The Strange Life of Walenty Karnowski
by Gerald R. Schmidt
The Rabbi's Illegitimate Grandson
6 x 9 paperback cream
FICTION / Religious
May 27, 2011
Books by Gerald R. Schmidt
It’s 1842 in Prussian-dominated Poland. Something sinister is happening in the peaceful, bucolic countryside surrounding the town of Łasin, causing people to keep their doors locked. It begins when sexually-addicted Moishe Karnowski, the rabbi’s son, stumbles upon a coven of Satan-worshippers deep in the forest. There are murders, rapes, a kidnapping, sacrileges and demonic possession. There’s a cultural clash: Catholic Poles, Lutheran Prussians, and Jews. Collaborators clash with resisters. Many twists and turns lead to a surprise ending. Gerry uses insight gleaned from observing people. He rejects Hollywood’s portrayal of religion as just another prop: in this pre-industrial society people actually live by the faiths they profess. The book incorporates fifty years of accumulated history and sociology of the region. You won’t be able to wait until you read the next book on Walenty’s life.
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First Sunday of Advent, November 28, 1841. The Nering family, which lived in Słup, got up and began to dress for the walk up to Szczepanki, to St. Lawrence church for Mass at 9:00 am. As Marta was putting on her undergarments her mother took a good look at her abdomen, which was showing unmistakable signs of growth. There had been times when she had been unexplainably sick in the mornings upon arising. “Oh God”, Rosa thought to herself, “This
cannot be what I’m thinking. Lord, help me to proceed calmly.” “Marta, your stomach appears to be bloated. Is something wrong?” she asked, attempting to keep her voice calm. “No, mama, nothing is wrong”, Marta answered, panicking on the inside. Had each known, the heart of the other was beating wildly. “How long have you been having these bouts of sickness in the morning?” Rosa asked, trying hard to remember herself. “Mama, it’s only happened a couple of
times, really!” replied Marta, avoiding her mother’s gaze.
Rosa was the one who did the family’s laundry. She had taught her daughter how to use a length of cotton cloth as a sanitary napkin, and realized that no bloody cloth had shown up for quite some time. Children learn the facts of life early on a farm, especially when they live in a one-room hut, so mother Nering felt no qualms in asking Ewa and Bronia: “When you help me with the wash, have you handled Marta’s menstrual cloth?” “No, mama”, said Ewa; “uh-uh”, said Bronia. Abandoning her restraint Rosa grabbed Marta by the shoulders, looked her squarely in the face, and shouted, “Marta! What’s going on here? You are pregnant, admit it!” “No, I’m NOT!” Marta screamed frantically. They went back and forth for a while; finally Marta broke down and admitted it between deep loud sobs.
Her father came over, slapped her across the face with such force that she went reeling. “Kurvo! Whore! How dare you bring dishonor to this house?” he howled. Her siblings looked on with disbelief. “Who is the culprit? Who has done this?” he demanded to know. Further slaps and rough treatment got it out of her: Moyzhesh Karnowski, the peddler from Łasin.
About Gerald R. Schmidt
Gerald was born in 1937 in Chicago. He earned a Bachelor of Architecture from the U. of Illinois, 1966. He was licensed in 1972. He earned an MA in Theology from Franciscan U. of Steubenville, in 1996. He spent many years exploring religious life.
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