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Fado (Polish Literature (Dalkey Archive)) (Polish Literature Series) Paperback – 6 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (6 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564785599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564785596
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 0.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 709,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Fado is a must read for all. --Agnieszka Macoch

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk on 24 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Superb. There are shades of Kapuczinski here and the "short story" style is absolutely right for Stasiuk. Some of his images stand out forever. I strongly recommend this book for anyone travelling in Eastern Europe. The chapter on Montenegro is brilliant!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By stuart allen on 25 July 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the third in my around the world challenge ,from Poland and is the first i ve read by a polish writer .Stasiuk is considered Poland'S foremost writer winning numerous awards in his homeland with his novel nine.The collection of essays describes as a slavic road trip .The road trip is invoked by the short stories being set all over former eastern europe the stories range from the present-day to the past ,dreams Stasiuk beauty is in the eye for detail he has that straight away lead you to small town cafe ,to slavic writers , the most touching is a story about his own grandparents and ecological issues ,a lament for simple times when things werent so available so families made do and used everything . Staisuk manages to catch the spirit of post communist times in these essays the searching for new indentys that people have had to do with the changing times ,having spent time in the early nineties working alongside Albanians ,Bosnians and Serbia i felt Stasiuk has really nailed the people of this region .A must read for any one interested in the changing face and map of europe .

In those days ,in the village there were no trash containers.there was also no trash .People brought all kinds of things,but not much was left after they were cosumed.Sugar was sold in paper bags that afterwards could be burned in the stove or reused .Bottles that had contained vinegar,oil and vodka could be sold back at the store for decent money

Stasiuk in the essay tranquilly talking about his grandparents village

The cover is a retro style cover that looks like it might have come from the seventies ,fado is published by the non-profit publisher dalkey archive late last year .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Past and Present Collide (beautifully!) 14 July 2010
By Meg Sumner - Published on
Format: Paperback
Translated by Bill Johnston.

Winner of the Vilenica International Literary Prize

My final impression, closing this book, was that Andrzej Stasiuk loves people. His essay collection, Fado, demonstrates this as he examines the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and the other regions that form Central Europe. In all, he writes with obvious affection for the human condition surviving in a complicated place and time. He quietly observes people and their activities: from children playing games, the routines of the working man, the women washing their steps, and the teenagers pining for escape to the West. This is not a travel journal, told by a curious visitor. Stasiuk resides there and his impressions are that much more knowledgeable and profound.

It begins with a road trip, a car driving at night in the rain. It starts out as almost a romance with the land, and he reflects on the dark houses he passes, and how no matter what ethnic heritage a person has, they are all the same when asleep in their beds. A map is essential to reading this, as he goes to a variety of cities and recounts what he sees as well as historical details and anecdotal stories from each individual place.

Much of his writing discusses the changes from Communism to newer political states, some still in their infancy (Slovakia). The past is complicated in Central Europe, and progress is equally difficult. Of Montenegro, he writes:

"Everything that was, becomes rejected in the name of a modernity that assumes the nature of a fiction, an illusion, a devilish apparition. To a greater or lesser extent this applies to all postcommunist countries. But it's only in Montenegro that it can all be observed within the space of ten miles."

This battle between old traditions and new identities is a continual subject, but it remains fascinating because each town he visits handles the conflict differently. He talks about the emptiness that is felt in places, where modernization has left many without a purpose. Yet he uses almost poetic words to describe these impressions:

Of Pogradec, "Pool has taken over the town. That noble game, combining geometrical abstraction with kinetics, allows a person to forget the everyday. The men circled the tables like they were hypnotized. They moved back, moved forward, judged distances, stepped on tiptoe and held their breath as if afraid that the moving spheres would change direction and the cosmic harmony of the game would be disturbed." It's not difficult to see the underlying correlation with the region in finding their place in history after the divisions of Russia and Yugoslavia.

In Levoka, he observes the local police, who group together in anticipation of a rebellion by Gypsy residents. The violence never occurs, but the image of the bored policemen, playing with their police dog and throwing snowballs, reveals a truism of the place: "Brute force, tedium, and play were combined in perfect proportions, but instinct told you that any one of these three elements could take over at any moment, and for no particular reason."

In another essay he writes about the changing of the face of paper currency throughout Russia and the Slavic states. In earlier years, the images featured working men and women in simple settings. The implied meaning being hard work garnered money. Then as years passed, the illustrations became more abstract and conceptual, until they evolved into paper faces of famous heroes. There was a political meaning behind each image, and Stasiuk shows how the meaning of money changed too. Change occurred yet again, during difficult economic times, to another theme: "the patrons of this inflationary series were of course artists and writers. In my part of the world, when times are uncertain we usually turn to culture, since it's a domain whose failures are not so glaring..."

