I would like to know what "ungenerously, wishing I could help her" means in the following sentences:

‘I don’t mean to pry.’ She shifted, visibly uncomfortable, vulnerable even, but not nearly as much as me. ‘Tell me honestly – does Janusz have another girl?’

A part of me wanted to laugh out loud, hysterically, until my throat, vocal cords and stomach muscles hurt. The other part didn’t, was just plain exhausted. I kept my face neutral, shook my head truthfully.

‘No. You don’t need to worry about that.’

‘Really?’ Her face changed, lightened. ‘It’s just … he’s so distant sometimes. And I don’t understand why he’s not really responding to me. You see what I mean …?’ Her eyes asked for reassurance.

I looked at my fingers, and nodded.

‘Does he ever mention me?’ she probed.

‘Yes,’ I said, ungenerously, wishing I could help her. ‘Yes, he does.’

She seemed hopeful, but unconvinced, her widened eyes revealing her need for more.

‘Does he like me? Has he said anything to you?’

I swallowed. Vertigo, this time lucid, took hold of me.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, aware that it was the truth. ‘He hasn’t told me. You’ll have to ask him.’

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where, one day, he went to the country house of his rich friend named Hania. After everyone went to sleep, only Ludwik and Hania left in the living room and talked. Hania was in love with Janusz, who was Ludwik's lover, and decided to ask something personal to Ludwik, which was about whether Janusz had another girl. She was curious why Janusz was not sincerely responding to her love.

In this boldfaced part, I could not understand what was "ungenerous" here.

Was he feeling that his short answer ("Yes") was ungenerous (he should have said more to relieve her anxiety) although he wished he could help her?

Or, is it that, although he wanted he could help her, his answer came out only in an ungenerous manner, because he was Janusz's lover?

1 Answer 1


I think your second idea was more or less what the author intended. "Yes" was ungenerous, because it was true, but highly misleading. Janusz has indeed mentioned her a lot, but not in the way she wishes. She doesn't have to worry about Janusz having another girl, but he does have another lover, Ludwik, the narrator. Ludwik wants to help her, but he can't, partly because he can't give her what she wants, Janusz 's exclusive love, and partly because he does not dare expose his own relationship with Janusz to her.

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