Fado

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Overview

In this delightful collection of essays--by turns wry and reflective, wistful and witty--contemporary Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk turns his attention to the villages and small towns of Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Albania, and of course his native Poland. Stasiuk travels to places no tourist would think of visiting, and in his characteristically lyrical prose, lays out his own unique and challenging perspective on the fascinating, unknown heart of Central Europe. He reminds us of the area's extraordinarily rich ...

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Overview

In this delightful collection of essays--by turns wry and reflective, wistful and witty--contemporary Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk turns his attention to the villages and small towns of Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Albania, and of course his native Poland. Stasiuk travels to places no tourist would think of visiting, and in his characteristically lyrical prose, lays out his own unique and challenging perspective on the fascinating, unknown heart of Central Europe. He reminds us of the area's extraordinarily rich cultural and ethnic makeup, explores its literature, and shows how its history is inscribed permanently in its landscapes. Above all, he describes with fascination how past, present, and future co-exist and intertwine along the highways and back roads of the region.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“Readers find this author’s rough-and-ready tales of the Wild East so convincing that in the German-speaking countries he is now the best-known among contemporary Polish writers.”
The New York Times
Stasiuk is . . . an accomplished stylist with an eye for the telling detail that brings characters and situations to life. . . . I caught a flavor of Hamsun, Sartre, Genet and Kafka in Stasiuk’s scalpel-like but evocative writing.— Irvine Welsh
Booklist
“Starred Review. Stasiuk’s style of travel writing takes readers, in beautifully descriptive prose, to far and often remote corners of Eastern Europe. He is an alluring writer; the opening line of ‘Highway,’ the first essay in the collection—‘Best of all is night in a foreign country’—is a siren song guaranteeing the book will not be put down until the last page has been read.”
The Guardian Books Blog
[T]he book was so good it filled me with a strong desire to spend more time in the car parks of obscure provincial Polish towns. But it also filled me with an unexpected, new yearning.— Daniel Kalder
PopMatters
Stasiuk writes eloquently and with penetrating insight about the effect of the collapse of communism on the people of Central and Eastern Europe, particularly the young...— Carmelo Militano
Bookslut
[A] delicate, deeply-shadowed book of travels through the culturally blurred hinterlands of the former Eastern Bloc.— J.W. McCormack
Salonica World Lit
He gives us a true dispatch from Eastern Europe with the heart of a bohemian.— Monica Carter
New Statesman
[H]e writes a slow, meditative prose that allows him to perceive the ancient rhythms under this constant change.— Daniel Trilling
Cosmopolitan Review
Fado is a must read for all.— Agnieszka Macoch
Irvine Welsh - The New York Times
“Stasiuk is . . . an accomplished stylist with an eye for the telling detail that brings characters and situations to life. . . . I caught a flavor of Hamsun, Sartre, Genet and Kafka in Stasiuk’s scalpel-like but evocative writing.”
Daniel Kalder - The Guardian Books Blog
“[T]he book was so good it filled me with a strong desire to spend more time in the car parks of obscure provincial Polish towns. But it also filled me with an unexpected, new yearning.”
Carmelo Militano - PopMatters
“Stasiuk writes eloquently and with penetrating insight about the effect of the collapse of communism on the people of Central and Eastern Europe, particularly the young...”
J.W. McCormack - Bookslut
“[A] delicate, deeply-shadowed book of travels through the culturally blurred hinterlands of the former Eastern Bloc.”
Monica Carter - Salonica World Lit
“He gives us a true dispatch from Eastern Europe with the heart of a bohemian.”
Daniel Trilling - New Statesman
“[H]e writes a slow, meditative prose that allows him to perceive the ancient rhythms under this constant change.”
Agnieszka Macoch - Cosmopolitan Review
“Fado is a must read for all.”
Irvine Welsh
Stasiuk is . . . an accomplished stylist with an eye for the telling detail that brings characters and situations to life. . . . I caught a flavor of Hamsun, Sartre, Genet and Kafka in Stasiuk's scalpel-like but evocative writing.
The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564785596
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 9/8/2009
  • Series: Polish Literature Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrzej Stasiuk has received numerous awards for his work, including the Nike, Poland’s most prestigious literary prize, for his 2004 collection of essays Traveling to Babadag. His 1999 novel Nine was recently published in English to great critical acclaim. Stasiuk also runs a publishing house, specializing in Central and Eastern European prose.

Bill Johnston is the leading translator of Polish literature in the United States. His translation of Tadeusz Różewicz’s new poems won the 2008 Found in Translation Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Poetry Award.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Past and Present Collide

    My final impression, closing this book, was that Andrzej Stasiuk loves people. His essay collection, Fado, demonstrates this as he examines the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and the other regions that form Central Europe. In all, he writes with obvious affection for the human condition surviving in a complicated place and time. He quietly observes people and their activities: from children playing games, the routines of the working man, the women washing their steps, and the teenagers pining for escape to the West. This is not a travel journal, told by a curious visitor. Stasiuk resides there and his impressions are that much more knowledgeable and profound.

    It begins with a road trip, a car driving at night in the rain. It starts out as almost a romance with the land, and he reflects on the dark houses he passes, and how no matter what ethnic heritage a person has, they are all the same when asleep in their beds. A map is essential to reading this, as he goes to a variety of cities and recounts what he sees as well as historical details and anecdotal stories from each individual place.

    Much of his writing discusses the changes from Communism to newer political states, some still in their infancy (Slovakia). The past is complicated in Central Europe, and progress is equally difficult. Of Montenegro, he writes:

    "Everything that was, becomes rejected in the name of a modernity that assumes the nature of a fiction, an illusion, a devilish apparition. To a greater or lesser extent this applies to all postcommunist countries. But it's only in Montenegro that it can all be observed within the space of ten miles."

    This battle between old traditions and new identities is a continual subject, but it remains fascinating because each town he visits handles the conflict differently. He talks about the emptiness that is felt in places, where modernization has left many without a purpose. Yet he uses almost poetic words to describe these impressions:

    Of Pogradec, "Pool has taken over the town. That noble game, combining geometrical abstraction with kinetics, allows a person to forget the everyday. The men circled the tables like they were hypnotized. They moved back, moved forward, judged distances, stepped on tiptoe and held their breath as if afraid that the moving spheres would change direction and the cosmic harmony of the game would be disturbed." It's not difficult to see the underlying correlation with the region in finding their place in history after the divisions of Russia and Yugoslavia.

    In Levoka, he observes the local police, who group together in anticipation of a rebellion by Gypsy residents. The violence never occurs, but the image of the bored policemen, playing with their police dog and throwing snowballs, reveals a truism of the place: "Brute force, tedium, and play were combined in perfect proportions, but instinct told you that any one of these three elements could take over at any moment, and for no particular reason."

    In another essay he writes about the changing of the face of paper currency throughout Russia and the Slavic states. In earlier years, the images featured working men and women in simple settings. The implied meaning being hard work garnered money.
    remainder of review at www.theblacksheepdances.com

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