The Last Super | Indian
Summer in Poland
The Last Super
seven p.m., towards the end of July, and I was sitting in the restaurant
‘Fiorellos’ across from Lincoln Center, wondering how to
improve my luck. I was sitting at one of twelve tables set up on the
sidewalk, covered by twelve white and blue striped umbrellas, created by
the famous French designer, Jean Marie Cottarde.
Hurricane Alan was loitering nearby and the air was thick from the heat.
After my first double scotch, I contemplated moving inside, but after
the third one I dismissed the idea. At around eight, the glass walls of
the Metropolitan Opera darkened, and the flying creatures on Marc
Chagall’s frescoes stopped shining through them.
Meanwhile the crowd on Broadway thickened. Glittering couples, wrapped
in diamonds and pearls, rushed to the concert at the Metropolitan Opera
pushed along the way by half-naked black boys on rollerblades. Japanese
tourists hugged their cameras to their chests and slalomed around the
prostitutes and transvestites, who, as usual, spilled out from the Irish
bar on 61st street at seven o’clock sharp. A few feet away from
me, a grizzled man wearing an Armani suit, Brooks Brothers shoes, and a
Perry Ellis shirt was banging a phone booth with his fists and screaming
into the receiver, but the swarm of honking cars drowned out his voice.
I ordered another scotch and, to finish off the night early, I topped it
off with a Heineken. The grizzled man kicked the telephone booth for the
last time, threw a crumpled copy of the July edition of People Magazine
on a table next to me, and disappeared into the crowd. The face of John
Jefferson Caine looked at me unenthusiastically from its cover. The
entire magazine, just as every other one that week, was packed with
articles, gossip, and memories of J.J.C., his astonishing life and
For several years now, the greatest designer of our time, known as the
Leonardo Da Vinci of our century, had withdrawn somewhat from the rest
of the world. In the Texas desert he had built an enormous castle, put
together fi sometimes bigger, some- times smaller pieces of famous
buildings and monuments of architecture.
J.J.C moved in there only with his mother, his wife Sonia, several
thousand servants, and a division of bodyguards.
And so, last Thursday, the entire world held its breath. Instead of the
NY Knicks, LA Lakers game and ‘60 Minutes’ on the Russian
mafia, every television station broadcast the sudden and unexpected
death of a genius. The great designer was lying in his six-meter long
canopy bed, which he had designed personally in June 2005, dressed for
the occasion in his legendary Byzantine golden pajamas. Above his face,
which had been prepared by the master of make-up, Salvador Bellini, who
had been immediately flown in from Rome, hung hundreds of cameras and a
forest of microphones.
Two billion people on five continents awaited the final words of a
genius. Amid the intense silence, all that could be heard were the sobs
of Steven Harrison, his long time chief bodyguard, who watched
helplessly as J.J.C. tried six times with his trembling hand to bring a
forkful of his favorite dish - Hungarian gulash - to his lips. At the
sixth attempt, the hand of the great old man dropped and the round ball
of red meat tumbled across the snowy white carpet, which was
Caine’s invention and was a combination of pure silk, Afghani
wool, and Moroccan cashmere. After that, his weakening lips whispered
something that some understood as ‘fuck’ and others as
‘God bless America’, and the greatest genius of our time
closed his eyes forever.
After the funeral ceremonies, which continued for several days, the
cremating of the great man’s body and the scattering of his ashes
- in accordance with his will - across the Texan desert, a series of
unexplained catastrophes occurred. Caine’s jet airliners, in which
the mourners were leaving the castle, exploded one after another. The
perpetrators were never found. At first Islamic fundamentalists were
suspected, but no groups admitted to the attacks. Colonel Gaddafi,
deeply offended by the accusations, reminded reporters that all of his
evening attire, just like Saddam Hussein’s uniform and
Milosevic’s blue suit, had been designed by J.J.C.
Several thousand people died in the catastrophes. Among them were two
supermodels, whose deaths - directly preceding the autumn shows - were
mourned by millions of ordinary people around the world.
In the meantime, the street lamps on Broadway lit up, followed by the
lights in Lincoln Center, and Chagall’s winged creatures once
again whirled in the air.
I thought about the passing of glory, but only for a second. Because a
man who sat down at the table to my right began, pretty insolently, to
bore into me with his puffy blue eyes. He looked about thirty. His legs
were short, his torso long, his neck red, his nose was snub, his hair
ashy and brushed up in a wave, his cheeks also red and slightly sagging.
At first glance he looked familiar, but something about him didn’t
fit. His enormous red paws stuck out from the sleeves of his elegant
jacket, and a diamond ring which shone just like the real thing was
shoved on one short, hairy finger. A second later, a black-haired waiter
wearing an earring hustled around me, and with one, smooth movement,
unfolded a little table, and placed a mini bucket with a linen napkin
and packed with ice and an oversized bottle of Chopin Vodka on it. My
neighbor leaned right behind it and over the table.
- Judging by your face, I’d say you were a fellow Slav - he
I nodded and he moaned with relief and dropped into the chair next to
- My name is Kuba, - he said. And he squeezed my hand much too hard. We
sat in silence for a while, and then he jabbed the cover of the magazine
with his finger.
- Have you heard of Caine’s lottery by any chance?
The question was absurd. For the last few months, every television
station had been occupied with this lottery and nothing else. The whole
world knew about it.
Translated by Zuza Glowacka
The artistic prototype of Janusz Glowacki’s latest novel, The
Last Super, is the film Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. Glowacki’s
protagonist is John Jefferson Caine, whose name is pronounced like the
name of Welles’s hero. Just as in Welles, Caine is a media mogul.
The action of Glowacki’s book is set almost a century later, so
Caine can manipulate public opinion in a far more refined manner by
staging events which his TV channels then broadcast.
Caine amassed an enormous fortune as a fashion designer; he became the
most famous creator of cultural symbols and images. But his greatest
success was the creation of a new design of men’s pants.
Welles’s reporter is replaced by Kuba, the last super, a Pole from
Green-point. He is a classic Glowacki character, and he guides the
reader through Caine’s mad world. Citizen Kane, framed by the
death of its hero, is the story of one life. The beginning of The Last
Super is similar but its ending is different. The night at a Broadway
restaurant, where the author listens to Kuba’s story, changes into
a natural disaster. We never know if this is a hurricane, an earthquake,
the apocalypse or just the end of the western civilization.
Glowacki’s cruel symbolism shows Caine’s pants to be the
dream of the masses. Buying them may bring luck: in each package there
is a lottery ticket. The main prize is the right to permanent residency
in America and the two-hundred-thousand-dollar job of a janitor in
Caine’s castle. Fate grants this consumerist luck to Kuba.
It would be wrong, however, to reduce The Last Super to a set of bitter
attacks against the vulgarity of omnipresent commercialisation, as the
book shows how money has taken possession of man’s spirituality in
the modern world, a region where art and culture had resided until now.
It talks about the insatiable caste, ever desirous of fame and riches,
created by the ubiquitous mass media, about the products of that caste,
the consumption of which requires no effort, about new mechanisms
forming patterns of human behavior and images accessible to everybody
and available in every drugstore or supermarket.
Translated by Wladyslaw Witalisz