Fado - Andrzej Stasiuk







Il était une foi dans l'Est


Andrzej Stasiuk

Fado, Christian Bourgois, 176p., Traduit du polonais par Charles Zaremba, ISBN : 978-2-267-02027-4


Depuis la disparition du reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski, une autre voix s'élève de Pologne, qui fait de la relation de voyage un art au rang de la poésie ou de la peinture : Andrzej Stasiuk. Avec son passeport où cohabitent 167 coups de tampons de douaniers moldaves, ruthènes, gagaouzes, slovaques ou valaques, il chante ce monde romanesque voué à disparaître parce qu'y règnent la pagaille, la nonchalance, la tendance à l'affabulation et l'irresponsabilité. Les Tziganes sont ses amis, et personne mieux que lui ne sait restituer la mélancolie qu'il y a à observer un paysan, une faux sur l'épaule, traversant la place d'une grande ville moderne. «Sorti d'un temps révolu, il faisait un petit tour dans le présent avant de s'enfoncer à nouveau dans le passé.» La scène se déroule à Baia Mare, en Roumanie, mais elle aurait pu prendre place dans la plupart des lieux arpentés par le « pèlerin polonais » ces dernières années et célébrés dans Fado, recueil de textes courts narrant ses errances des venelles pavées belgradoises aux sombres forêts des Carpates. Grâce à ses pérégrinations, à 40 ans et des poussières sur les épaules, Stasiuk a en outre acquis une sagesse philosophique qui relève de l'esprit insurrectionnel dans notre société rongée par l'utilitarisme à tout prix : «Par quoi allons-nous remplacer le caractère totalement désintéressé de la vie?», s'inquiète-t-il. Oui, par quoi ?




October 2009

J.W. McCormack


Fado by Andrzej Stasiuk


A fado is a plaintive song of yearning for a person or place that perhaps never was OR the natural title for Andrzej Stasiuk’s delicate, deeply-shadowed book of travels through the culturally blurred hinterlands of the former Eastern Bloc. “For several years now,” writes the journeyman, “I’ve been oppressed by visions. I set off for the southern or the eastern border, I come back a week or two later, and I try to establish what actually happened and what was a fiction.”

Speaking of Romanian vagabonds, (“We had reduced their humanity to an exotic image, they limited ours to the economy of their own survival”) Belgrade literati, (“adherents of a forbidden cult meeting in the catacombs”) and, especially, the unclaimed and mobile of Gypsies in Slovakia (where they are a near-majority of the population), Staskiuk sometimes sounds like his countryman, Bruno Schulz, whose dream of 1930s Poland, The Street of Crocodiles, is a “city of cheap human material [where] no instincts can flourish.” But Stasiuk’s travel route is a waking nightmare of ancient countries of inflicted infancy, of Eastern fallout and banal Western influence.  But was it ever so?

Stray occurrences peep from behind the homogenous material of the world. Time cracks and falls apart and, in order not to go mad, you have to continually recreate it. This fragility, this transitoriness, this impermanence of time is a characteristic of my part of the world. Time here never flowed in the steady, calm current found in the great metropolises. There was always something in its way.

Stasiuk’s catalogue of carnivalesques occasionally outpaces landscape -- a chapter called “A Slavic On the Road” would’ve made a tidy subtitle -- to mediate on figures whose dislocation between the Old World and the rewritten Austro-Hungarian proximities recommends them to this collection. There’s the Good Soldier Svejk, Danilo Kis, the Serbian paramilitary mass-murderer Zeljko Raznatovic (“showmanship, kitsch, and barbarity were embodied in his person as in a living allegory”) and, in the oddly reverent “The Body of the Father,” John Paul II: “His face was quite unmarked by the stamp of distance, by the alienation or loftiness that inevitably accompanies a rise to power.”

Though I felt obliged to read my copy in the rain and the abiding atmosphere is of bleak no-places, Fado is more nuanced than the typically hopeless record of world’s end: two of the essays end with amens. But Stasiuk, the author of the Simenon-like Warsaw-noir Nine, is abidingly interested in contradiction and finds it more often in the rootless Polish youth lurking outside a gas station who salvage from the West “only remnants and its trash…the primitive, vulgar offerings of pop culture,” the prison in Ljubljana obligingly refashioned into a youth hostel, and Montenegro where “everything that was, becomes rejected in the name of modernity that assumes the nature of a fiction, an illusion, a devilish apparition.”

