Summary

Yad, is a historical fiction with magic realist influences—a blend of Ondaatje and Jorge Luis Borges. More precisely, the text would fall under the category of historiographic metafiction, as it foregrouonds its artifice while still claiming to tell an alternative but true history of the Spanish architect Narciso Tomé.

Set in early 18th-century Spain, Yad details the construction of El Transparente, an altar in the Cathedral of Toledo that represents the highest achievement of the Spanish Baroque. Although Narciso is credited with the construction of El Transparente, Yad offers a different story: running from his lover over the roofs of the city, Narciso accidentally causes the death of Toledo’s public prosecutor. Fearful of the Inquisition, he flees in a hot-air balloon. Meanwhile, his wife Esperanza Tomé disguises herself as him, and continues to work in the Cathedral. After crashing in the south of Spain, Narciso becomes a bullfighter, travels with a band of sophisticated robbers, and then moonlights as a cheesemaker before returning to Toledo on the day of the altar’s consecration.

The text is littered with the fictionalized histories of historical figures, alternative accounts of the lives of the painters Francisco Goya and El Greco, and the original inventor of the hot-air balloon, before the Montgolfier brothers. It is a tour of 18th-century Toledo, moving between marzipan shops, famed Toledo steel blacksmiths, and a densely populated underworld of crime and prostitution. Even Averroes and Maimonides, two of the great thinkers of Toledo, make an appearance, displaced in time. The novel is engaging, funny, cerebral, and touching. For its high-concept and historical setting, it is a personal drama about betrayal, repentance, forgiveness, and love.

This novel is unique not only in its content. The text is Daniel Karpinski’s, written originally in Polish, and it has been translated by Max Karpinski, his son. Daniel is the author of I jak inni (O Like the Others or A like Another) (WL, 1998), and Fikcja(Fiction) (WL, 2000), which were both nominated for the Nike Literary Award, the most prestigious Polish book prize. He was born in Tarnow, Poland. After a PhD in architecture, he moved to West Berlin. Since 1989, he lives with his family in Toronto, where he writes, designs, and teaches architecture at Ryerson University.
Max is a poet and scholar, whose critical and creative work has appeared in Lemon Hound, Headlight Anthology, Scrivener Creative Review, and The Bull Calf Review. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto.

BOOK REVIEW BY KIRKUS REVIEWS

A fantastical debut novel set during the Spanish Inquisition explores the distance between reality and dreams.

Antonio, the patriarch of the Tomé family in Madrid and an architect, announces at a gathering that he’s received a commission to build “a great altar in a great cathedral” in Toledo, and so the family is moving there. Once in Toledo, Esperanza, the wife of Antonio’s son, Narciso, experiences a series of erotically charged dreams in which she inhabits the body of another woman, Nora. In this nocturnal fantasy, Nora has a torrid affair with Narciso. Daniel Karpinski relentlessly interrogates the interstices between the real and the hallucinatory—Esperanza’s dreams at first seem like unconscious expressions of her own frustrations with waking life. But then they seem like prophecies when these imaginings start to leak into the world. Esperanza makes the acquaintance of Nora del Pulpo. Then Nora’s husband, Miguel, a public prosecutor, discovers the real affair between his wife and Narciso. As a result, Narciso is forced to clandestinely flee from the unmerciful judgment of the Inquisition. The book—translated from the Polish by Max Karpinski—is filled with fabulist contraventions of stark reality. Esperanza stumbles on an apparition in the basement, and Narciso conveys himself in a flying basket he operates with his mind. The story is composed in novelistic form, but each chapter begins with a short summary that often includes stage notes, as if the drama were designed to be performed in a theater. Daniel Karpinski is endlessly imaginative, and his massive philosophical ambitions are impressive. But the plot is agonizingly convoluted, and the author seems to consider readers’ bewilderment a sign of the tale’s sophistication. The prose is impenetrably dense and strains far too energetically for philosophical refinement. Even the chapter prefaces become confusedly entangled: “Doña Esperanza Tomé, disguised as Narciso Tomé, uses Maja, the former shop assistant, to deceive doña Nora del Pulpo, whose body, not too long ago, doña Esperanza used to betray herself with her own husband, who she now pretends to be.”

A laborious attempt at philosophical theater.

