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No Entry Zone
The hotel never had a name. Deep in the Tatra’s No Entry Zone, it was known only to elite members of the Party. At the far end of the Syroka Water Valley, the luxurious facility had a full detachment of Secret Service guards, not to “protect and serve” but to “protect and surveil” maids, waiters, bell boys, chefs, kitchen staff, and managers. Guests knew who would run them down if they violated the secrecy policy.…The abbreviation “NEZ” was used by the well-connected and those in the know, but today this usage is gone without a trace, just like the nameless hotel. The secluded valley where NEZ once welcomed provincial governors and well-connected apparatchiks to its spa, excellent cuisine, unlimited wine and beer (and other pleasures best left to the imagination) is deserted. Overgrown. Nothing remains… “Perfect satire on Poland during the communist era, written with verve and wit.” — Tatry Quarterly “I am about to reveal events that occurred in the No Entry Zone hotel, built in the Tatra Mountains in secret, by the Polish United Workers’ Party. The Tatras are inhabited by marmots, chamois, lynx, eagles, bears, and generations of rustic highlanders who speak their own dialect, live by their own rules, and in the course of six centuries have never found a good reason to integrate with the rest of Polish society.” — From Chapter One
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 8.00 out of 10


Plot/Idea: The plot here is reminiscent of a more raunchy, raucous Gentleman in Moscow. While the pacing flies quickly at the start and flags a bit through the middle as the narrative moves forward and backward, the overall effect is a tantalizing balance of seriousness and humor amidst political upheaval.

Prose: The flow between the author-narrator voice and Henryk’s notebook of tales is incredibly smooth at nearly all times. Dialogue is rendered in such a way that Polish characters’ speech is slightly estranged for an English-speaking audience without becoming difficult to understand or distracting. Quotations are perhaps used at a higher rate than would naturally occur in a journal.

Originality: The combination of military story, journaled personal narrative, and a recounting of sexual exploits taking course over many years, adds up to a unique reading experience. 

Character/Execution: This narrative introduces a large cast of characters into its orbit, and while many do not have the opportunity to develop in any meaningful way, they are all certainly realistic and individual. The execution of interruptions by the narrator’s voice is assisted by his strong introduction at the beginning of the novel.

Date Submitted: June 08, 2023