Nothing sticks to the tattered map superimposed over our haunted correspondent and his route save an atmosphere of muted sensation, of drained cities and tree-lined highways to nowhere. Given that many of Stasiuk’s literary heroes remain unavailable in English, Fado is an odd candidate for translation -- and the translation by Bill Johnston is beautiful, somewhere between Denis Johnson’s rattled candor in Jesus’ Son and the Hungarian director Bela Tarr’s long, still shots -- but its sense of story, albeit stories frozen in time and failing to begin, might indicate why Stasiuk was awarded Poland’s glamorous NIKE prize for another book of essays Going to Babadag. In any case, we’re lucky to have any literature that contains passages like the following, which grant grave and unusual insight into what the isolated West, having hatched the present, has imparted to the past with all the unreliability of memory and the impossibility of history:

If the West was parochial, then we practiced something that might be called pathological cosmopolitanism. We lived in our cities and countries in appearance only, because for us they were fictitious entities. They did not exist in and of themselves. Real life happened elsewhere in the West. Our world was unreal. We had to make it so, because otherwise we would have had to despise it. Attempts to render our world more real resulted in sorry expeditions into an idealized past, or a hazy millenarianism that proclaimed the imminent arrival of a miraculous hybrid -- the three-headed dragon of social equality, universal prosperity, and absolute freedom.









Daniel Trilling

Published 12 November 2009

Andrzej Stasiuk
Dalkey Archive Press, 168pp, £10.99


Firmly off the tourist trail, the Polish novelist Andrzej Stasiuk turns his attention in this collection of travel essays to rural eastern Europe, places that have been carved up and rearranged endlessly by competing empires. Inspired to produce "a Slavic On the Road", he writes a slow, meditative prose that allows him to perceive the ancient rhythms under this constant change. Here he is, observing a group of Romanian teenagers: "They were allowing the present to flow past them; they probably regarded it as an element to be made use of, like fire for cooking or water for washing."

Stasiuk, who spent years in prison as a conscientious objector under communism, has a stark assessment of the capitalist New Europe: "Was our unity really meant to be so hollow and devoid of content that the unrestricted flow of goods, services and capital must fill it up entirely? All these things seem stillborn."



Words Without Borders



Andrzej Stasiuk's Fado

Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Dalkey Archive Press, 2009

Reviewed by Bob Buckeye


" Everything happens at the same time. In the shadow of the nuclear power station at Cernovoda on the Danube, you can hear the rumble of carts drawn by donkeys, while herds of cattle wander across main roads. In the cities, you can see country girls in folk costume, and in the villages boys dressed like rappers on MTV."

The Other Europe no longer exists, its past no more than a memory, its life marginalized in the new world of runaway capitalism. Communism may have left its footprint but did not conquer. The West imposes its will but triumphs less than destroys. Its unrelenting Otherness remains. "We are strangers in [Europe]," Stasiuk concludes. "We come from outside, from lands about which Europe itself has only the vaguest notion and which it treats more like a threat than a part of itself."

Fado begins on the road, trips Stasiuk has taken, arriving, always, where there is no arrival, at places time and progress have passed by—Rudnany, Pogradec, Stroze, Krompachy, Spisske Podhradie—where those cast off must manage, somehow; those outside the gas stations of small towns, who "make love, drink, and do business . . .[and] have cars but . . . don't have anywhere to travel to in them." Not even Slovaks may know that Rudnany, Krompachy and Spisske Podhradie are in the Slovak Republic. "Here, history uprooted nations and generations," Stasiuk explains. "The twentieth century constituted an interruption in cultural continuity . . . An inhabitant of this part of the world . . . looks back and doesn't find anything he can lean on."In this unreal world only the history before there was history remains, the memory of memory, and Stasiuk searches for signs of it everywhere to find something he can lean on, not only where the road takes him, but also where memory leads him: boyhood summers at his grandparents' farm far from Warsaw; Pope John Paul II's return to Poland before his death, where he becomes once again Karol Wojtyla, who "left us with his death, as if it were an exercise we would have to complete without his help"; his daughter's youth reminding him of his own. Every year he marks All-Soul's Day, "a tribal, barbarian holiday" that resists commercialization. "Our memory is not enough," Stasiuk notes. "We have to feel our dead physically."

