by Andrzej Stasiuk - £9.99 Vintage (2012)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780099507147 | ISBN 10: 0099507145
A brilliant and ground-breaking collection of travel narratives from Central and Eastern Europe.
Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveller. 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.
'The heart of my Europe,' he writes 'beats in Sokolów, Podlaskie and in Husi, not in Vienna.' 'Where did Moldova end and Transylvania begin,' he wonders, as he is being driven at breakneck speed in a hundred-year-old 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 pick-up 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, near the shore of the Black Sea, where Stasiuk sees his first minaret, 'simple and severe, a pencil pointed at the sky'.
Here is an unfamiliar Europe, grappling with the remnants of the Communist era and the arrival of capitalism and globalisation. Original, precisely observed and lushly written meditations on travel and memory.
(Price & availability last checked: July 2019)