Reviews - What do customers think about Tales of Galicia?
Kudos to the Translator Feb 25, 2006
Not only was this a wonderful book, but the translation was magnificent as well. Kudos to Pani Malgosia, as I called her in First Year Polish at Michigan. As I know from my many years of struggle with the language, Polish is a tough language to learn and fit lyrically into English. Doskonale!
A rare treat! Jun 1, 2004
Rare is the author who can delve into the spirit of a place and breath it into life. Faulkner was one who succeeded in making his mythical Yoknapatawpha walk and talk, creating a stage for human passions grounded in some very real terra firma.
Poland's literary bad boy, Andrzek Stasiuk, has done much the same with his homeland, a very real region in South-Eastern Poland known as Galicia. This forgotten corner of Europe is the backdrop for Stasiuk's melancholy work. Whether a novel or a mosaic of prose poems, it is hard to tell, but throughout the 15 tales, Stasiuk weaves a rich tapestry from the poignant and often brutish lives of one village's inhabitants. Each tale mirrors the bleak tragedy and faint hope of some of the villages' more 'colorful' characters. Whether its the quiet gypsy and his three-wheeled junk-filled bicycle, the resigned sheriff, the near-insane loggers who slave themselves to death only to throw away their pitiful wages on vodka and more vodka, or the menagerie of the local pub, Stasiuk's characters provide a peek into the freak-show world of post-communist Poland. More than anything, 'Tales of Galicia' shows the painful reality of what has happened with those unable to cope with the pace of a freer, more materialistic, Iron Curtain-less Eastern Europe. But Stasiuk wisely avoids the pitfalls of sociology. His 'place' and 'people' speak of universal follies and foibles.
Like in his previous work, 'The White Raven,' the main character--if there is one--is a murderer. A seemingly normal pig butcher who calmly slits the throat of his wife's lover. Stasiuk never moralizes. He merely paints a picture of what is. His characters are simple people driven to extremes through their pitiful circumstances.
After the murderer's premature death in the local prison, he sneaks back (now a spirit) to his native village where he interacts with the living, not quite knowing which world is the better. Like some ethereal guide from the other world, he pities those still left to suffer their days through a hopeless existence. He eventually makes himself known to a precious few, demanding his tarnished name be set right. The last tale ends with the skeptical sheriff confronting the burnt-out local priest with the murderer's last request.
With his resurrected main character, Stasiuk paints a stark picture of a world where the dead commune daily with the living, where the past mingles amidst the present. In a way, Stasiuk has retraced those steps found in another work of Slavic genius, 'Dead Souls,' whose echoes can be heard everywhere in 'Tales.' Yet, Stasiuk also has much in common with his peers across the Atlantic. His portrayal of tough people imprisoned in a tough environment is reminiscent of Richard Ford or Pam Houston's short stories.
For those who love their literary 'places,' Stasiuk's Galician mountains will envelop the reader in their piney arms. Sometimes a little difficult to follow---character motivation tends to evaporate in the mountain mist---this work is a fascinating escape into a world well off the beaten path. The earthy, primeval language of Stasiuk carries over well into English thanks to the sterling work of translator, Margarita Nafpaktitis, and makes for a rare treat well worth the read!
Wonderful Translator Feb 10, 2004
Margarita Nafpaktitis, the translator of this book, was my English teacher last year at the University of Michigan. She was the best English teacher I've ever had; her class was fantastic. She is very intelligent and has done a great job translating this work.
best book ever, dawg Nov 20, 2003
such a strange and beautiful novel in stories. Andrzej is the man. that's all I got to say.