If one lives in the past, one dies there. One must find a way to live without being buried by the past or having to follow the instant practice of the West ("We have to become you," Stasiuk notes. "After all, no one expected you to be the ones who would change."). In order to do so, he returns to degree zero, as it were, in search of life outside time and place where—somehow, somewhere—one can begin to begin. Near Spisske Podhradie, Stasiuk comes upon a Gypsy community which challenges his sense of "Europeanness." "They lived in a former Jewish neighborhood, on the outskirts of a Slovak town, at the foot of a Hungarian castle, and so in order to exist, in order not to disappear, they needed to establish their own rules, their own particular theory of relativity, their own law of gravity, which would keep them on the surface of the earth and prevent them from vanishing into the cosmic void, the abyss of memory . . . [Their houses] looked like ideas that had just begun to materialize."

On the way to Pogradec in Albania, Stasiuk hears an Albanian woman singing a Portuguese fado song on the radio. "Both countries lead somewhat unreal lives beyond the main flow of history and events," he thinks. "Portugal can at best dream of past glory, and like Albania can long for fulfillment to be brought by some undefined future." Fado. The music of mourning and nostalgia. The music of the poor. The music—yes—of hope. The music Stasiuk hears at 3:15 a.m. while writing this book.

In Nine, originally published in 1999, Stasiuk's Warsaw, a city still numb from Communism, is now ravaged by the new world order of capitalism; the Zone of Tarkovsky's Stalker, where nothing is habitable and what was understood yesterday useless today. The past in Warsaw is little more than a ruin; the present no more than the shifting sands of the market, which offers, if it offers anything at all, no more than a shaky foothold. "WonderBra, Coca-Cola" the German band Rammstein screams at every corner. In this world, there was nothing to guide one, since "the time when sons repeated the gestures of their fathers was gone." Only the busses and trams that take the same routes they did before give the city any cohesiveness and permanence, even if their passengers measure the daily destruction of the city on their road to nowhere. ("Down the concrete gutter of Lazienkowska thoroughfare foamed a colourful sewage of cars, a stream of glistening vomit flowing from east to west and west to east.")

White Raven, published four years before Nine, anticipates the return to Warsaw Stasiuk would make in that novel. A band of thirty-something friends whose lives have been aimless are challenged by one of their group, who complains, "our lives are shit and so we should do something." They leave for the mountains of southeast Poland to test themselves against nature, "like during a landing operation, when everyone has to take care of himself." Some kind of wisdom trip one thinks; guerrilla warfare another says; a die-to-live trip a third hopes. But one of them murders a border guard and they are forced to flee deeper into the mountains. It ends with one of the group killing another and then himself. The bicycle chain may swing in the streets of Warsaw, but against the natural, romantic backdrop of mountains the gloves come off.

Increasingly Stasiuk's prose in these two novels is stark, inexpressive one reviewer says, bedrock flat, if at times oblique. He gives the details of seeing, not their interpretation.. We understand only what his exhaustive accumulation of detail offers. ("Everyone has to take care of himself. Even the artist and audience," he notes). For Stasiuk to offer an explanation of what is, in effect, inexplicable or unbelievable is to prevent us from seeing it. In Nine, Warsaw must speak, not Stasiuk.

Even when details add up, they do not add up. In Nine, Zosia leaves lights on after she has been raped, because "Things are too clear in the dark," and during the day wears white, because "in the day white is invisible." The narrator of White Raven recalls "the stark neglect and poverty which we cultivated so carefully [in Warsaw] in the belief that everything important had to be hidden, that the meaningful could not speak directly."

