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eBook On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europe ePub

eBook On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europe ePub

by Michael Kandel,Andrzej Stasiuk

  • ISBN: 0151012717
  • Category: Politics and Government
  • Subcategory: Politics
  • Author: Michael Kandel,Andrzej Stasiuk
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First edition (June 16, 2011)
  • Pages: 272
  • ePub book: 1947 kb
  • Fb2 book: 1689 kb
  • Other: mbr lit doc azw
  • Rating: 4.9
  • Votes: 940

Description

This book describes Andrzej Stasiuk's travels to places like Sighetu Marmaţiei, Tarnobrzeg, Chop . Andrzej Stasiuk is a highly-regarded Polish writer, much of whose work falls between genres.

This book describes Andrzej Stasiuk's travels to places like Sighetu Marmaţiei, Tarnobrzeg, Chop, Hidasnémeti, Comrat and Prekmurje. These are all in Central/Eastern Europe but, as with a great many more locations, the reader is unlikely to have ever come across them. On the Road to Babadag', published in Polish in 2004, might be described as literary travel writing, or -of-itinerary.

Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveller. And so his journey continues all the way to Babadag, near the shore of the Black Sea, where he sees his first minaret. His journeys - by car, train, bus, ferry - take him from his native Poland to small towns and villages with unfamiliar yet evocative names in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine.

Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveler. Travelling for Stasiuk is not caused by the typical wanderlust. It’s more of a strong urge to be in the ‘here and now’

Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveler. His journeys take him from his native Poland to Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova, and Ukraine. By car, train, bus, ferry. To small towns and villages with unfamiliar-sounding yet strangely evocative names. The heart of my Europe, Stasiuk tells us, beats in Sokolow, Podlaski, and in Husi, not Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveler. It’s more of a strong urge to be in the ‘here and now’.

The burgundy passports of Europe have spread across the region since this book first appeared in 2004. Time is on the march after all, and now English readers can enjoy the rewards of Stasiuk's entrancing attempt to stand in the way of progress. It's an exceptional writer who can rise to such an impossible challenge. Marek Kohn's most recent book is 'Turned Out Nice' (Faber & Faber). Poland Romania Rome Slovakia. By car, train, bus, and ferry, he goes from his native Poland to Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova, and Ukraine-to small towns and villages with strangely evocative names. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade. com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

The other side - completely dead, still, as if after a great fire. One summer I was on the road seventy-two hours nonstop. I spoke with truck drivers

The other side - completely dead, still, as if after a great fire. Only the river had something human about it - decay, fish slime - but I was sure that over there the smell would be stopped. In any case I turned, and that same evening I headed back, east. I spoke with truck drivers. As they drove, their words flowed in ponderous monologue from a vast place - the result of fatigue and lack of sleep.

О себе: Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveler.

Stasiuk's book is his recollections of old journeys through Poland and . Translated by Michael Kandel.

The book is a mysterious, wonderful journey through the other Europe. Stasiuk is not interested in museums or quaint villages and admits he is "drawn to decline and decay". Stasiuk's book is his recollections of old journeys through Poland and Eastern European countries. Andrzej Stasiuk writes beautifully, powerfully and vividly. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. The heart of my Europe, Stasiuk tells us, beats in Sokolow, Podlaski, and in Husi, not in Vienna. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveler. His journeys take him from his native Poland to Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova, and Ukraine. By car, train, bus, ferry. To small towns and villages with unfamiliar-sounding yet strangely evocative names. “The heart of my Europe,” Stasiuk tells us, “beats in Sokolow, Podlaski, and in Husi, not in Vienna.”  Where did Moldova end and Transylvania begin, he wonders as he is being driven at breakneck speed in an ancient Audi—loose wires hanging from the dashboard—by a driver in shorts and bare feet, a cross swinging on his chest. In Comrat, a funeral procession moves slowly down the main street, the open coffin on a pickup truck, an old woman dressed in black brushing away the flies above the face of the deceased. On to Soroca, a baroque-Byzantine-Tatar-Turkish encampment, to meet Gypsies. And all the way to Babadag, between the Baltic Coast and the Black Sea, where Stasiuk sees his first minaret, “simple and severe, a pencil pointed at the sky.”  A brilliant tour of Europe’s dark underside—travel writing at its very best.

Comments

Tholmeena Tholmeena
First, before all else, I must say that for anyone who has an interest in or has traveled through central and eastern Europe, this is a wonderful book, an unconventional kind of travel writing informed by personal obsessions and downright manias (I sympathize with both this kind of travel and its re-creation through writing, be it fiction or in essayistic form). Readers who might enjoy Stasiuk's three volumes of travel essays that have been translated into English will be equally impressed by his novels from the 1990s and early 2000s ("White Raven", "Nine", and "Tales of Galicia"). To situate Stasiuk's travel essays (this is a terminological convenience, because they are much more than that, including nature-writing, philosophical rumination, and a parable or two) in time, readers should be aware that their English translations came in reverse order of their publication dates in Poland - in Polish "Dukla" was published in 1999, "Jadac do Babadag" in 2004, and "FADO" in 2006. All three refer to an extraordinary number of brief trips taken over the course of a decade or so - I think of them as "raids" into the Carpathian mountains and basin, the Balkans, and obscure recesses of his native land and adjoining countries.