Stasiuk's ability to combine history with contemporary issues is amazing because it's so readable, never dry or boring. He doesn't get off track trying to make a political statement or place blame, and at times it's difficult to even guess his position in the controversial matters he discusses. He never judges the people or even presumes to suggest a solution. An especially fascinating scene was played out at the end of the day in Rasinari, when the cows, oxen, and goats returned from grazing loose into the village, all on their own.

"This daily parade was like a holiday. The whole village came out of its homes onto the road and watched the passage of the livestock. Children, old women in headscarves, men in small groups smoking cigarettes-everyone watched as the animals unerringly found their way to their own farms and stood by the gate waiting to be let in. This ritual had been repeated for centuries and everything in it was self-evident, complete, and in its own way perfect."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Remembrance of things past 5 May 2012
By bnberthold - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fado is Portugal`s most famous musical export. An elegy in song, the fado is a mournful longing for times (and loves) past. It is nostalgia unabridged. Hence, it is the perfect title of Polish traveler-philosopher-poet, Andrzej Stasiuk`s collection of wry, observant vignettes about Central Europe`s dying world.

These prose musings, each no longer than a few pages, make up an eclectic bag. Their topics showcase their author`s penetrating intelligence and catholic tastes. There are lyrical snapshots of Stasiuk`s youth in communist Poland, ruminations on Eastern Europe`s Faustian affair with material success, and most of all, wandering travelogues on places as diverse as Montenegro, Albania, and the Carpathian mountains.

With such an expansive range, this slim volume (only 156 pages) demands to be read by the eager traveler, student, or lover of these European hinterlands. Stasiuk makes a valiant attempt at unraveling the region`s labyrinthine complexities of ethnicity, language, faith and history. His spartan sentences often ring with a pithy resonance. "To travel is to live. Or in any case to live doubly, triply, multiple times."

Like many in the Polish literary tradition (think Conrad or Kapuscinski), Stasiuk is at his best when evoking place, conjuring up atmosphere like a sorcerer. In short, Stasiuk is a master describer. His portraits are spot-on. Romania is "...gilded plafonds and moldings and a broken toilet." In Montenegro, "...donkeys graze by the road, while on sun-scorched hillsides goats look for something edible." And Stasiuk`s native land is "...this Poland of villages and hamlets with three buses a day and ancient asphalt that will be there forever."

The places of `Fado` speak for themselves. Stasiuk merely records the beauty and absurdity that unfolds before him. Yet, Stasiuk often paints with too broad a brush; one wishes he had included more detail, more precision. Reading `Fado' is akin to devouring a dinner of appetizers. You are left hungry for the main course.

`Fado` is at its weakest when Stasiuk strays from his painting and begins pontificating. His philosophical harangues against Western Europe grow strident and redundant. "To treat thousands of years of our civilization as no more than a campground and a source of profit," Stasiuk fumes. True enough but such ranting grows tiresome.

Luckily though, Stasiuk detours only occasionally into the barren realms of economics and sociology. For the most part, he stays where he is solid, with his witty and incisive travelogues. Reading `Fado' is like a bracing shave. You feel refreshed and ready for new adventures. Kudos to this Polish genius for giving Europe`s forgotten lands a voice, a presence, sending postcards from places, "...both beautiful and hopeless, despairing and painfully banal, sublime and comic."
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Insightful. Well written. 22 Dec. 2010
By Timothymark76 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read FADO while traveling through central Europe recently and this book made for an excellent travel companion! An interesting and insightful series of essays. I have gained new perspective and appreciation for places I have visited and places I hope to visit soon. I also came away with a broader understanding of the people and culture of central Europe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
About a land with the highest density of nations and conflicts 17 Nov. 2013
By Shivaji Das - Published on
Format: Paperback
Fado begins as a dream, middles as a travelogue through Eastern Europe, a land with the highest density of nations and conflicts, in between dabbles as a Fukuyama for Europe, and then ends as a memoir. Stasiuk struggles to maintain a coherent spine along the book but at several places, his writing is sharp and almost prescient. His forecast of Europe's decline seems well on track. His description of the lack of present in Eastern Europe and its ability to only absorb mass culture from the West probably stands true for most aspirational cultures. The highlight of this book, for me, are his rather disconnected musings on his own fatherhood and the day to day life of his grandparents. In a few pages of elegant musings, his writing makes one crave for eternal life, continuity, and a craving to be with the people long dead.
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