Krzysztof Środa’s works might be termed simultaneously (very particular) travelogues and sophisticated quasi-novels with a first-person narrator. They are philosophy meets journalism, the result being a crystal-clear, distinctive, unique effect. The kind one wishes to return to, to keep in mind. All of Środa’s books talk about the author-narrator’s travels, while also being nonlinear tales in which, in the blink of an eye, we switch from the Caucasus or Armenia to Chicago, the Polish countryside, or wherever else. In Travels to Armenia we find, once more, this familiar intensity in experiencing the visible world, which does not, however, manifest itself in literary ecstasy, but rather an attentiveness of description, a savoring of detail, and finally the eponymous “interesting observations of nature,” a phrase that may appear ironic, but which in fact is taken totally seriously in the book. Portraits of people the author meets “on the road” are also extremely important. Środa uses these frequently intercultural meetings sparingly, but distinctively, and – and this is of vital importance – without a trace of kitschy excitement at making contact with “the Foreigner” or “the Other.” Środa’s avoidance of obviousness comes from his – and his book’s – inconclusiveness, so to speak. The reader would seek in vain the “morals” or “lessons” of the wanderer (or the writer), easy evaluations, hastily made conclusions, cheap exoticism, the sniveling, the facile.
A risky project for today’s day and age? “It’s often the case,” writes Środa, “that where there’s a risk, there’s also a reward.” Środa’s books, including this latest one, are a testament to the fact that this is, indeed, the case.
- Marcin Sendecki
Translated by Jennifer Croft
Krzysztof Środa (born 1959) is a writer, translator and historian of philosophy. He has worked at the Institute of Philosophy And Sociology within The Polish Academy of Sciences, wrote a Phd Thesis on phenomenology in the work of Edmund Husserl, and has translated over a dozen books about philosophy and economics. His previous publications include An Unclear Situation On The Continent (2003) and A Plan For Trading In Kabardian Horses (2006), and he is a past winner of the Gdynia Literary Award in the essay category.