By Dorota Masłowska
Translated by Benjamin Paloff
An incomparably hilarious satire of modern consumer culture, with everything from personality to religion commodified, like Virginie Despentes meets Blade Runner.
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
From bestselling, internationally acclaimed author Dorota Masłowska comes a hilarious and devastating satire of consumer culture. Set in a bizarro, all-too-real imaginarium of American pop culture, Honey, I Killed the Cats introduces us to two independent young women struggling to live the lives that television and glossy magazines have promised them. In a collision of street slang and mass-media sloganeering, Masłowska’s electrifying prose drives a propulsive story about spiritual longing in a dispirited world.
Masłowska’s novel examines the ways we attempt to exist and find meaning in lives defined by what we buy. In this warped world saturated by advertising and materialism, where everything can be bought, from personality and physical traits to religion and self-fulfillment, Joanne and Farah, two very different women form a friendship both bonded in and ultimately destroyed by the manipulations of consumer culture.
Joanne has everything the commercials say you should want—confidence, a carefree life, happiness to excess. Farah is a self-loathing, envious, germophobic malcontent. Through a shared metaphysical dream experience that spills over into their increasingly troubled day-to-day lives, these best friends find themselves consumed by their equal-and-opposite obsessions.
Widely regarded as Polish literary sensation Masłowska’s best novel yet, Honey, I Killed the Cats is a powerfully emotional, hilariously grotesque satire of Western consumer culture and the trends that go along with it.
“Masłowska here describes a terrifying funhouse abounding with toxic friendships, ominous takes on consumerism, and grotesque moments of violence and general discomfort…The tone is broadly satirical throughout, but it’s the variety with fangs — sometimes literally.” —Tobias Carroll, Mystery Tribune
“Dorota Masłowska is a mistress of the startling metaphor and her heroine is certainly not the stuff of chick lit. She appears in dreams (her own and those of her friends and neighbours) pyjama bottoms dripping with blood – yes honey, she has killed the cats. And she hardly need a hero to come and save her from drowning, does she? If this gloriously strange book sounds like your sort of thing, give Benjamin Paloff’s translation a go…” —Kate Sotejeff-Wilson
“Dorota Masłowska’s Honey, I Killed the Cats doesn’t read like a novel, but rather a sequence of tabs on an internet browser, each one a minor digression into a deeper chaos. Written in 2012 by one of Poland’s leading young authors, Benjamin Paloff’s lively translation is distinctly 2019, as if constructed solely from a digital-era dictionary.” —Matt Janney, The Calvert Journal
“Paloff is able to preserve Maslowska’s energy and surprising wordplay in this translation, and the prose brings life to the setting in a way that energizes the story…” —Ambrose Mary Gallagher, Michigan Quarterly Review
“Masłowska’s latest is a sucrose-loaded simulacrum for the American monoculture, recklessly scrambling barbed sarcasm with irreverent sight gags to stupendous effect. A knives-out dissection of aesthetic vulgarity that refuses to be calmed, corralled, or otherwise contained. Honey, I Killed the Cats is delightfully demented fun.” —Justin Walls, Powell’s Books at Cedar Hill Crossing
“A wild, technicolor send up of culture and consumerism.” —Caitlin Luce Baker, Island Books
“A grossly all-too-accurate satire of American consumer culture and those frantically swiping their plastic (in hopes of some kind of meaning) inside of it. Hilarious and biting. A scream.” —Traci Thiebaud, Brazos Bookstore
“Slim and ferocious, Masłowska’s novel is a wild trip from beginning to end.” —Publishers Weekly
“So absurdly extended—and so deranged in its detail—that it’s genuinely funny.” — Kirkus Reviews
“She is the hope of Polish literature.” —Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
“Paloff deserves to be commended. His translation is as transparent as possible, literal without being wooden, lively yet not artificially so. Maslowska’s linguistic vigor communicates itself to English-language readers so readily that we are caught up in the quick current of her prose before we even know what the book is about.” —Reading in Translation, Magdalena Kay
On Snow White & Russian Red:
“Dorota Masłowska possesses a fundamental virtue: beyond any other virtues or vices of authorial craft, she knows how to tell a story. Her metaphors, her comparisons, they way she tells a story, all of it sparks amazement, then amusement, and not infrequently the impression of genuine poetry. This mixing of everything with everything is the source of her charm.” —Sławomir Mrożek
“An astute observation of the superficiality of a society driven by marketing and commerce.” —Janus R. Kowalczyk, Culture
“This very young woman has in her an unheard-of literary maturity. . . . The youngest generation, a generation completely lost to the oblivion of drugs, the Internet, and predatory Polish capitalism, this completely lost generation is in luck because it has produced an author who will redeem it.” —Jerzy Pilch, Polityka (Poland)
“By revealing an extraordinary sense of observation the young author provides the reader with a cynical vision of the world in which we live in… Witty and humorous narration uncovers the sad truth about contemporary life: filled with paradoxes, hypocrisy and loneliness.” —Agnes-Books
“European critics have compared [Snow White and Russian Red] to novels like Naked Lunch and movies like Trainspotting. Celine and Kosinski also come to mind, as does Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke, which is equally a particle accelerator and a violent dance, plus, of course . . . Stanislaw Lem and Czeslaw Milosz. . . . But I’d say the closest American equivalent is, at its best, Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and at its worst, Less than Zero.” —John Leonard, Harper’s
‘Maslowska plays the political posturing and xenophobia as black comedy. . . . The language, in Benjamin Paloff’s translation, is exhilarating–idiosyncratic like a folk idiom, like a burnout’s private conversation with himself. . . . Feminist in the most inclusive sense, nihilistic in the most life-affirming, this generation “we” yearns for a pink, laughing God, scrawls ‘satan” where the grown-ups can see, and dodges the world’s border wars by going underground. . . . Potent.” —Ryan Brooks, Chicago Reader
