11

This answer is coming from my experience of living and working in the northern NJ/NY area for almost 20 years... To me the only area where you would have both "broken down piers" and be "across the river" from Manhattan would be Brooklyn. Brooklyn is where many of the historic "piers" are. These days they are parks and ...


7

Ludwik lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. See the first few pages, "Wanda's Greenpoint Convenience".


5

The 'us' in the boldfaced text refers to the narrator and the person who they are thinking about at the time (referred to as 'you' in the previous sentence "I couldn’t see you on the crowded dance floor." It is unclear to me from the quoted passage exactly who that person is). The narrator wishes that they could dance with that person just like the ...


3

Comparing anonymity with being "like an unwritten piece of paper" strikes me as unusual but it can be explained. An unwritten piece of paper has no names or other words on it and therefore cannot be identified is being part of a specific text or as belonging to a specific person, unlike the "papers" (official documents or an identity card)...


3

Yes, it's WW II that the man is talking about. In the 1980s, that's the most likely war for an old Polish man to have been in. How he was in the war is straightforward: it simply means that he was in the war. See how, conjunction, definition 1b at Merriam-Webster: "THAT".


3

Janusz is arguing that they should treat their homosexuality as a private thing. He says that if they come out of the closet, then they will attract the attention of the police, who will try to entrap them. Even if homosexuality is not per se illegal, homosexuals can be prosecuted, and persecuted, in one way or another. For example, in Foucault's case, he ...


3

Generally, the meaning "motorcycle" for "bike" depends on prior context. If I know that you own a motorcycle, then when you say "I rode my bike to the lake yesterday", then it's clear that you mean your motorcycle. But typically, if someone says "I rode my bike to the lake yesterday", the default assumption is that it'...


3

A convent is a religious community whose members live by certain rules and vows. The word also refers to The buildings and pertaining surroundings in which such a community lives. Hence, "their" in "their cloister" refers back to the nuns. However, "its" in "its orchards and grazing cows" grammatically refers back to ...


3

The word offices could be used in one of two ways here. First, it's entirely possible that the building where Ludwik is hiding is a mixed-use space that has both business offices and residential apartments. For example, some buildings have offices on the lower floors and apartments on the upper floors. The police, searching the entire building, would search ...


3

To "fit in" and hide that he is a Jew While I haven't read the book and I don't know the exact circumstances, the OP in his own answer was right that since the late 1950s there was a steady grow of anti-Semitism in Poland, which indeed has culminated in the forced emigration of Polish citizens with Jewish roots after the events in the March of 1968....


2

If the sentence was about crescent shapes like the moon, it would have said something like "moon-shaped" instead. If it was about a place on which moonlight shone, it would have said "moonlit" instead. In this context, "lunar" doesn't mean anything about the moon as we see it from earth - it describes something similar to the ...


2

Beniek is on the cusp of puberty, although if he's only nine he seems to be growing rather faster than the other boys his age. Since he hasn't quite entered puberty, his body has not exhibited all the signs yet. For example, his Adam's apple isn't developed yet. However, his body is beginning to change, so Ludwik can see that his throat is showing signs that ...


2

That band of kids refers to all the children who did the things Ludwik is remembering: playing catch, running about, throwing water on the girls on Dyngus Day, throwing pebbles at milk bottles. Within that band of kids, some are more bold than others. Beniek is one of the bolder ones. That is, he would probably try things with less fear than most of the ...


2

The term "the continent" does not need to be capitalised in order to refer to a specific continent. I've rarely seen Europe referred to as "the Continent" with a capital C, except in contexts where the main part of Europe is being distinguished from other parts (e.g. "Britain and the Continent"), and not always then. The word &...


2

From a strictly lexical perspective, it would have been more appropriate to use a term like "period," but "expanse" sounds more literary and its use may be based on the conception of time as place. I understand "the expanse between departure and arrival when you’re seemingly nowhere, defined by another kind of time" to mean a ...


