On the road to babadag
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Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveler. By car, train, bus, and ferry, he goes from his native Poland to Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova, and Ukraine—to small towns and villages with strangely evocative names. “The heart of my Europe,” he tells us, “beats in Sokolów Podlaski and in Hu?i. It does not beat in Vienna.”
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. In Soroca, he locates a baroque-Byzantine-Tatar-Turkish encampment, to meet Gypsies. And all the way to Babadag, between the Baltic Coast and the Black Sea, Stasiuk indulges his curiosity and his love for the forgotten places and people of Europe.
“There isn’t quite a name for the region that holds the Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk in thrall. The general drift is from ‘the land of King Ubu to the land of Count Dracula’, Poland to Romania. . . . Its nucleus is the landlocked centre of Central Europe; its protoplasm spreads like an amoeba through the Balkans. It cannot be convincingly mapped. . . . As travel writing, this is unconventional, but as literature profoundly authentic.” —The Independent (UK)
“A mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed trek through a little-visited region of the world.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A eulogy for the old Europe, the Europe both in and out of time, the Europe now lost in the folds of the map.” —The Guardian (UK)