Zapis podróży - recenzja "Jadąc do Babadag" Andrzeja Stasiuka
The travel record - the review of Andrzej Stasiuk’s "Jadąc do Babadag"
Languages of publication
Jadąc do Babadag (Going to Babadag) is the latest novel by Andrzej Stasiuk. It was published in 2004 and Stasiuk received the Nike award for it the following year. The author continues the issues began in Dukla - fascination of small towns, places forgotten by progress, where the time stopped. Jadąc do Babadag is a novel about a travel through the forgotten Europe: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Albany, Moldova. The travel is carried out by means of hitch-hiking, train, and a car. It is a description of the visited towns, people he met, gathered items and a record of his philosophical, reflective thoughts. All of the city and town names mentioned are completely unknown to an average person and so they merge into one whole. That creates a peculiar unity of these places - the territory of his Central Europe. Places which he wants to revisit and remember by collecting coins, tickets and by describing in great detail. The novel is constructed by two levels - the one of the past and the one of the present. The first is built by the author's recollections of visited towns and cities and their careful descriptions. The second level evokes associations with small towns. In Stasiuk’s stories we encounter a mixture of fiction and reality. It is not a factual record of a travel through Europe. The reader is not able to differentiate between fiction and reality. The language used by Stasiuk creates an immensely tangible image of the described reality and so that image stays in the reader's mind for a long time. The usage of adjectives in this novel is also worth mentioning. Thanks to their number Stasiuk creates a specific image of the towns where passing of time and decay are their non-dctachable features. What adds to the image of these towns are their citizens. Stasiuk observes them in their everyday activities, men in bars, women sitting on benches on the markets. All of the people are natural in their behavior, they do not pretend anything, they are simple and poor. The descriptions of these people are dominated by adjectives associated with death, awaiting for a better moment. Main issues with which Stasiuk deals in this novel are the passing of time, memory and death. All of the described cities are similar to each other in one regard - it is there that the time stopped, the past is mixed with the present and the future is unimportant. The time creates the reality, it is time that creates history and not people. The only chance of beating the passing of the time and places is cultivating their memory. It is the only way of beating the time and making the cities real forever. The author does not try to fight the time, he is rather fascinated by the decay of items and their passing. He is interested in vanishing and decay, as he says it is the real face of this part of the continent which he is interested in. From the problem of passing comes the goal of Stasiuk’s travel. The author tries to reach places where one can get used to passing. It is in a way an alternative to the Western culture where the fear of what is inevitable - death, is very alive. Form the described cities and towns emerges an image of Central Europe. Firs of all in these areas there are no borders, the space is not limited by geography. It is characterized not by political borders but by people, their mentality and attitude to the world. Excursions to the cities of Central Europe are like time travel since Central Europe is not characterized by dates and historical events. The author is interested in uncovering what is simple and not soaked with the magnitude of history. That is why his attention is drown to small towns and cities and their inhabitants who by no actions manage to be a part of the history. Jadąc do Babadag contains metaphoric description of the author’s travel. The travel becomes symbolic and has to be seen as not only action but also as universal formula of a human’s life and experience. Each travel has to be described so it stays in memory. The need of belonging to a place confirms the tendency in polish literature - literature of the chosen ends. The artistic work of Andrzej Stasiuk is becoming a part of this kind of literature. Jadąc do Babadag is not only a travel to the forgotten places of Europe but also a search for one’s roots and identity in the vanishing towns.
Publication order reference