2

The word "destined" needs to be interpreted, as @user14111 rightly stated in the comment above, as complementized by the infinitival "to never do anything worth recounting." The phrase in question shows that the character regarded the people around as mediocre, as incapable of standing out by living a free life.


2

The boys have been on a First Communion trip. It isn't clear what they were given to eat during this trip, but they don't consider it real food. So presumably they were not given meals of the kind they would usually eat at home. Perhaps they ate food out of cans, or just bread and cheese, or snacks all the time. Now that they are going home, they are looking ...


2

'The boys' don't consider the food they get to eat in USA as real food. Of course, they don't mean this in the literal sense. It's just that they consider the food they used to eat in Poland as being real. Does it mean perhaps nutritious food that parents made at home...? Maybe. Maybe not. The food they used to eat back in Poland may or may not be ...


2

You are absolutely correct. The memories of the night in question returned to the narrator with an increased intensity than when the night (and all the things that happened at the time) had actually happened.


2

Ludwik's cock welcomes "the touch of unknown fingers" and "the touch of summer air". His cock feels another person's fingers on it for the first time, so those are unknown fingers, as it has not known this sensation before. The fact that the old man is a stranger is another sense in which the fingers are unknown—they belong to someone who ...


2

Yes, Karolina means that the women selling condoms do not like it when people use those prophylactics. This is probably because Poland was, and to a large extent still is, a conservative country. Religious observance in Poland is very high compared to the rest of Europe. Over 92% of Poles are Roman Catholic, and about 80% of them still go to Confession at ...


2

In schools and many other educational institutions, pupils or students are usually grouped based on age. The UK uses the term form; the USA uses the term "grade". So "a guy from the year below" would be someone who began the same type of education one year later than the story's narrator and would typically be one year younger (unless the ...


2

Yes, your interpretation is right. A junction (see meaning 2b) in this context means: 2 a a place or point of meeting b an intersection of roads especially where one terminates While "country" here is used as an adjective related to meaning 4 of the noun, in the same way as in the phrase "country avenues" in the preceding paragraph: (n....


2

The two young men have been attracted to each other for some time and are now getting more intimate with each other. I think the bolded sentence describes the feeling of not getting quite "close" enough. A few sentences later, the narrator describes how he "merged" with the flames of the Easer bonfires. Now with his lover, he wants to ...


2

The first meaning of the verb tuck in (Wiktionary) is To pull the blankets or duvet up over (someone in bed); to put (someone) to bed. This is obviously not the intended meaning in the novel, but in the context of architecture, "tucked in" can be used to suggest that something is below something else. For example, the article Cool cottages in the ...


2

From a grammatical point of view, I think it is the position of "throughout my life" that calls for the use of the past perfect, the meaning being that, now that he had been entrusted with a special mission, he recalled the futility of his past achievements. If the realization had taken place at that moment, then the author would have said: It ...


2

Yes, all the instances of pact mean the same thing: a formal agreement that has the force of a promise. If I tell myself that I will eat salad for lunch every day so that at the end of the week I can indulge in a pint of ice-cream without any guilt, then that's a pact I've made with myself. If I tell you that I'll answer the questions you post on here to the ...


2

To check on somebody means to make sure that someone is safe. In this context, it may just mean to make sure that the person in question is feeling fine. At least, that would be the expected literal meaning. However, Maksio might be using the expression as a polite excuse to get away from the two guests to join someone whose company they enjoy more.


2

Since both the gates and the lines of soldiers are security measures, they both protect the Soviet embassy. The syntax of the sentence shows that too. If it were only the soldiers that protected the embassy, "the gigantic gates" would not fit into the sentence. The gigantic gates of what? The sentence would need to be rewritten as follows: We ...


2

"I'd lost you" is past perfect, meaning "I had lost you". The tense "past" refers to events that have happened. The "perfect" aspect refers to events that have a result at heart. Thus this means, that the lyrical I has lost someone and is focussing on the effects of having lost somebody. This happened in the past and ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible