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Reviewed by Jack Messenger for Readers' Favorite
The prologue to Sean Akerman’s Krakow discloses the novella’s intriguing premise: a character, who may or may not be the author himself, has found in his New York apartment two short journals written by the previous tenants – a young man and woman whose relationship is crumbling apart. The text of these journals forms Krakow itself, which commences with the man’s account of events and then the woman’s. The journal entries describe the squall of emotions and shifting behaviours of each individual, their complex interactions and inchoate longings, the significant interventions of friends and family, and the pervasive influence of the past – past relationships in particular, but also the Past as a ghostly, monumental weight pressing down on the Present.
Krakow is an intensely literary text that rewards the reader's close attention to the nuances of thought and feeling experienced by the struggling couple, described with hermetic, elusive prose. Akerman is particularly skilled in delineating the distinctive voices of his protagonists, as well as their conflicting perspectives and needs. The woman’s journal entries are especially impressive: her self-understanding and powers of self-expression contrast vividly with her partner’s chopped-up, disconnected evasions and retreats. Krakow is also a New York story: the various quarters of the city, its streets and bars, the girdling ocean, are an enfolding presence, pierced only by a moment’s betrayal in another city and, above all, by a mysteriously significant visit to Auschwitz, the connotations of which are powerfully suggestive. Devotees of the contemporary American literary movement will respond with enthusiasm to this exemplary novella.