Books by Daniel Karpinski

YAD - English version

YAD - English Version

Buy book here: FriesenPress Store

Yad – Prologue reading by Max Karpinski:

YAD - Polish version

YAD - Polish version

Polish version and a second last book of series called FIKCJA: NovaRes Bookstore

Haiku: (after Basho)

Haiku: (after Basho)

Poetry book of Haiku Tweeted since 2016: Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore

Fikcja

Fikcja

First book of series called FIKCJA: Available online here

I jak inni

>I jak inni

Second book of series called FIKCJA: A like Another

"I jak inni" – Polish version – reading by Jerzy JANKOWSKI:

Transparente
Yad, Act 1, Chapter „Dream”

The altar was already almost finished. That evening’s critique concentrated on the fact that the top half of the altar was hidden in the shadows throughout the day and night. Narciso argued:
“This altar pulses with inner light. It glows by itself and for this reason we do not have to illuminate it from the outside, or expose it to additional light. You must remember, the eternal light will hang before it. (...) When I presented my project to Cardinal Astorga nine years ago, he agreed that this is the best possible composition dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, the bread that becomes the Body of Christ, Christ himself. See how the light, reflections and glares will lead the eyes of the faithful through each successive level, through each successive significance on the path to the Lord. (...) In the center is the beam of light. It beats from the spot in the main aisle where the Sacrament is enclosed. It pierces the wall, pierces the darkness, here to us...”
He paused and took a torch, because the glow of the candles was too weak. He stepped back and pointed high on the altar:
“You see, the light flows down to us from Heaven, from the dark sky, as it is above Toledo. The highest ranked archangels guard this light. See how their symbols glow in the darkness: St. Rafael with the glittering fish, St. Michael with the glinting shield, St. Gabriel with the bouquet of golden lilies, and St. Ariel sowing the golden scent. And higher, do you see? It is Holy Thursday. In the dark upper hall the apostles and the Lord at the Last Supper. The gloom of Easter flows from the sky. (...) Look at the top, there where the Word becomes flesh. The adoration in the stable. This is Christmas Eve. There shines the star of hope, the Star of Bethlehem...”
He rapidly approached the altar and almost hit it with the torch. At the height of the heads gathered beside Mary with the Child, the bronze reliefs glowed with light like mirrors. On one of them, Ahimelek gives the sword of Goliath to David, a sword of Toledo steel like a beam of light.

See also
El Transparente

Toledo
Yad, Act I, Chapter „The Table”

“I asked you to come to celebrate with your mother and me, in remembrance of the Last Supper. And look, we are thirteen! But I gathered you, so that already today, before the Good Tidings of Easter, I can share with you my personal good news. I have received work on a great altar in a great cathedral, in a big city that was once great. Once it was large enough to accommodate three religions, now it is too small for one—”

Before I could finish, Esperanza asked:
“Toledo?”
And when I added that once it was large enough to be the capital, and now it is still a provincial capital, immediately they erupted. One after another, like schoolboys, they started asking their stupid questions, bursting with jokes as if to relieve the earlier silence, our mutual awkwardness.

“One of you must go there after Easter. By the end of spring the design will be approved by the Archbishop.”

Andres threw up his hands, he will not go. Diego stroked Esmeralda’s pregnant belly, they also cannot.
“But Salamanca is still unfinished…” Narciso reminded me.
Already then, I knew it would be him.
“Narciso, let’s go. My family lived there once,” Esperanza spoke up. “A distant relative of mine worked there as a translator.”

Again they erupted with their tired jokes. I quieted them and allowed her to speak:
“This was a long time ago, maybe five hundred years. A translation school was founded in Toledo. First they translated Christian texts, Jewish and Muslim texts as well, so that each religion could know the others. They believed, then, that there was one God in three religions. There was also a more secular purpose. Many texts that were previously unknown to our culture were made available through translation. They translated Ptolemy…”
“But then afterwards they expelled the Jews and the Muslims from the city, or they baptized them, and burned those who resisted. After all, that was the center of the Inquisition.”
“It still is.”
“Must be hot, huh?”
“And I’m supposed to go to this hellhole?” Narciso asked. His brothers rushed to sway him. The first noted:
“Don’t think of it as just the center of the Inquisition. For centuries they’ve forged the best swords there. Steel from Toledo conquered Europe and the East. First Hannibal used it in his conquests, then the Roman legions, and later everybody who could afford it.”
“If the sword doesn’t appeal to you, Narciso,” added Diego, “just think, the best marzipan comes from there. Wait, wait, and also that sheep cheese. What is it called again?”
“Manchego.”