Stasiuk is the new face of Eastern Europe, part of a generation of post-Fall writers, including Dubravka Ugresic and Peter Pistanek, not burdened by the Communist past as their predecessors were, that stormed across the West in a caravan called the Writers' Train in 2000, as if they were Genghis Khans on the Trans-Siberian Express. He is a student of flight, drift, transit, if not their master. The nine of Nine are always on the move, escaping what threatens them or searching for what they do not have. The group of friends in White Raven leave Warsaw to regain lives they have lost. Currently Stasiuk lives in the Beskids Mountains on the Slovak-Polish border following a trajectory of expulsion from high school, desertion from the army (legend has it in a tank), prison time, pacifist activity.

In Fado, Stasiuk puts the blasted landscape of Nine ("every lavatory lady used to tell stories Scheherazade wouldn't dream of when she finally hit the sack") and the horrors of Darwinian survival in the mountains behind him. "This lyric of loss, this Slavic On the Road," he describes the book, footnotes his novels, giving them the analytic hinge he refuses in his fiction. In Fado, he outlines why the East is a stranger in the West and still a threat to it; how the long history of the twentieth century uprooted the East; in what ways capitalism puts so many lives in the East at risk. Fado also follows his search—the legacy of the road—for a new life, his "Europeanness" questioned from either side, not only by the West but also by Gypsies, who Stasiuk is drawn to because their "ahistorical presence" defies understanding by the modern world.

"Home was the place from which the world could be founded," argues Mircea Eliade, a writer Stasiuk quotes. "In traditional societies, everything that made sense of the world was real." In the East today, home is but a ruin and the real no more than a memory, but one must find something to guide one. "We must work with what we have," Amiri Baraka reminds us. "From wherever in the landscape." It keeps Stasiuk rooted to where he is but also puts him back on the road. Yesterday matters if it is gone. Today must have a life. Tomorrow a future.

Robert Buckeye has had two works of fiction published, Pressure Drop and The Munch Case, and has written on film and art as well as literature.



9 November 2009


by Andrzej Stasiuk

Dalkey Archieve Press

September 2009, Trade Paperback, 156 pages, $13.95


A Slav on the Road Not Taken


Carmelo Militano


Andrzei Stasiuk is an award-wining Polish writer, poet, and journalist who over the past ten years has achieved an international reputation for his writing outside of his native Poland, particularly in Germany.

His first book, published in 1992 by Wydawnictwo Czarne, a small press run by him and his wife, was a collection of short stories called The Walls of Hebron and based on the year and half he spent in prison for refusing to serve in the army. This was followed by a collection of poetry in 1994 called Love and Non-Love Poems and then in 2000 he published White Raven, an adventure story. In the same year Stasiuk won the NIKE prize—the Polish equivalent of the Booker prize—for his travel book Traveling to Babadag. So much then for the sneer occasionally heard that literary self-publishing is merely a form of vanity press.

White Raven, Tales of Galicia, and Nine, another award winning book, are the only books currently available in English, along with his latest, Fado. The word “fado” comes from the Portuguese and is applied to a type of song best described as melancholy or a lament. In other words, fado is a kind of Portuguese blues. The word in Portuguese literally means ‘fate’ and fate is often indifferent, sad, and ultimately unaccountable when it falls into the lives of people.

What an appropriate a title then to apply to a collection of essays about the sad lamentable history and forgotten byways and highways (actually dusty roads is more accurate) of Central and Eastern Europe.

Now who in the West can honestly say they have ever heard of the town Pogradec or of the obscure wistful village of Rudnany or the hamlet of Rasinami “smelling of hot oil, fried onions, pig and horse manure, hay and herbs”, till Stasiuk came along to describe their individual fates shaped and twisted by cruel wars, history, and soul-crushing communism and yet their ancient farming traditions persist.

Stasiuk sees himself as writing “a Slav On the Road” and like Kerouac he is interested in the off-beat and ignored detail, the ordinary guy on the street (or in Stasiuk ‘s case in the barley field or gypsy camp) but unlike Kerouac the heart of Stasiuk’s method is to write about “journeys superimposed with memory of readings, recollections of living and dead authors, literary landscapes and present occurrences” and he ignores or rejects the literary style to be found in the original On the Road. It is more the spirit of On the Road that imbues Fado.

