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Listen: Through a Child's Eyes - Swallowing Mercury

  • By Sophie Freeman
  • 31st January 2017
Polish writer Wioletta Greg introduced her book Swallowing Mercury, the tale of a girl growing up in communist Poland and trying to make sense of it in her own way.

Swallowing Mercury is the new novel by award-winning Polish writer Wioletta Greg.

This poetic yet gritty story of a childhood in rural Poland veers between the beautiful and the grotesque, mystery and myth, ugly reality and dreamlike imagery.

Communist politics trickle down into little Wiola’s life and she tries to make sense of it in her own way. There’s family, taxidermy, bees, a broken thermometer, and a matchbox collection.

Wioletta Greg is a poet and every line of this haunting autobiographical novella has its own weird, beautiful atmosphere. – Max Porter (Portobello Books)

To celebrate Swallowing Mercury’s publication we invited Wioletta Greg to discuss her new book. She explained themes within the book and how she weaves the tale of her childhood within Wiola’s.

After we heard readings from the book, Eliza Marciniak spoke of the process of translating Swallowing Mercury into English. The session was chaired by Marta Dziurosz a Polish <> English literary translator and interpreter.


Listen now


Speakers at this event included:

Wioletta Greg (Wioletta Grzegorzewska) is a Polish writer; she was born in a small village in 1974 in the Jurassic Highland of Poland. In 2006, she left Poland and moved to the UK. Between 1998–2012 she published six poetry volumes, as well as a novella, Guguły, which spans her childhood and her experience of growing up in Communist Poland. Her short stories and poems have been published in Asymptote, the Guardian, Litro Magazine, Poetry Wales, Wasafiri and The White Review. Her works have been translated into English, Catalan, French, Spanish and Welsh.

Eliza Marciniak is an editor and translator. She lives in London.

Marta Dziurosz is a Polish <> English literary translator and interpreter, and Free Word’s Translator in Residence 2015-2016. While in residence she organised a rich programme of innovative events, commissioned and provided online content and worked with universities and schools. She also works for Pan Macmillan and is a member of the Translators Association.


About Wanderlust

On the second Monday of each month, meet writers from around the world and hear them talk about their work. We also focus on their translators who help these books travel and open up discussions that cross the globe. Free Word provides a friendly space for you to ask questions of writers and translators as they share an exclusive insight into the creative process of storytelling.

Click here to explore the Wanderlust events we’ve held so far and read about (and around) some of the books we’ve featured.

You can also visit Free Word’s Wanderlust playlist on SoundCloud; we record each event so that you never have to miss out.


This event took place on 16 January 2017 at Free Word Centre and you can view the original listing here.

With thanks to Marta Dziurosz, Free Word Associate and Translator in Residence at Free Word 2015-2016.

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