ICE: 1000-page Polish Science Fiction Masterpiece to HoZ


ICE: 1000-page Polish Science Fiction Masterpiece to HoZ

Head of Zeus have acquired World English rights to Polish author Jacek Dukaj’s prize-winning novel ICE (Lód) in a deal done with Magdalena Debowska ( at the London Book Fair. 

Jacek Dukaj (b. 1974) is one of Poland's most important contemporary novelists. He read his first Stanisław Lem novel at the age of six, published his first short story at the age of 14 and has gone on to publish six novels, five novellas and three short story collections. He is a six-time winner of the Janusz A. Zajdel Award, a four-time winner of the Jerzy Zulawski Award and a winner of a European Literary Award and a Kościelski Award. A short animated movie by Tomasz Bagiński based on this short story Katedra (The Cathedral) was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003. Dukaj lives in Cracow.

ICE (Lód, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2007) is Dukaj's most ambitious novel, conjuring an alternate 20th Century, where Russia and half of Europe are locked in an eternal winter, where the laws of physics and even logic work differently.

ICE opens in 1924, on 14th July, in a Warsaw buried under feet of snow and under Russian rule. Benedict, a dissolute young Polish mathematician is roused from his bed by two officials from the Ministry of Winter and promptly dispatched to Siberia in search of his long-exiled father. Boarding the Trans-Siberian Express, ICE embarks on an extraordinary 1,000 page journey through a frozen realm, through political, criminal, scientific, philosophical and amorous intrigues to finally stand face to face with something utterly alien…

Dukaj’s catalyst for this frosty metamorphosis of 20th Century history is the impact of the Tunguska meteoroid, deep in Siberia, in 1908. ICE’s meteor is composed from a strange new form of matter that reveals a hitherto hidden relation between the laws of thermodynamics and logic. This connection has a physical manifestation – coallessing as quantum apparitions known as ‘frosten’. Otherworldly, unknowable, mute – these ‘angels’ of ice and frost stalk the land bringing endless winter wherever they venture. As they move through Russia, agriculture collapses and people flock to cities seeking protection from the deadly cold. But in their glacial wake the frosten also leave incredible wealth, their ‘black physics’ transmuting elements into strange new forms allowing new technologies, industries and economies to prosper.

This has drastically altered the global balance of power – the Tsar still rules Russia, the Belle Époque endures, and the First World War never happened. At the heart of it all lies Siberia – the ‘Wild East’ – a magnet for all the political, religious and scientific fevers shaking the world at the dawn of 20th century. It is the crucible where black physics and the cold logic of winter will forge a new history.

So why has Benedict been dispatched by the Ministry of Winter to deepest Siberia to make contact with his exiled father? Because, the Ministry believes, Benedict’s exiled father has managed, somehow, to communicate with the frosten…

Jacek Dukaj said ‘Translating into English a novel so dependent on the cultural and historical context and the peculiarities of Polish and Russian language will be an unique challenge. I’m curious myself what kind of book readers will discover in a result of this transfiguration’.

Magdalena Debowska said: I am thrilled that Head of Zeus will publish Jacek's ground-breaking novel. I am confident that this is the best house for ICE as well as for Jacek's other books. Nicolas's commitment to this project is a guarantee that one of the biggest names in Polish contemporary fiction will gain international acclaim.’

Nicolas Cheetham, Publisher at Head of Zeus said ‘I’ve wanted to publish this book for the best part of a decade. Its one of the great works of Polish SF, notorious for its thousand-page linguistic, scientific and philosophical exuberance. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to add it to Head of Zeus’s growing list of world-class, international science fiction. This is intoxicating, visionary stuff, shelve it alongside Thomas Pynchon, China Miéville, Liu Cixin and Neal Stephenson.’