Our hero and narrator is the ageing caretaker of cottages at a summer resort. A mysterious visitor inspires him to share the story of his long life: we witness a happy childhood cut short by the war, his hiding from the Nazis buried in a heap of potatoes, his plodding attempts to play the saxophone, the brutal murder of his family, loves lost but remembered, and footloose travels abroad. Told in the manner of friends and neighbors swapping stories over the mundane task of shelling beans—in the grand oral tradition of Myśliwski’s celebratedStone Upon Stone—each anecdote, lived experience, and memory accrues cross-stitched layers of meaning. By turns hilarious and poignant, A Treatise on Shelling Beans is an epic recounting of a life that, while universal, is anything but ordinary.
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