Nest of Worlds
by Marek S. Huberath
Translated from the Polish by Michael Kandel
The first novel to appear in English from Polish sci-fi master—and heir to Stanislaw Lem—Marek S. Huberath.
"A masterwork not of science fiction, but of Polish fiction."
A World Literature Today Editor's Pick
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Nest of Worlds is the first novel to appear in English from contemporary Polish science fiction master Marek S. Huberath. This metafictional adventure, owing as much to Borges, Saramago, and even Thomas More as it does to Stanislaw Lem, describes a world where every 35 years, all residents must move to a new “Land”, each a rigid caste society based on hair color, and each person bears a Significant Name that foretells the manner of their deaths. As new arrivals in the land of Davabel, Gavein Throzz, now a high-ranking "black" and Ra Mahleiné, a lowly “white,” defy the authorities who try to separate them as they struggle to build their new lives.
Soon, Gavein finds himself at the center of an epidemic of deaths, though he himself remains suspiciously unharmed. He discovers a book titled Nest of Worlds, populated by characters busy reading their own versions of Nest of Worlds—and the key to solving the mysterious epidemic may lie within this even more mysterious novel. Nest of Worlds is a riveting and mind-bending tour through the nature of narrative, reality, love, and the darkest aspects of human nature.
"The various twists and turns of Nest of Worlds makes it the closest approximation we can find, in our world, to the perpetually metamorphosing work of art Gavein holds in his hands. And so I am almost inclined to call Nest of Worlds, in spite of its occasional shortcomings and because of its fully realized ambitions, a masterwork not of science fiction, but of Polish fiction. It is a book where characters live and die, and—more importantly—where we struggle with the fact that they do."
"What Huberath has done in Nest of Worlds is play with our temptation to believe that the worlds we build from fiction are entirely our own—a private retreat somewhere in our mind, untouched by the often cruel natural laws which govern the real world." Einstein called this propensity to separate ourselves from our surroundings an “optical delusion of consciousness” that stifled empathy. Just as it does with his groundbreaking discovery about the relativity of time, Nest of Worlds takes this fascinating temptation and re-imagines it, writ large across all levels of individual and society. In doing so, we see that pure, essential strain of science fiction, where the characters, narrative, and reader—giddy and weightless—careen forward toward discovery."
"This is not an easy book to read, it is complex, disturbing, intentionally disorienting. But it is built around the sort of conceit that takes the breath away."
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About the Author
Marek S. Huberath has been a major figure in Polish science fiction since his debut in 1987 with the short story "Wrocieeś Sneogg, wiedziaam . . ." (recently translated into English by Michael Kandel as "Yoo Retoont Sneogg, Ay Noo..."). Confronting moral and philosophical issues rather than future technical possibilities, he is heir to the titans of Soviet-era Eastern European literary science fiction.
A three-time winner of the Janusz A. Zajdel Award (the Polish equivalent of the Hugo), Huberath is also a professor of biophysics and biological physics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and an avid mountain climber, who has said that he feels most comfortable with the air under his feet.
About the Translator
Michael Kandel is perhaps best known for his translation of major works—including Fiasco, His Master's Voice, The Cyberiad, A Perfect Vacuum, and The Futurological Congress—of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem. He also worked as an editor at Harcourt, where he acquired authors Jonathan Lethem, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Morrow, and others. Kandel was a Fulbright student in Poland, 1966-67; received his PhD in Slavic at Indiana University; taught Russian literature at George Washington University; wrote a few articles on Lem; and has written science fiction, short stories, and a few novels (published by Bantam, St. Martin's); and is presently an editor at the Modern Language Association. Kandel's has recently translated works by Jacek Dukaj and Andrzej Sapkoswki, and he is the editor and translator of the anthology A Polish Book of Monsters.