I am at a loss as to how to judge and rate this book. I have read it as a part of the research for my novel. It’s called “Agent’s Anatomy” and it is about secret agents for the Polish communist security organs. I know that being raised on James Bond films you might be inclined to associate secret agents with cool but in Polish communist reality that meant you were the scum of the earth. You just sat at home cheerfully writing letters denouncing your friends, family, neighbours and co-workers usually in exchange for some financial gratification.
“Agent’s Anatomy” is basically a compilation of such reports written either by the agent himself or by his ‘conducting officer’ (that is the officer assigned to the agent, if anyone can think of a better translation, let me know). The agent in question is a student from Toruń working under pseudonym “Karol”. The author does not reveal his real name but to all people concerned and mentioned in his reports his identity would probably be obvious. It follows different opposition circles of democratic opposition in Toruń of late 70’s and early 80’s which ‘Karol’ managed to penetrate.
The reports, written by the agent or his officer regardless, have one thing in common – they are written in something that could hardly be called Polish. What they did to the language was cruel and should be criminal. Karol’ was supposed to be a law student, yet he could barely string a grammatically correct and coherent sentence together.
Wojciech Polak limited his role in the book to just providing footnotes (generally ‘The Who’s Who’ of the Toruń opposition movement), clarifying inaccuracies and putting exclamation marks when spelling and grammar of the reports turned particularly outrageous. For Kinga the researcher it was perfect. I had all the data I need to create a true character of an agent in my book.
For Kinga the reader, it lacked more in-depth analysis, some more flesh and substance. It was just a very raw book and I wanted more back stories, maybe interviews with some of the activists about how they felt about ‘Karol’ and how they dealt with the fact that they had those traitors among them and they treated them like friends. It was a fact generally acknowledged and accepted by any opposition circle and I can imagine it would be really hard to carry on without developing a kind of persecution paranoia (something that has obviously happened to some Polish politicians who started their careers in the underground opposition).