Sylwia Chutnik's first novel was “Pocket Atlas of Women”, published in 2008, won the “Polityka Passport” prize for 2008. It tells the stories of four people who live in a Warsaw tenement house. It is both a novel and an original guidebook to Warsaw and to women who live there. It is also an uncompromising, feminist study of the condition of Warsaw’s poorest citizens, those most socially marginalised.
Each of the chapters from Pocket Female Atlas (From the Marketplace, Liaison Officers, Rip-Offs, Princesses) begins with a panoramic take, portraying nameless female types and sketches of the conditions in which they live. Next the author zooms in and focuses exclusively on the chosen representative of the ‘species’ she has carved out herself. The foursome of main characters, representing different generations—one of them an effeminate man—is connected by the fact that they all live in the same building. Their separate worlds come together, then, into a single reality. If we treat this as the reality of Opaczewska Street in Warsaw, then to use the biologically inspired determiners of Sylwia Chutnik, we may speak of it as an ecosystem and of its residents as representatives of an autochthonous species that determines the relationships within the system.
Sylwia Chutnik (born 1979) is a novelist and city guide. She graduated in cultural and gender studies at Warsaw University. She is also a charity worker and chairperson of the MaMa Foundation which aims to improve the situation of mothers in Poland.