Travels in the Other Europe
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.
“Stasiuk captures this "other Europe" with clarity and eloquence as he charts his journeys through Albania, Moldova, Slovenia and elsewhere”
“A Kerouac-style amble from the Baltic to the Adriatic”
International Herald Tribune
“A eulogy for the old Europe, the Europe both in and out of time, the Europe now lost in the folds of the map, On the Road to Babadag is valuable reading for UK readers. If we can't read our way around Europe, how will we ever find our place, our identity, within it?”
“Thoughtful and poignant”
“He is a self-consciously hard-bitten writer (whose career began when he was jailed for deserting from the Polish army) with a self-conscious hard-bitten style. His journeys are measured out with beers and cigarettes; his evenings with hard liquor... Stasiuk follows his 'perverse love for the periphery, for the provincial' as he traverses the outer edges of the former Austria-Hungary to the little Romanian town of Babadag... Lurking beneath his romanticism is an appreciation of the conflicting realities”
“Much of the power and originality of Stasiuk's book derives from this inversion of the ostensible purpose of travel, his methodological destruction of the simplistic teleology of the tourist, mirrored in a prose which is at once powerful, punkish, angry, and disorientating in its quest to probe into Europe's dirty laundry”
Scotland on Sunday
“This books has a peculiar charm and power”
William Blacker, Literary Review
“The emptiness, the disconnectedness and the stasis deep inside Europe can be as emotionally transfixing and revelatory as the tumult of a city crowd on the Indian subcontinent. There are still places that insist the human condition is timeless... His eye is keen and his commentary as rich as they are throughout...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”
“From Albania to Transylvania, he tells a captivating, melancholy tale of places and people stranded on the far side of history”
“Stasiuk's journeys are vivid poetry... What formally also underpins Stasiuk's travels, and rather beautifully embodies his resistance to the future, is how his prose communicates the working of memory, mirroring its inconsequentiality. His accounts are fragmented, shuffled, continued later or not. Time breaks down as it is past; in his mind events "cover space and time in an even, translucent layer”
Julian Evans, Prospect
“Stasiuk is one of Poland's best-known contemporary authors and On the Road to Babadag is a welcome addition to his growing English-language corpus... Unfailingly stimulating and ably translated by Michael Kandel”
Toby Lichtig, Times Literary Supplement