docere. The teaching as an intellectual ay of persuasion (Lausberg 2002:147) has a chance of efficient influence to the readers, who seek in literature something more than only the entertainment. The history used in the novel contributes to the nobilitation of the genre, making it some kind of an intellectual game with the reader not only on the level of a puzzle, but also the novel’s background. The historical costume in retro-criminals becomes equally important as emotionally constructed action – is an argument making the public want to read it.
4.2. UPDATE HISTORY
The images of Lublin in the past, skillfully reconstructed by the writer, from one side recollects and safes it from forgetting and maybe even create its literary legend. From the other side the described story is actualized and inscribed in the context of contemporary events. The writer distinctively exposes the connections between the interwar period and our times:
(…) we are prone to look at these times like a reserve of noble ideal, the hatching ground of future heroes and the years marked with discrete charm of bourgeoisie. These are only an appearance, because people and their problems were always the same. (Wroński 2008:373)
In the retro criminals of Wroński the distance to the past is shortened to the maximum. In the first volume of the cycle the intrigue uncovers the connections between the media, politics and business – theme very close to the contemporary reader. In Kino “Venus” author describes the mechanisms of erotic gang, the third volume, although is show the characters acting in extreme situation, describes the Universal moral dilemmas and complicated relations between people. Wroński leads a game with the reader – based on subtle allusions, for example in the novel A na imię jej będzie Aniela he makes some remarks on the revelations of Rozalia Celakówna, concerning crowning Jesus Christ the king of Poland, and the astute reader can associate this with contemporary discussions about the monument in Świebodzin.
The actualizing of history confirms that the author tries to see himself in the readers’ shoes. He chooses from the past some elements attractive to the contemporary reader, creating a world around them, a world which is easily understandable, interpretable and evaluative. Moreover, one can see that war is not a border between the interwar period and contemporary times. In the cycle of the novels about Lublin there is inscribed some continuity of history – the decorations change but the human problems remain the same.
Skillfully used retro costume co-creates the ethos of a Professional created by the writer, which proves the analysis of the story. The first volume of the series, Morderstwo pod cenzurą, inscribes into the scheme of a „Black crime story” and the story in the novel is only auxiliary towards the events. In the third volume A na imię jej będzie Aniela one can see an opposition of these proportions. The murder of a maid, Aniela Biernacka I n1938 becomes an obsession of commissioner Maciejewski, who wants to track the killer at no costs. The investigation conducted by the hero is a pretext to showing the complicated stories of people during war and occupation. The elaborated fates of the characters and description of the story of Lublin at war predominate in quality and quantity over the not so complicated criminal intrigue. The historical costume helps to mask some of the imperfections of the story and protects the image of a writer against the accusation of incompetence.
The past in the novels by Wroński is an important character. The interwar period is described as an era full of political and national extremes, time of economy crisis and many conflicts and it’s closer to our times than it is visible in dates. The story of the city the writer shows as the story of the characters – he describes their strong and weak sides and shows how the historical events marked the city. By using the historical costume Wroński exposes the similarity of the epochs – in the press articles referred in the works the journalists’ rhetoric and way of describing the reality is dependent on the political option of the editor and switched to sensation mode. One can get the feeling that despite the technological boom the mechanisms ruling the press are not changed at all. This form of the future can be attractive to the reader who learns about the secrets of pre-war times and learns to know that the human problems, political conflicts and motives of crimes are the same independently on the epoch.
The liking of the public the author gains thanks to the humor in his works. In the elocution Wroński uses different forms of expression and measures of language and stylistic measures as travestation, joke and irony. In his novels humor exists in every known type. The situational: when commissioner Maciejewski orders coffee with alcohol, but „coffee only for the color”(Wroński 2008:75), when the undercover agent Zielny wants to impress the journalist Zosia during the festival of avangarde movies (Wroński 2008: 209, 214-217), which unfortunately for his plans ends with a pornographic movie or in the scene quoted below:
On the market on the right side, as usual, there was a crown of women, servants and house mistresses who were doing shopping - the prices were lower than in the morning. One of them, a round lady loaded with baskets have almost bumped into the front of a Police car. The driver honked at her, but he only spit and trotted like a loaded Camel to Browarna Street. (Wroński 2007:26)
Comedy of a character: for ex ample the neighbor of Maciejewski, Kapranowa, who „have diligently smeared the dirt with a cloth and her small, keen eyes were looking for something to steal”(Wroński 2007: 133) or agent Zielny playing with his hear all the time. The comedy of words is present both in the narration and in dialogues – there is no lack of intertextuality and pastiche, common language and even vulgarisms used in humorous context
The first tea in the morning was awful, the second – despicable and the third taster like the hemlock of Socrates” (Wroński 2007: 139)
- (…) You do remember that in 1656 the Swedish came to Lublin and Zamość from the North and tern the Cossacks came from the east.
