Friday, October 17, 2014

European RC #5

I read this for the European Reading Challenge 2014.

On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europe – Andrzej Stasiuk

This narrative describes post-soviet Hungary, Albania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Moldova, and Ukraine. On one hand, it may be difficult for readers who are not familiar with the appearance of empty factories, rusted machinery, piles of junk, and men with nothing to do. On the other hand, people from Great Lakes places with its departed heavy dirty industry and poor and working class young people with seemingly few future prospects will find many familiar handholds.

Stasiuk is a poet so we would expect quiet episodic meditations on loss and resiliency. He feels much at home in such faded landscapes and makes even the most unlikely people, places, and stuff glow with life. In fact, though the subject matter is at time monotonous, his style glitters, glistens and pulls us along. It was only with about 50 pages to go that the strange sounding names (especially of Hungarian towns such as Nyíregyháza, Kecskemét, Székesfehérvár) started to get slightly repetitious and annoying.

But overall it was a nice read. Readers like me that in lived in Eastern Europe in the 1990s will find much to connect with. The intensely poetic style in which every word carries a lot of meaning and tone can be demanding, so I read the book on 20 to 25 page chunks.

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