Stasiuk’s essays in fact twist and turn, move back and forth through memory and time (and reflect on the nature of time and memory) like a car and move through various historical, mental, and natural landscapes; landscapes that were either ignored, unknown, or forsaken by the West until the fall of communism.

How timely it is then that the English translation of Fado is now available for us, the beginning of November of this year ( November 9 to be exact) being the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the hasty collapse of the Soviet Bloc.

The towns and villages of rural Central and Eastern Europe are unknown places and perhaps even unknowable to themselves according to Stasiuk, but it is his mission to make them known or at least understandable. Both places were hijacked by politics, history, and their own inward looking rural traditions from the mainstream of Western European traditions, thus they were considered unsophisticated places by the cultural and intellectual elites of the West and were not worth a visit, much less places to write about.

The essays collected in Fado counter this view by taking seriously the history and landscape of this neglected part of Europe. Stasiuk writes eloquently and with penetrating insight about the effect of the collapse of communism on the people of Central and Eastern Europe, particularly the young who in Stasiuk’s view have managed to pick up and go nowhere with the trash and leftovers of Western pop culture. The posturing and bad behavior of some young rural Europeans is a type of identity crisis created by easy access to the false imported gods of consumerism and freedom and a neglect of the past.

Stasiuk, in other words, distrusts imported Western modernity or at the very least is skeptical of it as a straightforward blessing for this region of the world. He presents a more nuanced view. Stasiuk uses a variety of approaches to talk about his beloved rural Eastern Europe but his most effective technique is his use of the eye of the travel writer; what he sees and experiences is as important as what he thinks or analyses and he himself is as much a character in the landscape as the people and places he observes.

For example, in the evocative personal essay (actually they are all personal essays) ‘Tranquility’, Stasiuk recounts boyhood summers on his grandparent’s farm in Southern Poland. The farm in his memory is full of light and shadow and contains the repeated stillness and silence of endless hot summer days that coalesced in Stasiuk’s mind as permanent frozen images while time or the hours invisibly tip-toed away until evening and the cows returned from pasture. The farm is also a place where “nothing was wasted” and very little trash was created compared to the convenient and crass modern world.

Stasiuk’s essays often are implicit criticisms of the West and seem to suggest a past societal order, and thus a political order, superior to the present uncritical embrace of Western values. Stasiuk’s essays are also rooted in history and an awareness of literature as much as they are in landscape and atmosphere. His essay on Bulatovic, the great Serbian writer, for example, is used as an entry into the history and consciousness of the Balkans and how everything can be forgiven including the evil shallow murderous thug know as Arkan in the name of the ‘homeland’.

The tone of the essays varies depending on the topic. Stasiuk can be sardonic and wry when writing about his teenage daughter or he can be shrewd and analytical when talking about his own memory or he can be elegiac when writing about the small forgotten World War I cemeteries that dot the back roads of Southern Poland, which was once part of the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

Stasiuk also has a thing for odors, which should not come as a big surprise since smell is said to be the most powerful sense for evoking memory. Shepherds all over Eastern and Central Europe smell the same: “bonfire smoke, sheep manure, and cheese.” Old women on a bus returning from market smell of freshly starched clothes, cream, and chickens. The bus itself has an aroma of dark tobacco. The combination of odors in the town of Rasinami are so powerful on a hot afternoon it “makes one head spin.”

There is also a passion and attraction for the Mediterranean, which it seems, he shares with other writers from the East. Mediterranean culture seems to have a particular hold on the imagination of Eastern European writers. Stasiuk as a travel writer brings us news from the forgotten corners of Central and Eastern Europe. He does this by wearing many hats; he is a contemporary historian, a journalist, and an evocative poet with a nose—pardon the pun—for the telling detail and revealing incident.



