Today we talk about Sour Grapes and Sweet Lemons, a book by Maria Gulczyńska-Baci published with our publishing house Europe Books.
Europe Books had the pleasure of interviewing the author Maria Gulczyńska-Baci to get to know her better, how she chose the title of her book Sour Grapes and Sweet Lemons, and what significant experience of her life find expression in her story.
Below you can find our interview. Take a seat and enjoy your reading!!!
- What are the crucial themes of this novel?
The main theme in this drama is the approach of two elderly personalities to their past and present. The perspective of a woman and of a man. Hence, we’ve got Bunia and Kicio and their self-descriptions through the things they say and the things they do. I wanted NOT to forget my grandparents, to describe their reality with humour but also with depth. Besides, in today’s times of lack of authority, other kinds of “masters of life” are sought, and my grandparents simply became intimate authorities in my attempt to write a private anthropological report on the culture of those years. It’s my sentimental tribute to remember them and to offer them our monument – a monument to (un)common people. It’s a complex family album with the themes of identity paradox and the Freudian interpretation of reality packed with Polish People’s Republic scenography and memories of the pre-war frivolity and post-war realisations. If these themes are of no interest to the reader – it can also be enjoyed as a comedy and a description of two elderly people whose banter makes you want to visit them for a cup of tea and join in the philosophical interpretation of life.
- What particularly significant experiences in your life find expression in your story?
COVID-19 paradoxically made it possible for me to reflect on my past and my background to find backup and help me identify with the culture I represent and with the baggage I carry into my own marriage and culture I live in now. Turning forty just made me think about my grandparents and their private (hi)story. What I remember from my childhood in the times of the Polish People’s Republic (PPR) makes up the description and stories in this book. I go back nostalgically to those times and update my positive memories. I show the PPR with humour but not without intentional coincidences. For instance, Kicio’s PRL model armchair is very symbolic as it was his effective, durable and functional throne. I recollect typical Lech Wałęsa’s oxymorons or rhetorical puns and allusions. This play ends with Bunia’s favourite song: “Love will forgive you all” by Hanka Ordonówna so the readers can find themselves in the pre-war hit, just the way I remember singing it. I would like everyone, while entering that living room with a wall unit and an upholstered corner folding couch, historical and remembrance rarities of Polish design of those years, to experience as if they touched what it was for me when I was younger, to taste that granny’s ham, our symbol of the Polish national trait – familiarness. It’s a tribute to my memory of PPR and my grandparents so one big collection of general life experience from my past as such rather than particular bits.
- How did you choose the title of the book?
The title comes from the Freudian interpretation of the life of a married couple: Bunia and Kicio. It comes from Sigmund Freud and his theory on rationalizing failures and justifying reality, self-deception, which I think is our solution to life, and we all do it one way or the other. For example, Bunia used to say: “I didn’t want to anyway” – such a little lie to make her feel better. Additionally, the identity paradox weighed on them and they tried to do something about it. Kicio took offence at life and this bitterness made him turn towards indifference and a kind of stoicism, he gave up participating in social life. Bunia, in turn, had too much to deal with being a strong woman, mother, brave wife, daddy’s sweet daughter, a coquette and a clerk. I think that her toxic relationship with herself and her surroundings led to burnout in private life and in fragments of undeveloped identity. I reckon that for Bunia and Kicio what was important for the psychological rebirth was the belief that despite all the horrors that happened, one has to live a normal life, whatever that might mean in their own interpretation. The choice of this title was also easy thanks to Bunia who would mention the sourness of the fruit that is generally considered sweet and the sweetness of the one that is usually sour.
- How would you describe your writing style?
My writing style is nothing else but mostly people’s golden thoughts or phrases that come out of their mouths in situations when you least expect them to say what they are saying. I am very keen on the spoken word be it in English, Polish or Italian, the languages I live in. It’s incredibly gratifying to observe and analyse someone’s way of reacting to whatever is happening to them at a given moment and place in time. That is also why I definitely prefer to write dramas. Dialogues! I just love dialogues and have a soft spot for social linguistics. When someone says something, it’s not just what they say. I like to theorize it, disassemble it, and discover what it was about and why. Theatrical plays are a fantastic genre because I can focus on language from a sociological point of view. I have discovered poetry as well lately. I just adore the double, triple, multiple meanings of words and their flexibility of expression. I would love to say a lot with just a few words and symbolic coincidences.
- Are you working on a new writing project?
I am giving myself a mental break to deal with daily life but have already started collecting data for a new drama. I’d love to write about women for women. For a while now, I’ve been interested in (neo)feminism and observed the current issues that women face today, especially the unspeakable fact about women who hate other women, which no one dares to mention and pretends it does not exist. I can only speak for myself and what I am experiencing but still one wonders why things are the way they are as if feminism never even happened. I’d love to praise the sisterhood, which exists as a rebellious camp on the battlefield. Nevertheless, I see women who (sub)consciously choose to follow the patriarchal pattern, and I am not talking about the woman in the kitchen, the mother figure, you name it. I am talking about the lack of subconscious connection with other women, the competitiveness and hatred there is among sisters. I have been writing poetry as well which I find therapeutic and incredibly fruitful as source of minimalism in quantity but abundance in quality.
Europe Books thanks the author Maria Gulczyńska-Baci once again for taking the time and answering our questions. We are really pleased to have walked alongside her on the editorial path that led to the publication of her book Sour Grapes and Sweet Lemons. We wish her the best of luck for this novel and for her future works.
To you, my dear reader, I wish you to let yourself be captured by the story and the relationship between Bunia and Kicio and to find new food for thoughts that can accompany you in your daily introspective journey within yourself and with the others.
So, my dear reader, I just have to wish you to enjoy this very enjoyable reading!!!