In "Babadag" Stasiuk as reporter is on the road in Jack Kerouac style (a comparison he made explicitly in FADO), and, compared to his other two travel works, his pace is unrelenting and the changes of scene constant. At the outset of Babadag he has a detailed map in hand, the "Slovak 200", a reference to its scale. It's large, floppy, and suffers from the normal effects of age - wear at the creases, occasional holes, and the gradual fading of both the grid and individual places marked upon it. In Stasiuk's mind the worn-out map is metaphorical of humanity's progress and eventual destiny: we came, we saw, we settled or conquered, then we were vanquished by our own conquests, and soon we will be extinguished by vast, impersonal forces and processes that we will never be able to control, sharing the eventual fate of all forms of life on this earth -- extinction.

Stasiuk has been neither impressed nor fooled by the waves of political enthusiasm and propaganda that during the last 200 years have swept over the regions he loves while they also perplex him - for him politics is mere foam riding on the outer edge of much deeper existential waves. In an area that has been called, for purely chauvinistic and political reasons, either southeastern Poland or western Ukraine since 1918, Stasiuk chooses to use "Galicia", which allegedly vanished from both geography and history as a self-contained unit with the dissolution of the Dual Monarchy at the end of World War I. "Galician stories" have a long, multilingual history: tales in Polish by Wyspiañski and the two Brunos, Schulz and Jasieñski; in Ukrainian by I. Franko; in Yiddish by I. B. Singer; in Russian by Babel; in Hebrew by S. Y. Agnon; and in German by E. K. Franzos, Joseph Roth, and, of all unlikely people, the young Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a German who styled himself as a philosemitic Galician Ruthenian, quite an oxymoronic yoking of identities, to which his later role as advocate of sexual fetishism was hitched. All of their tales are pervaded by the temporary verities and permanent conflicts of the Habsburg era, but Stasiuk's stories from the region (both in his essays and his novels, "White Raven" and Tales of Galicia) reflect the late life and afterlife of the more recent Polish dormition under communism.

His travels are haphazard, improvised on the whim of a moment, and often punctuated by comical exchanges, but never by melodramatic or high-cultural epiphanies. As a writer he undertakes his trips without the prop of an overarching narrative or unifying meaning, unless it's the permanence of loss and erosion. He's reporting on places, people, and things usually beneath the notice of travel essayists. To Stasiuk these vignettes of the commonplace are mementi mori of things not valued highly by civilization but things that create some kind of deep personal resonance in his mind. Still, even the fanciers of high culture should beware, because their beloved institutions and artifacts will also eventually be overturned by cosmic forces that create us and will some day digest us like a meal - space and time consume themselves, and humans and their creations are their transitory fodder. His frequent observations of crumbling stone or timber homes that are literally sinking into the ground, pressed down by immense skies and soon to be part of the natural landscape, illustrate the trend of these forces.

Stasiuk is attracted to historical figures steeped in violence and its unintended, self-destructive consequences. Thus in "Babadag" we read his musings on men (and in "Dukla", on women) who were involved in bloody events or who met brutally violent ends: Skanderbeg, Georghe Doja, Corneliu Codreanu, the Ceaucescus, and that hobgoblin or harbinger of the Polish historical and literary imagination, Jakub Szela. If the reader is unfamiliar with these men and their roles in history, the side-exploration of their lives and deeds is worth undertaking - each one is a token of adventure or hope that ends badly.

The main difference between Babadag and Stasiuk's other collection of travel reports is his open engagement with the question, "Why am I doing this?" His mania is examined through introspection about the effect an old photograph has had upon him (the photo is included in the book). Sometime in the 1920s the Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz took a shot of a blind fiddler crossing the dusty road of a small town in Hungary, accompanied or led by a young boy, possibly his son. This photograph grips Stasiuk's soul and suggests to him not only a lost world but one in which the damaged and the powerless persist from day to day because such persistence is the be-all of their existence; they are resigned to all kinds of limitations upon their lives, but keep up the daily struggle, finding pleasure and joy amid meager circumstances while occasionally erupting into displays of rage and hatred. Stasiuk has undertaken the mission of memorializing such transient souls and their habitations (it's akin to his admiration to the valiant commemoration of the dead by the living building bonfires in cemeteries on All-Soul's Eve, as described in "FADO").