Legitimität der Neuzeit? Da muhen doch die Kühe



Andrzej Stasiuk: "Fado". Reiseskizzen. Aus dem Polnischen übersetzt von Renate Schmidgall. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008. 159 S., br.,


Andrzej Stasiuk, dessen Nachnamen die meisten noch immer aussprechen, als stecke die Überwachungsbehörde der DDR darin, wurde in Deutschland vor bald zehn Jahren mit dem Roman "Die Welt hinter Dukla" bekannt, auch wenn kaum jemand einen Schimmer davon hatte, wo Dukla liegt. Wie sollte man sich da erst die Welt dahinter vorstellen? Trotzdem glauben wir diesem Autor seine rauhbeinigen Geschichten aus dem Wilden Osten so gerne, dass er zum bekanntesten polnischen Gegenwartsliteraten im deutschsprachigen Raum wurde. Albanien, Montenegro, Rumänien, Ungarn, Slowenien, Südpolen - Stasiuks Rapporte aus den hintersten Winkeln Osteuropas kleiden sich oft ins Gewand der Reportage, obwohl es sich eher um Beschwörungen handelt. Sie atmen die romantische Aura des Vergehenden und klagen über die atmosphärischen Kollateralschäden der Modernisierung. "In unserer Welt", so schreibt Stasiuk in "Fado", einem jüngst erschienenen Bändchen mit Reiseskizzen, "gibt es immer weniger alte Dinge und Orte. Bald werden wir die Erinnerung daran verlieren, woher wir kommen, und werden um nichts in der Welt glauben wollen, dass unsere Körper vor gar nicht langer Zeit denselben Geruch ausströmten wie die der rumänischen Hirten."

Wer nie die Nase in den Dunstkreis eines Hirten hielt, so lernen wir, der weiß nicht, wie Europa schmeckt. Und wird nicht gewappnet sein, wenn Stasiuks größter Traum in Erfüllung geht: Eines Tages werden Zigeuner auf den Champs-Élysées ihr Lager aufschlagen, Bären aus Bulgarien auf dem Ku'damm ihre Kunststücke vorführen, halbwilde Ukrainer vor den Toren Mailands Kosakeneinheiten bilden, während besoffene, betende Polen die Weinberge an Rhein und Mosel verwüsten, um dort wirkungsvolleren Schnaps zu produzieren. Stasiuk bringt in seiner Feier des bäuerlichen Idylls mitunter unfreiwillig komische Sätze zu Papier: "Irgendwo muhte eine Kuh." In besseren Momenten gelingen ihm Beschreibungen abgelegener Alltagsrituale, etwa im albanischen Pogradec, einer Stadt, die von nichts so beherrscht wird wie vom Billard, durch dessen "geometrische Abstraktion und Kinetik" die besessenen Spieler ihre Alltagssorgen vergessen. An einem südpolnischen Bahnhof hat er junge Männer beobachtet, die die Aufdrucke auf ihren eigenen Sweatshirts nicht lesen können, und in Albanien Menschen angetroffen, die nur noch vor "toten Computern" hocken. Dabei lässt er keinen Zweifel daran, dass diese Spurenlese der Verwüstung durch Zivilisation ein Projekt von historischer Notwendigkeit ist: "Ich beschreibe all das, weil kein anderer es beschreibt", sagt Stasiuk und setzt sich damit in den Rang des letzten Zeugen einer beinahe verschwundenen Welt. 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. Bereits am montenegrinischen Straßenbau kann sich sein Zorn entzünden: "In dieser archaischen Landschaft erinnern nur die über die Landstraße gleitenden Autos daran, dass wir im 21. Jahrhundert sind. Dieses Modernisierungsexperiment hat etwas Teuflisches an sich. Alles, was war, wird verworfen im Namen einer Neuzeit, die einer Fiktion, einer Täuschung, einem luziferischen Geisterbild gleicht." Seltsam, dass man Stasiuk, der zu seinen wenigen amerikanischen Vorbildern Jack Kerouac zählt, bereits als osteuropäischen Beat-Poeten sah. Wenn aber der Beat der Ost-Erweiterung auf dieser Schlagzahl bleibt, wird es weiterhin gemütlich zugehen. Irgendwo muht immer eine Kuh.







ANDRZEJ STASIUK: Fado. Reiseskizzen. Aus dem Polnischen von Renate Schmidgall. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008. 159 Seiten, 9,50 Euro.


Wo sind die Kühe, die ins Dorf scheißen?

