Fado by the Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk reads like a urban shepherd traversing the land around him not for answers to questions he has, but he goes out in search of questions themselves. He wanders and wonders, observing the pastiche of histories within the newly defined borders of Eastern Europe. There is a chapter entitled, Bulatovic, about the Balkan writer Miodrag Bulatovic who deeply influenced him. It leads him to some interesting musings on solitude: Oh, this Central European solitude!
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Julian Evans From the Reviews: "Stets auf dem schmalen Grat zwischen nostalgischem Kitsch und schlichtem Kulturpessimismus wandelnd, lehnt der Autor ab, was mit Medien, Beschleunigung und Vernetzung zu tun hat. Seine Reiseskizzen leben von ihren starken Bildern. Stasiuk is a stylist with a pleasing sarcasm to his introspection. Forget about foreigners speaking of foreign lands, Fado made me wish that in Britain we had an author who could write so acutely about our own ancient landscape and its peoples.
Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole.
We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure. The short pieces collected in this volume focus on the more or less lost corners of Central and Eastern Europe -- such as the Carpathians, where he has lived for some two decades --, where much is still tired, old, and decaying.
The future is a big vacuum. It contains nothing, and can excite only science fiction fans, Marxists, capitalists, or aging spinsters. Typically: For some time Yugoslavia captivated my imagination almost as powerfully as America. But America was too far away, too unreal, and had been thoroughly exploited from the point of view of the imagination. What can be thought about New York or California, when these places have been touched by every conceivable idea?
Can you imagine somewhere that everyone has already traveled to in their dreams? Hardly anyone, on the other hand -- I reasoned -- had traveled to Yugoslavia. At least in their dreams. He visits and reports on places like cemeteries, or: I dream of crumbling watchtowers amid bleak scenery, and cyclists wheeling their rusty bikes across a hilly country between towns whose names can be pronounced in at least three different languages; I dream of horse-drawn carts, and of people, and food, and hybrid landscapes and all the rest.
He sees the poverty, too, but to him it is not miserable, or at least far from only miserable: The extreme poverty there was turning into something like a metaphor. Nothing is self-evident here, and anything can turn out to be something else. This country, so proud of its past, continues to pretend. Stasiuk revels in these peculiar fairytale-land places that still pretend, and he captures them well in his short, quick pieces.
The collection as a whole is a fairly loose one, jumping from one place to the next. It also includes reflections about his daughter growing up, and glimpses of the Communist past he lived through -- his time in jail, or the visit of Pope John Paul II to Poland in , for example. A tighter focus might have been preferable, but none of the pieces feel terribly out of place.
Very approachable and often insightful, Stasiuk offers a surprisingly cheery glimpse of parts of Europe that are rarely heard about in Fado.
An enjoyable little collection. Orthofer, 24 November
After being dismissed from secondary school, Stasiuk dropped out of a vocational school too and drifted aimlessly, becoming active in the Polish pacifist movement and spending one and a half years in prison for deserting the army - in a tank, as legend has it. His experiences in prison provided him with the material for the stories in his literary debut of Entitled Mury Hebronu "The Walls of Hebron" , it instantly established him as a premier literary talent. In , long before his literary breakthrough, Stasiuk left his native Warsaw and withdrew to the small hamlet of Czarne in the Beskids , a secluded part of the Carpathian mountain range in the south of Poland. Besides writing, he spends his time breeding sheep. Together with his wife, he also runs his own tiny but now prestigious publishing business Wydawnictwo Czarne, named for its location.