Andrzej Stasiuk
  • Czarne
    Wołowiec 2012
    ISBN: 978-83-7536-288-6
    96 pp

Andrzej Stasiuk’s latest publication consists of four sketches in prose – works that are neither short stories nor pictures. Not particularly extensive, lacking in any clear plot, revolving around people that are not particularly sympathetic. In sum: there’s not a lot happening here.
The protagonists of these pieces are taken from real life, and not embellished for literature’s sake: a gal, a dog, a writer, and one of Stasiuk’s childhood friends. What they have in common is that they have died. In sum: again, not a lot.
At the same time, this not a lot – this loose, digressive narrative style, in which non-obligating description suddenly becomes modest event – creates a dazzling and profound, if very free, philosophical tale, in which a sustained reflection on absence becomes a kind of portrait of life itself. We alternate between questions relating to death and passages saturated with the senses. This interweaving of nothingness, on the one hand, with appearances, colors, and scents, on the other, is so intense that Grochów might also be called a melancholy essay on sight, touch, and smell.
For Stasiuk, life is an ephemeral substance that strives to persist. This striving is in vain, because nothing always shines through life. At times that nothing takes the form of spirits that, in appearing, tear through the tightly woven fabric of our existence. At other times, nothing reveals itself in the eyes of a dog. At other times, the narrator is witness to nothing while the bodies of those close to him, tormented by illnesses and old age, are transformed into objects – foreign to those that inhabit them and foreign to those that observe them. But at times nothing appears with no warning. And when nothing betrays no sign of itself, life loses meaning.
This is why Stasiuk doesn’t look for meaning, and doesn’t ask questions about an overriding order. He knows that the overriding order of life is dying. He knows that life double-crosses always and everyone. That the narrative that all of us attempt to impose upon our existence will sooner or later will come undone. There is no point, then, in designing overly cohesive stories. The answer to the fundamental inexpressibility of life is an inexpressibility of the story – a digressive course, an incessant changing of topics, a kind of shunting of narration.

- Przemysław Czapliński

Translated by Jennifer Croft