Popkultur macht obdachlos: Andrzej Stasiuk bereist in „Fado” die letzten, von der andrängenden Moderne unberührten Flecken Osteuropas

Andrzej Stasiuk ist ein Autor, der sich schreibend nicht festlegt, sondern verflüssigt, der einem durch die Hände geht, wo immer man ihn zu greifen versucht. Der jüngste Band des polnischen Autors „Fado” firmiert als eine Sammlung von Reiseskizzen, die ihn an die „Peripherie der europäischen Zivilisation” führen, in Länder wie Rumänien, Albanien oder die Ukraine. In der Tat sind es kleine, sehr sinnliche Notizen von unterwegs, am Abend, im trüben Licht der Erinnerung zu Papier gebracht. Die nächtlichen Autofahrten ins Ungewisse verströmen die Romantik des Abenteuers: Als Stasiuk sich an einem Abend verfahren hat, parkt er in einem nahegelegenen Waldstück, legt sich mit einem Schlafsack ins Gras, wo er dann, eine Flasche Wein in der Hand, einschläft. Man möchte sich zu ihm legen.

Doch bei Stasiuk verschmelzen Beobachtung, Fiktion und poetische Reflexion miteinander. An dem Gesehenen, schreibt Stasiuk, „klebt die durchscheinende, lebendige Materie meiner Gedanken, meiner Liebe, meiner Angst”. Und so ist „Fado” auch eine große Litanei über den drohenden Verlust der osteuropäischen Kultur, ein launiger Essay über das Legitimitätsdefizit der westlichen Zivilisation und nicht zuletzt die Arbeit an jenen Mythen, „die des dritten Jahrtausends würdig sind”. Das ist viel Stoff für einen hundertfünfzig Seiten schmalen Band – nicht zuletzt, da darin auch noch die ironische Hinterfragung des gesamten Programms einbegriffen ist.

„Fado” ist eine große Verlustanzeige. Stasiuk beschreibt jene im Verschwinden begriffene Welt Osteuropas, die noch unberührt ist von den „Zeichen moderner Zivilisation”. Orte, an denen man „keine Megamärkte, kein Ikea oder Praktiker” findet, was in manchen osteuropäischen Ländern schon selten ist. Er sucht Spuren der Vergangenheit in der Gegenwart und findet sie etwa in Rumänien, wenn er im Schatten eines Atomkraftwerkes einen Eselskarren sieht; „die rumänische Zeit ist so subtil konstruiert, daß der Begriff Anachronismus hier nicht zum Tragen kommt. Alles geschieht gleichzeitig.” Bei der Begegnung mit einem Schafhirten spürt er in dem säuerlichem Geruch alter Milch eine Jahrhunderte alte Lebensform auf, die dem Andrängen der westlichen Zivilisation möglicherweise nicht standhalten wird.

Der Zauber der Analphabeten

Es sind alte Themen, die Stasiuk umtreiben, aber sie erwachsen einer neuen Erfahrung. Er beklagt die Entfremdung in der globalen Popkultur, wenn er von der „kondensierten Obdachlosigkeit” der Jugendlichen spricht, die ihre Abende an der Tankstelle verbringen. Er beklagt die Leere der „liberalen, demokratischen Universalien”, auf denen die Europäische Union gründet. In dem Herzstück des Bandes, „Parodie als Methode, den Kontinent zu überleben”, zeigt sich sein Unbehagen auf die Formel gebracht: Was immer der Westen exportiere, bediene zwar die Märkte, aber nicht die Köpfe. Dass der Osten diesem Lebensstil nacheifere, sollte uns darüber nicht täuschen. Er tue es ohne Überzeugung, als Parodie. Stasiuk betreibt hier Arbeit am Mythos, der ein Gegenangebot zu der entzauberten Welt des Westens darstellen soll.

Was nach Verklärung aussieht, ist jenes Nebeneinander von Realität und Fiktion, das den Mythos kennzeichnet. „Da kam von der Gegenseite, zwischen goldenen Strahlen hervor, irgendwo aus dem lichterfüllten Nichts, ein Zigeunertreck direkt auf uns zu. Sie hatten nichts, was nach unseren Maßstäben irgendeinen Wert darstellte. Decken, Geschirr, klapprige archaische Wagen und Tiere, so hager wie sie selbst. Ja, sie kamen auf einer Abkürzung aus dem Abgrund des Vergangenen und fühlten sich in der Gegenwart recht wohl.”

