Swallowing Mercury

Swallowing Mercury


Wioletta Greg

Translated by Eliza Marciniak

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize

In this celebrated debut from prize-winning poet Wioletta Greg, Wiola looks back on her youth in a close-knit, agricultural community in 1980s Poland. Her memories are precise, intense, distinctive, sensual: a playfulness and whimsy rise up in the gossip of the village women, rumored visits from the Pope, and the locked room in the dressmaker's house, while political unrest and predatory men cast shadows across this bright portrait. In prose that sparkles with a poet’s touch, Wioletta Greg's debut animates the strange wonders of growing up.

Add To Cart

Praise for Swallowing Mercury

"Achieves a form of literary alchemy that mesmerizes."—The New York Times

"Warm, subversively funny and elegiac for a lost rural life but unflinching in its depiction of the darker strands of Polish society, Swallowing Mercury is constructed around a spine of resistance and individuality."—Times Literary Supplement

“This enchantingly elliptical fiction debut by British-domiciled Polish poet Wioletta Greg sparkles with a gem-like quality. Thanks to Eliza Marciniak’s crisp translation, it brings freshness even to the crowded genre of the novella-sized bildungsroman, and can be devoured alongside the best coming-of-age translations of recent years, such as Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera and The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov.”—The Guardian

“Wioletta Greg’s first novel shines with a surreal and unsettling vigor. As an award-winning poet, Greg writes with a lyricism that brings alive the charms and dangers of Wiola’s life.”—The Financial Times

Swallowing Mercury is both magical and sinister, a memoir and a fairytale and, like Wiola, completely captivating.”—The Irish News

“Greg writes with a precise, strange charm, and the poet’s acute sensitivity to detail. Little by little, I felt the presence of young Wiola appear beside me—vital, quick-witted and curious, picking her way through the dark woods of faith, family, sex, and politics as if in some melancholy fairytale. I experienced the book like a series of cool, clear drinks, each more intoxicating than the last.”—Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent

“I have been utterly ‘swallowed’ by this odd yet oddly familiar folk novella—somewhere between memoir and fairytale—which has magic and menace in perfect measure.”—Sarah Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither

“I really loved this strange book, which is sometimes sinister and sometimes lovely, and many other things besides.”—Evie Wyld, author of All the Birds, Singing

“This book comes the way memory does, in fragments, like something overheard or glimpsed through a gap in a door. It might feel as if you shouldn’t be listening, should turn away, but it is impossible to do so.”—Daisy Johnson, author of Fen

“A sparkling little gem of a book—there is a freshness and truthfulness in Wioletta Greg’s writing that reminded me of Elena Ferrante and Tove Jansson.”—Carys Davies, author of The Redemption of Galen Pike

Swallowing Mercury shows how the overwhelming forces of beauty, politics, mortality, violence, and hope can animate even the smallest moments of life.”—Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You


First Published: September 12, 2017
5.25 x 8 | 160 pages
Rights: US
978-1-945492-04-4 (paperback)
978-1-945492-07-5 (ebook)