Babadag itself is a small town somewhere toward the mouth of the Danube, which becomes a vast, complicated, marshy estuary where it flows into the Black Sea. The area is the literal sump of much of Europe, and its small towns, settlements, and isolated tumble-down homes are situated upon flat spits and unstable sandbars, little colonies of social comfort that float only a few meters above a prodigious natural force that can overwhelm and punish them at any moment. He admires how people hang on here and create little knots of unlikely conviviality in unlikely places, though as he travels further along the margins of Romania he is totally baffled by the existence of its two most recent bastard offspring, Moldova and Transnistira, places he describes as parodies of modern states.

The one exception to Staiuk's normal avoidance of cities and bourgeois ambiences is his trip to Ljubljana in Slovenia, whose prosperous appearance and friendly citizens surprise him no end, but soon enough he "gets even" with the idea of sedate souls living a comfortable and socially constructive life by crossing the border into Hungary, where he can always find the rogues, the damaged souls, and the eccentrics who delight him. But Hungary is Paradise compared to Albania, which he presents as the shunned and avoided nightmare of Europe: "Yes, everyone should come here. At least those who make use of the name Europe. It should be an initiation ceremony, because Albania is the unconscious of the continent. Yes, the European id, the fear that at night haunts slumbering Paris, London, and Frankfurt am Main. Albania is the dark well into which those who believe that everything has been settled once and for all should peer."

Along with the Gypsies whom he admires, Albania's totally entropic, bereft and avaricious society points the way in his mind to the condition which we will not be able to avoid, i.e., joining the "losers of Europe" because we will brought low by natural and social forces that we cannot rationally guide or control. It's a strong and idiosyncratic point of view, and, whether his readers can accept it or not, Stasiuk's writing clarifies the possibilities and lays out the likely consequences of our ineradicable human frailties. To his way of thinking these bleak prospects rest upon neither cynicism nor skepticism, but realism.

On a final note I should comment on the quality of the translation. I do this as a reader whose knowledge of the Polish language is very limited. "On the Road to Babadag" reads extremely well in English, as do all of the translations of Stasiuk's fiction and non-fiction. Michael Kandel has done a very good job, and I should add that both the "mind" and "voice" of Stasiuk in this translation are consistent with those inferred from (and experienced by the reader) the translations of his other two books of travel essays ("Dukla" and "FADO"), which were done by the equally talented Bill Johnston. This leads me to believe that little has been lost in bringing Stasiuk's writing over into English and that he has been well-served by those men and women who devote themselves to this labor of love -- their praises should be sung by readers who would otherwise remain blind and deaf to the quaility of Eastern and Central European literature.
Modifyn Modifyn
The idea of a book about the "other" Europe is very compelling. The book consists of what might call "travel vignettes" in no particular order. The author is traveling without an apparent plan; frequently, we don't even know exactly where we are. I was able to relate to some of the places only because I had visited them, otherwise, honestly, I am not sure if I would survive more than 50 pages.
The language is beautiful but it remains constantly the same throughout the book, which, by the end, when one expects at least a hint of a conclusion, becomes a source of a slight disappointment. The most serious issue is lack of clarity and the rather unsettling feeling that we are going in circles. He wants us to get tired. What we do get is a uniquely lyrical poetic style that has its own pace. The book is truly at its best when read aloud. It sounds very musical and one feels, hears and "smells" the scenery. The translation, by the way, is absolutely superb.
I am curious about other books by Stasiuk. I wonder if all his books are the same.
Wild Python Wild Python
Stasiuk's travels take you to places you may not necessarily want to book a room at, but he teaches you about their history and present in an unforgettable way. I had my Atlas open the whole time.
Mr.Twister Mr.Twister
Kind of weird to read a travelogue where the narrative is non-linear - or at least I think it was. I was frequently unsure where the narrator actually was on his itinerary - was it one long trip? Many? Who were his companions that he mentions every once in a great while? When I read travel writing I don't expect to have a detailed itinerary, but there was absolutely nothing here. I felt kind of lost with this book....no descriptions about where things are or what they are near to. Maybe this was on purpose, but the prose was not consistently compelling enough for me to set aside my confusion.

That said, there are moments of great clarity and insight in the book about traveling. His character sketches were frequently engaging. My guess is that this would be a great book if you have traveled in that area of the world or are planning to. Not sure I would buy another book by this author, but I sure as hell would love to travel with him.
Jogrnd Jogrnd
So...most travel books are about outer journeys. I went somewhere, here's who I met, here's what I saw, here's some stories that I heard. But some travel books are about inner journeys. I went somewhere - exactly where isn't that important - and here's what I thought, and here's how it made me feel.

This is a travel book about an inner journey. You won't learn that much about the "Other Europe." You will learn a lot about what the "Other Europe" makes Andrzej Stasiuk think about, and how it makes him feel. How much you enjoy this book will depend on how much you care about that. Personally, I cared about two stars' worth.

(Or perhaps you could think of the entire book as a conceptual piece - a book about an ignored part of Europe that essentially ignores that part of Europe to focus on the author. Alas, that book would also get two stars from me.)