Überhaupt, die Zigeuner: „Da wandert ein dunkelhäutiges, analphabetisches Volk seit Jahrhunderten durch Europa und das Europäertum, ganz so, als durchquerte es ein schwach bevölkertes, armes und wenig attraktives Gebiet.” Jahrtausende unserer Zivilisation, wundert sich Stasiuk, seien für sie nur ein Lagerplatz. „Es ist kaum zu glauben, daß unsere Welt so uninteressant sein kann, (...), daß sie keinen Versuch gemacht haben, sie nachzuahmen.” Ein kühner Beleg für die mangelnde Attraktivität unserer Zivilisation – oder bloß eine Provokation?

Stasiuk ist ein Falschspieler, man weiß nie, welches Blatt er wirklich auf der Hand hat. Eben sind die Zigeuner der größte Trumpf in seinem Spiel, dann gesteht er, sie „auf ein exotisches Bild” zu reduzieren. Mal weint er: „Endlose, ewige Einsamkeit und Verlassenheit. Postgroßmährische Einsamkeit, postjagellonische, post-österreich-ungarische, postjugoslawische, post-volksdemokratische Einsamkeit.” Dann beklagt er solche Weinerlichkeit. Er trauert der Vergangenheit nach und beklagt die slawische Nostalgie: „Hier ist die Vergangenheit nie Schuld, sie ist immer Vergebung.” Und inmitten der größten Litanei finden sich auch solche Verluste: „Was ist mit den Kuhherden, die in der Dämmerung mit erhobenen Schwänzen von den Weiden zurückkehren und mitten ins Dorf scheißen?” Man weiß nicht, woran man bei Stasiuk ist, und vielleicht weiß er das selbst auch nicht so genau. Am Ende dieser Lesereise findet man sich also ratlos bereichert und daran erinnert, dass der Westen möglicherweise nicht die beste aller Welten ist.



N Z Z  Online


31. Mai 2008

Brüchige Landkarte


Andrzej Stasiuk: Fado. Reiseskizzen. Aus dem Polnischen von Renate Schmidgall. Edition Suhrkamp 2527, Frankfurt am Main 2008. 160 S., Fr. 17.40.


«Gibt es eine bessere Metapher für die Reise als eine brüchige Landkarte?», fragt der polnische Schriftsteller und Essayist Andrzej Stasiuk . Eine solche hat er in einem Antiquariat gekauft, und dass die Länder, die er mit ihr bereist, nicht minder brüchige Zeugen der Geschichte sind, will er in seinen Reiseskizzen nicht leugnen. «Fado» heisst das Buch, das lebensvolle Meditationen über Südpolen oder die Ostkarpaten, über Ljubljana, Belgrad und bosnische Dörfer versammelt. «Mitteleuropa ist heute wohl nur noch ein für Meteorologen verständlicher Begriff», zitiert Andrzej Stasiuk den tschechischen Essayisten Josef Kroutvor. Was bleibt, ist Mythografie, und auf diesem Gebiet zeigt sich Stasiuk einmal mehr als ein Experte, der mit grosser stilistischer Kraft schreibt. Seine Reiseskizzen leben von ihren starken Bildern. Vom Zusammenführen der Theorie Europas mit der kulturellen Praxis des Kontinents. Andrzej Stasiuk ist ein Pessimist aus eigener, aus polnischer Erfahrung. Sind am Ende nicht sogar die Hunde besser als die überzeugtesten Europäer? Was wissen sie schon von Grenzen? Am ukrainisch-rumänischen Posten wartet Andrzej Stasiuk acht Stunden auf die Weiterreise. «Ich sass auf dem Bordstein, rauchte und beobachtete die Hunde. Ihnen fehlte jeder Staatsinstinkt. Sie kamen in einem Rudel hinter den rumänischen Gebäuden hervor und verschwanden bellend auf der ukrainischen Seite.»