I would like to know what "a prophecy I was unable to read" means in the following sentences:

When Belka had finished, we grabbed our bags from the bus and were assigned to the different wooden huts scattered around the camp grounds. I was in one with three other guys, Wojtek, Darek and Filip. They were nice boys, strangely immature and innocent. We shared two bunk beds, a table and two chairs. We went to have dinner in the canteen, served by an army of women in aprons and deflated paper bonnets, standing behind the counter as if someone had left them there many years earlier. A large lady with an immobile face served the tomato soup with rice, while an ageless-looking girl with reddish skin piled on beetroot mash and potatoes. I sat with Karolina and the boys from my hut. They spoke easily, joking and jesting. But I wasn’t really there. I looked around the canteen, across the long tables and through the tangled voices and ringing cutlery, until I spotted you: sitting at a table at the other end of the room, deep in conversation with a girl, your head turned towards her. In the stark white light of the canteen your black hair glistened, and there was something strangely focused about you, something light yet unyielding in your eyes that stirred both envy and desire in me. It was as if your presence already overpowered me, like a prophecy I was unable to read.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he went to the agricultural camp (which was mandatory for college graduation). At the camp, he met Janusz, who would soon become his lover, and felt strong pull towards him like "a prophecy I was unable to read."

In this part, I wonder why the narrator mentioned "prophecy." As far as I understand, a prophecy is a speaking of a priest/priestess like Cassandra in Greek mythology, but I cannot understand why the narrator chose "prophecy" to describe the pull towards Janusz. Perhaps, although a prophesy could not be read (understood), it often lingers in one's mind and dominates the mind, so would the "prophesy" here imply the mysterious domination of Janusz...? (This is my wild guess.)

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

1 Answer 1


I think that "a prophecy I was unable to read" is somehow similar to "a riddle I could not guess."

The phrase involves the excitement of something unknown that is waiting to be discovered, and that is precisely what aroused the character's attention.

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