A Review of Andrzej Stasiuk’s Image of Europe

  • Abstract:

    Andrzej Stasiuk, probably the most prominent contemporary Polish writer, is an important voice in the current discourse about Europe. In his texts, Stasiuk designs his personal Central Europe, his mała ojczyzna, in the sense of a mental map. He prefers peripheral border areas between Poland and ist Eastern neighbours to centres like Warsaw. Although Stasiuk doubtlessly adds some interesting aspects to the discourse about Europe, his ideas can only serve as an intermediate stage in it. Those who look for seminal ideas will be disappointed, because:
    1. Stasiuk’s concept of Central Europe does not offer any solutions how to close the gap between „East“ and „West“. It merely reverses the common view by demonizing the West – globalized, soulless and damned to eternal progress – and romanticizing the East – melancholic, backward and chaotic.
    2. Stasiuk only partially manages to take the step from myth to metaphor. He does work with metaphors of Europe (house, island, journey etc.), however, static and backward myths persist in his texts, such as the East-West dichotomy, the Habsburg monarchy and the Balkans.
    3. Stasiuk’s narrator eternally moves within the same, familiar space, which is identified as a circle of 300 km radius around his home village in the Carpathian Mountains. By doing so, he transgresses national borders, but the region he strides is relatively small and historically unencumbered. The much more problematic relationship with Germany and Russia are more or less blinded out and laden with stereotypes.
    4. The narrator hardly ever communicates with people, especially if they do not belong to his mała ojczyzna. This perspective of the passive observer, this way of talking about each other instead of with each other, does not provide a new perspective for a cooperative future of Europe.