-Yes, and Zamojski with Zagłoba gave the Netherlands to Karol Gustaw. Please, to the point! (Wroński 2007:218)
The sense of humor relieves the stress connected to the crime story and in the third volume also helps to accustom to the horrid of war. Although, above all, it creates the bond linking the author to the readers and it is a measure used to gain the favor of the reader. The efficiency of this method is confirmed by numerous reviews where the readers quote their favorite sentences and funny statements and quotations from the novels.
The favor and liking of the public can be assured of the readers like the main character. According to the theoretician of creative writing, Dwight V. Swain (2010:256-265) the novel character should fulfill the dreams of the reader who tracks his story. Moreover the mechanism of identification is started off with the recognition, similarity and attractiveness of the character. Commissioner Maciejewski is a character typical for the convention of criminal noir and the police novel – schemes used by Wroński in the first volume of the cycle. Zyga directs the Department of investigations of the Main Police Station and in student times he got the title of regional master in boxing. At his work he relies on intuition and the methods he uses are not always cohesive with the law. The private life is subdued to the profession, though he has no doubt that he lives in not a just world. The cynicism of Maciejewski is justified with his former military career and his participation in the Bolshevik war; his insensivity and subject treating towards the women is justified with a broken heart. The commissar has many weaknesses: he’s mean, he’s and alcoholic, he’s dirty and indifferent to human emotions. The weaknesses of the hero make him interesting and human.
In the cycle one can observe the tendency of warming up the stereotypical image of a policeman, who in his own way grows up to the marriage and though he refrains from the patriotism and being a hero for show, in the ending of Aniela he blinks to the reader from the prisoner van. The character of Zyga is summarized by the words of Swain (2010:256): „An exciting hero, against the common sense and logic, he fights against his destiny and tires to gain control over the reality”.
In this context commissioner Maciejewski can fulfill the dreams of the readers and gain their liking.
The biographies of the supporting characters are also interesting. Zielny, beau with brilliantine hair in the third volume felt that „he begins to be the man of old times” (Wroński 2011: 399), well organized Luther, admirer of Mozart, Eugeniusz Craft, has to live through a family tragedy, Róża is fighting with the addiction to morphine, Jerzy Trąbicz is the leader of resistance. The evolving histories look like a TV series. The individual novels are individual episodes, but the lecture of the whole cycle creates a cohesive image of the described world. That’s why the condition of success on the literary market is to create interesting and likable characters and, therefore, attachment to the retro criminals.
Anna Gemra (2003:185) diagnosing the contemporary cultural market, observes:
There is a big fight going on for the reader could find in the world, where everything has already happened, something that could interest him as much to spend his money on it – and to come back for more. The question is – for how long do we catch the reader, because without him there are no writers, producers and publishers.
Looking at the literature through the prism of marketing lets on to give a thesis, that the efficient persuasion is insofar as important as the artistic values. That’s why the writer should care for his image, for the favor of the public and confirm the ethos created in his novels. On the publishing market there is plenty of criminal books, so the authors have to seek for new measures of gaining more readers. The retro costume proved to be very efficient and able to create an intriguing scenery for the novel, but it also can shot the changes in society, culture and politics in a very entertaining way.
One can assume that the retro-criminal cycle by Marcin Wroński gained the favor of the readers because of the ethos of credibility and diligence of the author, interesting and likable characters and the historical costume to which the writer addend an actual dimension. The author skillfully used a popular convention, telling a story of his hometown – not yet considered on the “criminal map” of Poland. From the point of the persuasive actions one should add that in the novels by this author there is a big promotional potential for the city of Lublin. He shows it as a multi-cultural city, full of contradictions, but characteristic and unique. With rich history, full of mysterious little streets and restaurants full of life and with its own protector of justice, who has the chance to become an urban legend.
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