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Ramblings remembered randomly
on 20 October 2013
If you enjoy reading about crumbling stucco, peeling paintwork, places forgotten by time and the outside world, the backwaters of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, byways hidden by mist, melancholia, ferries to nowhere, drinking in forlorn bars, decay, the detritus of post-communism, village squares overgrown with untended trees, and sleepy border crossings, then this might be the book for you. All of these things and others dealt with by the Stasiuk, the author, fascinate me, but somehow his book did not grab my attention as tightly as I hoped that it would.
Is Stasiuk's writing poetry, or is it prose that is on the point of becoming poetry? Or, is it an almost meaningless ramble of words trying to evoke the meaning of memory? Whatever it is, one must take one's hat off to the translator, whose task of bringing this text from Polish into English must have been difficult. And, what a ramble this is. Stasiuk's memories drift from one place to another often without any discernible geographic logic. The exceptions are the chapters on Albania and Moldovar, which I enjoyed most.
Even if this book is not my favourite, it certainly captures the decaying atmosphere of the lesser visited corners of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, places that time and the outside world almost neglect. Every now and then, Stasiuk makes reference to the Romanian writer Emil Cioran (1911-1995), whom I had never heard of before. According to an article in Wikipedia, many of his works express torment, pessimism, and a tragic sense of history. These are some of the aspects of the places that fascinate Stasiuk, although I felt that he conveys a far more optimistic appraisal of the forgotten corners of the fringes of Europe that he visited.
This book was recommended to me by a friend. Would I recommend it? I am not sure. If you can read fast, which I cannot, then give it a try. If you are a slow reader, then give it a miss.
I have rated this book 3 stars, but I would have liked to have been able to award it, say, 2.75! I almost liked it, but not quite. Maybe the geographic confusion was a little too much for me. I would have preferred a slightly more linear set of journeys. However, as a a literary evocation of the randomness of the memory process, the author has succeeded. If you enjoy the works of W.G. Sebald, then it is likely that this book by Stasiuk will be up your street.