The page of Stasiuk, Andrzej, English biography
BiographyAndrzej Stasiuk (born 25 September 1960 in Warsaw, Poland) is one of the most successful and internationally acclaimed contemporary Polish writers, journalists and literary critics.
After being dismissed from secondary school, Stasiuk drifted aimlessly, became active in the Polish pacifist movement and spent one and a half years in prison for deserting the army - as legend has it, in a tank. His experiences in prison provided him with the material for the stories in his literary debut in 1992. Entitled Mury Hebronu ("The Walls of Hebron"), it instantly established him as a premier literary talent. After a collection of "Love and non-love poems" (Wiersze miłosne i nie, 1994), Stasiuk's bestselling first full-length novel Biały kruk (English translation as White Raven in 2000) appeared in 1995 and consolidated his position among the most successful authors in post-communist Poland.
Long before his literary breakthrough, in 1986, Stasiuk had left his native Warsaw and withdrew to the seclusion of the small hamlet of Czarne in the Beskids, a secluded part of the Carpathian mountain range in the south of Poland. Outside writing, he spends his time breeding sheep and llamas. Together with his wife, he also runs his own tiny but, by now, prestigious publishing business Wydawnictwo Czarne, named after its seat. Apart from his own books, Czarne also publishes other East European authors. Czarne also re-published works by the emigré Polish author Zygmunt Haupt, thus initiating Haupt's rediscovery in Poland.
While "White Raven" had a straight adventure plot, Stasiuk's subsequent writing has become increasingly impressionistic and concentrated on atmospheric descriptions of his adopted mental home, the provincial south-east of Poland and Europe, and the lives of its inhabitants. Galician Tales, one of two works available in English (the other being White Raven) conveys a good impression of the specific style developed by Stasiuk. A similar text is "Dukla" (1997), named after a small town near his home. "Dukla" achieved Stasiuk's breakthrough in Germany and helped built him the most appreciative reader-base outside Poland, although a number of Stasiuk's books have been translated into several other languages including English.
In an interview, Stasiuk confessed his preoccupation with this area and a lack of interest in western Europe: "I haven’t been to France or Spain and I’ve never thought about going there. I am simply interested in our part of the world, this central and eastern reality. My God, what would I be doing in France...".
Stasiuk himself cites Marek Hłasko as a major influence; critics have compared his style of stream of consciousness travel literature to that of Jack Kerouac. Stasiuk admitted that he "always wanted to write a Slavonic ‘On the Road’ and place it in a quite geographically limited and historically complicated space". Stasiuk's latest full-length effort, Jadąc do Babadag ("Travelling to Babadag"), describes a journey from the Baltic Sea down to Albania, and arguably comes close to this ideal. In Stasiuk's own words, "[t]here is no individual, human story in this book [...]. I wanted rather to write about geography, landscape, about the influence of material reality on the mind". Jadąc do Babadag received the NIKE for the best Polish book of 2000.
A certain exception to the stylistic preferences in Stasiuk's more recent work is the 1998 novel Dziewięć ("Nine"), which is set in Warsaw and records the changes affecting urban Polish society after the collapse of communism.
Apart from (semi-) fictional writing, Stasiuk also tried his hand at literary criticism (in Tekturowy samolot/"Cardboard Aeroplane", 2000) and quasi-political essayism on the notion of Central Europe (together with the Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych) in Moje Europa. Dwa eseje o Europie zwanej środkową ("My Europe: Two essays on the Europe called 'Central'"). Stasiuk also contributes articles to major Polish and German papers.
Stasiuk's latest and least typical work is Noc ("Night"), subtitled "A Slavo-Germanic medical tragifarce", a stageplay commissioned by the Schauspielhaus of Düsseldorf, Germany, for a theatre festival to celebrate the enlargement of the European Union in 2004. In the guise of a grotesque crime story, Stasiuk presents two imaginary nations, symbolising Eastern and Western Europe, who are entangled in a historical love-hate relationship.