See also
City Toledo, Manchego Cheese

Tomé Narciso
Yad, Act I, Chapter „The Table”

Strange things names. Where did we get the idea to name our child Narciso?
Six years we waited for him, until he came the day of Saint Anthony, whose name he should wear. Somebody told us about a Dominican father, a potter, almost a saint already, who had worked with the Natives across the sea in New Spain, and we gave our child his name, so that he would be an artist and a saint and maybe so that he, too, would touch a new world. I once heard, even if it’s probably complete nonsense, that the soul of the child, before it inhabits the body, seeks a place, family, destination, which will help it become better… Why did Narciso come to our family? He is not really a fit for us. He was ill all through childhood, almost dying several times, and when he matured, he became greedy for life, overly ambitious, insatiable. He alone has realized my dream—I am an ordinary mason, he is an architect.

Only, he is the kind of architect that I wouldn’t like to be. He is like a chameleon—today he designs like Herrera, tomorrow like Churriguera.[1] When marble is too expensive for a client, he will make a saint’s hands from alabaster, his robes from granite and so that it will be cheaper—stand everything on sandstone. Horror! It’s like sewing together a human from different parts: someone’s heart, another’s body, another’s brain. Who would this person be?
Maybe Narciso is right. Even if you replace your heart, brain, and body and become a different person, if your face does not change, people will be unable to tell the difference.
Maybe only his wife, Esperanza, would be able to recognize it. Today she has brought a gift from the both of them: an Easter lily.

See also
Narciso Tomé

Toledo steel
Yad, Act 1, Chapter „Dream 6”

[1]A story about the poet who revolutionized the production of swords in Toledo.

My great-grandfather’s name was the same as mine, Italo, and he came from Italy. He was a free thinker and—as it was called in those days—a religious dissident. He was not a Roman Catholic, but a Calvinist. Most importantly, however, he was a poet and revolutionary. When the Jesuits in Vilnius murdered his friend Francis de Franco, my great-grandfather immediately set out for Poland, to murder the Jesuit who did it. This Jesuit was named Skarga, Piotr Skarga, and not only did he survive my great-grandfather’s visit, but it was precisely my great-grandfather who saved Skarga from the Jesuit henchmen who wanted to try him for treason. A complicated country, this Poland.
In Poland, Italo met my great-grandmother, the beautiful Helena, with whom he ran away to Spain, here to Toledo. Helena became a model for El Greco, and my great-grandfather, who went lame along the way, became a blacksmith. Initially, he hammered and shaped steel like French dough for a “croissant,” because this is the local secret for the production of blades. You need to hammer and wrap the steel a specific number of times, and only then is it strongest. Unfortunately, if you make a mistake, the steel vibrates and becomes brittle, like French pastry.
Italo, who played the lute, introduced a new chord, from a different metal, to the swords and blades. He increased the blades’ internal tension in the same manner as the strings of the lute, or, the same manner as a story’s unexpected turns.
Of course, it’s simple to fold a blade over and to hammer along the length, but to fold over the long edge and hammer along the width—that was a real art! It is my great-grandfather who taught this art to the blacksmiths of Toledo.

See also
Toledo Steel

Toledo fans
Yad, Act 1, Chapter „The Table 2”

I will show you the authentic fans from Toledo.

