Where art bleeds into life

The Times’ Roger Boyes reports on what looks to be Poland’s “trial of the century” and I have to say, this is mighty weird:

An author leafing through a newspaper comes across tantalising details of a

murder so grisly that he becomes obsessed, and imagines the events into a

novel. Or a murderer, so self-satisfied with the brilliance of his perfect

crime, pens an account to pass off as fiction and enshrine it in literary


Where reality ends and fiction begins in the stomach-turning novel Amok is the

central task before the jury in Poland’s trial of the decade. Four years

after he published his bloody bestseller, Krystian Bala has found himself on

trial for the same torture and murder that he detailed in his novel.

Amok, Mr Bala claims, was inspired by news reports of the murder of a Polish

businessman, whose mutilated body was fished out of the Oder river in the

town of Wroclaw, close to the German border in southwest Poland, in December

  1. Police identified the dead man as Dariusz J, the owner of a small

advertising agency. His death had been a grim one. His body bore the marks

of torture, his limbs were distended. His hands were bound and tied to a

noose around his neck.

Five years later, police received an anonymous call. They were told to take a

look at the book Amok, published in 2003, three years after the killing.

Chief Inspector Jacek Wroblewski was shocked by what he found in the pages.

The book contained intimate details of the murder that could be known only

to police — or the killer. Further investigations revealed that the victim

was an acquaintance of Mr Bala’s estranged wife.

Mr Bala was arrested and, according to him, hooded, beaten and insulted during

a day of interrogation. “They seemed to know the book by heart,” he told

outraged supporters later. “They quoted pieces from it that they found

offensive and asked me about even the smallest detail. The police were

treating the book as if it was a literal autobiography rather than a piece

of fiction.”

Not surprisingly, there are those attesting to Bala’s innocence, and I suspect controversy may rage about this for some time.