As Polish books are being translated into English more and more widely, Female First catch up with one of the most prolific Polish writers today. Jacek Dehnel is a much loved poet and novelist in Poland and his work has been published in various languages, including English. Jacek is also a collector of photography, which is often a sourse of inspiration for his poems and other texts), readers may find it interesting to see his collections here

Jacek Dehnel

Jacek Dehnel

The most important person in my family was my grandmother, Lala. She had a fascinating life, fantastic sense of humour and she was a fabulous storyteller. She would constantly retell the stories from her life, no matter if you wanted to listen or not. But you did. She is the protagonist of my first novel, unsuprisingly entitled Lala, which is published in a dozen of countries already and will be available for the English readers next spring.

I never knew I was going to be a writer. It had never been my childhood dream. For many years I was completely convinced that I would make my living as a painter, just like my mother.

I enjoy public readings. I know writers for whom going somewhere, reading their own book in public and answering questions, often not very smart ones, is a nightmare. And I do understand their approach, but somehow I see more pros than cons to it. So every year I meet my Polish and foreign readers in about fifty to sixty events around the country; from villages and small towns to cities.

Some people call me a dandy. I prefer to say that I just dress a little weirdly. It's not true that I always wear a top hat, but I rarely leave home without one of my walking sticks.

I think that reading is a crucial part of a writer's work. Writing is just a byproduct.

I am also a woman. Or, rather, only a half of one. My boyfriend, Piotr Tarczynski, is mainly a translator, but a few years ago he came up with an idea of writing a retro crime novel based in his hometown, Cracow, in the 1890s. And now we share a female pen name, Maryla Szymiczkowa, and our fabulous, if a little annoying protagonist, Mrs. Szczupaczynska. We are about to start writing the third volume of the series anytime soon.

I find sharing one's library far more intimate than sex. I have been with my boyfriend for over 13 years now, but I think for both of us moving in together was just one of many steps towards being a couple. Merging our personal collections of books and getting rid of all the double copies was a true milestone, a step we won't be able to take back.

My name is difficult for both my Polish and foreign readers. The former have problem with my surname, pronouncing the mute ‘h’, the latter – with my first name, pronouncing it like ‘jasmine’. Some turn out to be even more imaginative, turning it into Itzhak. So: my first name comes from Greek ‘Hyakinthos’, ‘Hyacinth’, strangely planted into the soil of Polish language, where it was twisted into something like ‘yat-seck’. My surname is a Norman Neel, or Nigel, and it travelled a long way from Scandinavia, via France and Germany, gradually changing into de Neel, von Dehnel and finally Dehnel. There's no ‘h’ in it, it is simply ‘de-nel’.

Saturn, the first book I have published in the UK, got completely unnoticed. It received only one review. And – suprisingly for a psychological novel about tensions between the famous Spanish painter, Francisco Goya, and his son – it was published on a blog about horrors. The only silver lining I find in this dark cloud is that it was enthusiastic.

Right now I am passing a month in a writers' residency in France. It's an idyllic countryside in Tarn et Garonne departament. My window opens on a fig tree and a blossoming rose, mint grows here in abundance and I enjoy frequent visits of the local cats: a black puss, which is rather indifferent to me, her greyish, striped son, named Heracles, and a ginger one, who has instantly become a good friend of mine. In this idyllic atmosphere I am writing a novel about zombies.