“A fan closes between two covers, which we call wings. The wings protect the fan like a guardian angel… Between them are the angelic flights. Each flight has a rigid, flat, bottom part, or a plateau, and a light, airy top, called the peak. The plateaus join together at a point in the hinge of the fan, also known as the cave or head.
“A fan opens with its head up, like a circle, and then turns its head towards the ground to cover the body, like this, so that it reaches from the face to the midsection. Never hold it like a glass. Never open it further than a semi-circle… If you are able to open it at all.
“Take one and close it, and then open it, please.
“Ha, ha, ha! Not so simple! This mechanism opens the fan, but only for those in the know. You can’t just use force to tear apart the wings. You must whisper a spell...
“In the head of every fan from Toledo is a small opening, like a keyhole. No fan has a key. It has a password, an incantation. Open, Sesame!
“The fan you are holding in your hand was crafted for a certain God-fearing townswoman. She wanted an incantation that was religious. For her, I chose ‘Ave Maria.’ Please, whisper it...
“It doesn’t work? Put an emphasis on each syllable:
“‘A!-Ve!-Ma!-Ri!-Ja!’ Or, simply, blow five times.
“Do you hear, after each blow, a quiet click in the head of the fan? It’s a simple latch lock, and the key to it is a breeze—the essence of a fan.
“Why do we also call the head a ‘cave’? Why do we use the word ‘plateau’? You are probably thinking, Sir, that the sun has baked our brains and we are excited by the erotic associations. The cave is an allusion to Plato’s shadows. If reality is only a shadow of the ideal, then doesn’t closing the fan remove the shadow and simultaneously reveal the ideal?
“You’re laughing at me. You think that philosophers don’t amuse themselves with fans. There, in the corner of the store is my small museum.
“The first, bland and grey. This fan was designed by Sir Isaac Newton from England. Give me the lamp, please. In the head of this fan he fixed a crystal prism. When the light falls through the prism, a rainbow spreads across the flights of the fan. Look, is it not a miracle?
“The second belonged to a lady from Salamanca. There—and here too—in certain clandestine establishments you can see women dance the flamenco in the nude. This lady, however, never exposed herself in front of her clients. For her dance, she used this fan. It is made from ostrich feathers, stitched into salmon-coloured silk, which mimicked the lady’s skin. The other side is made from black crepe, like the background of the stage. After the dance, the lady would turn her fan and melt into the black of the stage. One day, she vanished forever.[2]
“The next is a witness to a sad story. This fan is a piece of correspondence. One plateau, one line. It is a story about the fan itself:

En mi pecho florido,
que entero para él sólo se guardaba,
allí quedó dormido,
y yo le regalaba,
y el ventalle de cedros aire daba.[3]

“Unfortunately, the husband of this lady, in order to read the poem, cut off the head of the fan, and then did the same with the head of his wife’s friend, whom he accused of being the poem’s author. An unschooled idiot!
“Look at this one, red as the blood in which it is drenched.
“Pipin Lapa, the most famous toreador of our times, was once forced into the ring against his will. He had with him his sword, but not his muleta. Then, his lover, from the audience, threw him this fan, which Pipin used as his muleta. The incantation that opened the fan was Pipin’s admission to his intimate relations with the girl who owned it, and also his final judgment. It was the last fight of his life, which he lost soon after leaving the arena.
“This last fan has flights made of Toledo steel. It is made of a metal sheet, thin as lace. Once, at a meeting to which everyone had agreed not to bring weapons, a maid brought this fan to the wife of a certain gentleman, a gentleman who had lost his head in the embrace of another woman, a gentleman who was soon beheaded with this very fan...

See also
Toledo Hand Fan

El Greco
Yad, Act 1, Chapter „Dream 6”

We were stopped in front of “El caballero de la mano en el pecho,” by El Greco, when one woman spoke out with undeniable astonishment:
“But he looks just like master Narciso Tomé!”
I admit, I have stood before this canvas many times, but I had never noticed the similarity between the painting and my husband. There in the frame, on a deep, black background, El Greco had placed together three stains: the head, the hand, and the handle of a Toledan sword. The head was proportionately smaller than Narciso’s, but it was similarly elongated, with a strong nose and heavy eyelids. Above his high forehead, nearly as high as my husband’s, the figure in the painting had almost black hair, which, together with the strong growth of hair along his lip and jaw looked nothing like Narciso. On the other hand, the protruding ears did liken the model to the “master.”
What was in that picture? Some secret, a quiet, not to be guessed. The portrait delighted me. Until the voice behind my back asked:
“Is he a Jew?”
I shuddered. The question shocked me. To ask if my husband is a Jew is to offer madness to a madman, to tempt fate, to invite some scum to denounce Narciso on suspicion of concealing his Jewish ancestry.
After a moment, the thought calmed me that perhaps the question referred to the painting, not to my husband:
“No, he is not. This portrait was painted at the request of the Spanish hidalgo. Once, “El caballero de la mano en el pecho” had a name. But accusations of Jewishness forced the painting to be hidden for many years, and to have its title changed. Can anybody from the group guess what gave rise to these accusations?”
I always tried to draw my listeners into conversation, to make them work and think. This allowed me to control them.
Somebody said:
“It’s the hand on his chest, right?”
The face staring at us from the portrait was calm and closed. Focused. Maybe a bit too focused, as if it wanted at all costs to hypnotize the viewer, to draw him away from the remainder of the portrait, including the hand.
“Actually, wasn’t El Greco Jewish himself? He lived, after all, in the Jewish quarter, right?”