“Energetic, ferocious, and powerful, a hellacious literary accomplishment. Even having read it, it’s hard to believe how well it all works. . . Satisfying as a psychological novel of obsessions, as a millennial cultural commentary, as a rough-and-ready street tale, and as a terrifyingly ambitious concept piece, a book that puts everything on the line to prove a point, and proves it, and takes it further still. . . . Snow White is a scorching read. This is big-league literature. . . . He has the wild, witty fatalism of Venedikt Yerofeev’s Moscow to the End of the Line and the loopy idiolect of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, but Nails is most of all a sparkling scion of grandmaster Witold Gombrowicz’s Trans-Atlantyk.” —Damien Weaver, Bookslut
“Serves up its nastiness spiked with pitch-black humor. . . . Paloff’s translation is pitch-perfectly speedy, and with political ironies resounding throughout, it’s clear that Maslowska is not exactly endorsing her blank generation, though the claustrophobic narrative presents few avenues of escape.” —Publishers Weekly
“Maslowska’s prose squeals with directionless drive, whizzing like a drug-induced sensory overload: disjointed, formless, unleashed. . . . It tires and invigorates. It also introduces an otherworld of lasting, unusual imagery. . . . Snow White and Russian Red scans like Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, an anarchic reaction to a generation of socially enforced post-war patriotism and merriness. . . . Maslowska seems the newest addition to a legacy of furtively unfettered Eastern European genius. . . . She’s brave and faithful enough to raise her voice against her troubled homeland in dissent.” —Kris Wilton, Village Voice
“So corrosive, so extreme in its nightmarish subjectivity, as to be almost reader-proof–it feels like something William S. Burroughs might have written after getting up on the wrong side of the bed. . . . The 21-year-old author has already patented her own blend of brutality and poetic insight. And although comedy is most often what gets lost in translation, Benjamin Paloff seems to have done right by Maslowska: the book is often very funny.” —James Marcus, Los Angeles Times
“[Snow White and Russian Red] was published in 2002 by a small, independent publishing house and deservedly made its author, nineteen-year-old Dorota Masłowska, a huge success, despite the badly depressed book market in Poland. Just like Irish writers like Flann O’ Brian and Brendan Behan wrote in a colorful Dublin vernacular rarely actually met in Dublin, so too has Masłowska created a literary language which is both uniquely hers and immediately familiar.” —Robert Looby, Slavic and East European Journal
“Angry, expletive-packed, wildly energetic . . . It’s a grim-gruff gumbo of Lukas Moodyson’s Lilya-4-Ever, Brett Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, and the films of Gaspar Noe. . . .The talented Maslowska keeps a soaring pace and, with abundant trademark mordant Polish humour, has crafter a novel that speaks of the “other” contemporary Warsaw as Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklynspoke of NY in the ’50s. Brilliant!” —UNCUT (UK)
“A cocky, confident, struttingly precocious new voice. White and Red is a Less Than Zerowith intelligence, emotion and wit. Whatever they’re putting in the water in Poland, I wish they’d pipe some of it over here. Fast.” —Niall Griffiths, author of Stump
“No established writer could have written this book because established writers lack what this writer has–her language . . . fast, heavily abbreviated, full of color, bursting with idiosyncrasy. . . . Similarities are immediately apparent to the films Being John Malkovich and Trainspotting, but also to Kafka, Gombrowicz, and Gaddis.” —Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Germany)
“Maslowska, with extraordinary literary sensitivity, catches the language of society’s underbelly. . . . [Snow White and Russian Red] is a book that is simultaneously realistic and hyperrealistic. Prose that tastes like the poetry of a dirty street and filthy projects.” —Wojciech Staszewski, Gazeta Wyborna (Poland)
“A melange of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Burroughs’s Naked Lunch and Döblin’s Alexanderplatz.” —Buchreport (Germany)
“Dorota Maslowska’s novel is the crater left by a gunshot, flexing feral words and rupturing its subject. . . . Confronted with so much power and intensity one cannot but surrender.” —Lifestyle (Germany)
“An astute observation of the superficiality of a society driven by marketing and commerce.” —Janus R. Kowalczyk, Culture.pl
Dorota Masłowska is a Polish writer, playwright, and journalist. She is the recipient of the prestigious Polityka Prize for her debut novel Wojna polsko-ruska pod flagą biało-czerwoną (Snow White and Russian Red, Grove Atlantic), published when she was just 19 years old. The book garnered massive critical acclaim in Poland, has been translated into dozens of languages, and was made into a movie directed by Xawery Żuławski. Since then, she has written several novels and plays and has become a celebrated literary figure in Poland. Honey, I Killed the Cats, her second novel to be published in English, has been adapted for stage and portions were made into a short film directed by Marcin Nowak. She currently resides in Warsaw.
Benjamin Paloff received his Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University in 2007. He is the author of Lost in the Shadow of the Word (Space, Time and Freedom in Interwar Eastern Europe) (Northwestern University Press, 2016), which in 2015 received the American Comparative Literature Association's Helen Tartar First Book Subvention Prize. He has also published two collections of poems, And His Orchestra (2015) and The Politics (2011), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. A former poetry editor at Boston Review, his poems have appeared in A Public Space, The Paris Review, The New Republic, and elsewhere, and he has translated several books from Polish and Czech, including works by Richard Weiner, Dorota Maslowska, Marek Bienczyk, and Andrzej Sosnowski. He has twice received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts—in poetry as well as translation—and has been a fellow of the US Fulbright Programs, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Michigan Society of Fellows. He is currently a professor at the University of Michigan.