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On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europeby Andrzej Stasiuk
"In 1846, when Jacub Szela first ascended as a Polish leader, he guided a ragtag mob of peasants and serfs in a fight against their landowners and gentry. Szela had been anointed "king of the peasants" for 24 hours by the ruling Austrian empire, and in that time he raised an army, running into taverns with the cry, "Get to work, boys, and hurry, for time passes." Those men would slaughter almost 1,000 noblemen in their quest for economic freedom. Szela and his followers came to a bad end (as uprisings of these sorts tend to do). More than a century and a half later, writer Andrzej Stasiuk now sits in a dusty co-op on Szela's old stomping grounds in Vicsani — which are once again filled with the poor and powerless drinking their vodka and pear brandy — imagining the second-coming of the rebel leader. The land here may still be full of the poor and oppressed, but missing now are the oppressors to direct their fury against. Stasiuk, a Pole himself, addresses this frustration to his dead countryman: 'There's no one for you to go after... The most you could do is go to Suceava and like a postindustrial Luddite smash a sky-blue ATM.'" Jessa Crispin, NPR (Read the entire NPR review)
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"In this poetic travel memoir, Stasiuk (winner of the 2005 Nike Award, Poland's most prestigious literary prize) transports readers across Eastern Europe — from Poland to Ukraine, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Albania, and Romania. Past and present are intertwined as Stasiuk paints verbal snapshots of his travels in a style that is simultaneously detailed and abstract: 'Sometimes I get up before sunrise to watch the way the dark thins out and objects slowly reveal themselves, the trees, the rest of the landscape...The light of dawn, cold and blue, gradually fills the world, and it's the same in every place I've been. The dark pales into the district of Sekowa, in the town of Sulina, on the edge of the Danube Delta - and everywhere time is made of night and day.' Traveling via bus, train, and car, Stasiuk pens his impressions of small towns and villages while collecting 167 passport stamps in seven years. He reports on violent events, such as extortion, from border guards and fights between teenage skinheads, with little emotion. His calm and steady voice invites readers to settle down comfortably for virtual travels. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
Stasiuk, a prolific author in many genres, provides readers with what could be described as a vivid description of the "other" Europe, the Europe that travelers rarely see or read about in travel guides. Rather than Paris, Vienna, or Rome, the author chooses to explore the small towns and villages of his native Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova, and Ukraine. While reminiscent of Kerouac to a degree, Stasiuk here provides sharp, personal, original writing in his descriptions and storytelling. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A collection of travel narratives from Central and Eastern Europe by award-winning Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk.
PRAISE FOR NINE:
"An accomplished stylist with an eye for telling detail . . . I caught a flavor of Hamsun, Sartre, Genet, and Kafka in Stasiuks scalpel-like but evocative writing." —Irvine Welsh, New York Times Book Review
"Stasiuk takes us into parts of Polish and post-Communist life whose day-to-day realities we might not have otherwise imagined." —Eva Hoffman, New York Review of Books
"A kaleidoscopic view of Warsaw in transition and in chaos, following the collapse of Communism . . . The technique is masterly, and the carefully calibrated atmosphere of dread and threat beautifully sustained." —Kirkus Reviews
"A sobering vision of the new face of central Europe in a narrative that is at once hallucinatory, haunting, and abject." —Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Nine stinks like cheap cigarettes and tastes like a busted lip but is tenderly observant and elegantly translated." —Booklist
About the Author
Andrzej Stasiuk deserted from the Polish army under Communism, was sent to prison, and there began his writing career. In 2005 he won the NIKE Award, Poland's most important literary prize. He lives in the Carpathian Mountains.
Table of Contents
That Fear 1
The Slovak Two Hundred 7
Our Leader 32
Description of a Journey through
East Hungary to Ukraine 46
Baia Mare 63
Tara Secuilor, Székelyföld, Szeklerland 68
The Country in Which the War Began 77
The Ferry to Galati 133
Pitching Ones Tent in a New Place 140
On the Road to Babadag 167
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