See also
El Greco

Bartolomeu de Gusmão
Yad, Act 3, Chapter „Exultation”

His story went like this. He was born in Brazil, where, at the age of fifteen, he was accepted as a novice with the Jesuits. Unfortunately, his hot blood allowed him to withstand the Jesuits only for eleven years. He fled to Portugal and although he studied philosophy and mathematics, he attained the title of Doctor of Canon Law. As a doctor, he gained the courage to write a petition to João V of Portugal, who was then King, asking him for an opportunity to present his airship, which he had been working on for many years.

The presentation was held at Casa da Índia. The small, paper balloon rose from the earth and into the sky, carrying the world’s first flying passenger, which was a small earthen jar filled with hot embers, sitting in the basket tied to the balloon.
The King was stunned!
Bartolomeu became a professor, and then one of the fifty members of the Academia Real de Historía. His earnings allowed him to build larger and larger flying apparatuses. One day, in a ship named “Passarola,” Bartolomeu himself flew from the Igreja de São Roque in Lisbon to Terreiro do Paço, where he and his flying machine hurtled to the earth. With them, Bartolomeu’s fame also plummeted, and envious professors wrote him onto the lists of the Inquisition.

He fled, and hid beneath the wings of the Jesuits, promising that he would stop his flying, if only they would save him from the stake, from which he would have flown, surely, to Heaven. The Jesuits sent him directly into the light, where it is darkest, to Toledo. He flies no longer. He has no money for his machines. He drinks.

See also
Bartolomeu de Gusmão

Elements

Text

This is bold and this is strong. This is italic and this is emphasized. This is superscript text and this is subscript text. This is underlined and this is code: for (;;) { ... }. Finally, this is a link.


Heading Level 2

Heading Level 3

Heading Level 4

Heading Level 5
Heading Level 6

Blockquote

Fringilla nisl. Donec accumsan interdum nisi, quis tincidunt felis sagittis eget tempus euismod. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus vestibulum. Blandit adipiscing eu felis iaculis volutpat ac adipiscing accumsan faucibus. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus lorem ipsum dolor sit amet nullam adipiscing eu felis.

Preformatted

i = 0;

while (!deck.isInOrder()) {
    print 'Iteration ' + i;
    deck.shuffle();
    i++;
}

print 'It took ' + i + ' iterations to sort the deck.';

Lists

Unordered

  • Dolor pulvinar etiam.
  • Sagittis adipiscing.
  • Felis enim feugiat.

Alternate

  • Dolor pulvinar etiam.
  • Sagittis adipiscing.
  • Felis enim feugiat.

Ordered

  1. Dolor pulvinar etiam.
  2. Etiam vel felis viverra.
  3. Felis enim feugiat.
  4. Dolor pulvinar etiam.
  5. Etiam vel felis lorem.
  6. Felis enim et feugiat.

Icons

Actions

Table

Default

Name Description Price
Item One Ante turpis integer aliquet porttitor. 29.99
Item Two Vis ac commodo adipiscing arcu aliquet. 19.99
Item Three Morbi faucibus arcu accumsan lorem. 29.99
Item Four Vitae integer tempus condimentum. 19.99
Item Five Ante turpis integer aliquet porttitor. 29.99
100.00

Alternate

Name Description Price
Item One Ante turpis integer aliquet porttitor. 29.99
Item Two Vis ac commodo adipiscing arcu aliquet. 19.99
Item Three Morbi faucibus arcu accumsan lorem. 29.99
Item Four Vitae integer tempus condimentum. 19.99
Item Five Ante turpis integer aliquet porttitor. 29.99
100.00

Buttons

  • Disabled
  • Disabled

Form