Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston (Archipelago; $20). At one point in this sweeping novel of twentieth-century Poland, Szymek Pietruszka lies in a presbytery attic, recovering from three German gunshots: “The doctor just shook his head like he couldn’t believe I was still alive, while the priest kept checking to see if it wasn’t time for last rites. It made me so mad that in the end I started making nice with the priest’s housekeeper.” Pietruszka sustains this irreverent defiance across a life of unbelievable hardship and uncountable women. Born into a peasant family, he rejects farming to join the local resistance during the war, then works as a functionary in the newly established Communist government, only to return, eventually, to the family farm. Pietruszka, with winning candor, narrates his life story in a stream of meandering and sometimes overlapping anecdotes that chronicle the modernization of rural Poland and celebrate the persistence of desire.