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.

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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!

A perpetual, unrelenting solitude and abandonment. Post-Great Moravian solitude, post-Jagiellonian solitude, post-Austro-Hungarian solitude, post-Yugoslavian solitude, post-communist solitude. The loop of history running through the button of the present. What kind of story can be patched together in a language whose grammar has no future tense? What comes out is always some kind of elegy, some kind of legend, a sort of circular narrative that has to return to the past because not only the future but also the present fills it with trepidation.

Old Kuznetsov may well have been right when he spoke of innocence. Guilt is borne only by those who believe that their deeds will in some way continue to exist in the future. Memory and the image of fate as an inevitability protect us from the cold touch of solitude. And this does give a non-European reader insight into an inherent question of "Where do I belong? These are not insights of country soul tasting big-city life, but considerations of someone who wants to know the people around him, and how history has treated countries he visits.

Romania is a fairy tale. Past, present and future coexist there, and decay walks arm and arm with growth. The new is very much on the way, but the old survives equally well. Because of this terrain that hovers thousands of feet in the air, the boundaries of national fade: Though in fact, to live in the Carpathians is to remember that citizenship or nationality were always of little importance here.

At times, in my extravagant cosmopolitan dreams, I see the main ridge of the mountains. Across the ridge, along the deep valleys, there are several rail lines and several roads linking different countries. Both the roads and the tracks look like a prank, like extraterritorial corridors leading to the other side of the mountains.

The noisy, restless flow of modernity passes through them, but the mountains themselves remain undisturbed. Not only does Stasiuk gives us first hand accounts of travels through Eastern Europe but there are poignant and nostalgic essays about memory, adolescence, grandparents and even a prison stint. Fado refers to a type of song - a Portuguese mourning song.

Like when we see our own reflection and notice the wrinkles and changes in our face as we age, Stasiuk hides nothing. Somewhere on the horizon are the fires of human settlements, indistinguishable from the distant glimmer of the stars. Oh, the flickering artery of nothingness, oh, the recollection of the ancient times when were homeless in the world, when space was terrifying in its immensity.

Now it irks us with its elusivenss.


Andrzej Stasiuk

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.



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