Firmly off the tourist trail, the Polish novelist Andrzej Stasiuk turns his attention in this collection of travel essays to rural eastern Europe, places that have been carved up and rearranged endlessly by competing empires. Inspired to produce "a Slavic On the Road", he writes a slow, meditative prose that allows him to perceive the ancient rhythms under this constant change. Here he is, observing a group of Romanian teenagers: "They were allowing the present to flow past them; they probably regarded it as an element to be made use of, like fire for cooking or water for washing."

Stasiuk, who spent years in prison as a conscientious objector under communism, has a stark assessment of the capitalist New Europe: "Was our unity really meant to be so hollow and devoid of content that the unrestricted flow of goods, services and capital must fill it up entirely? All these things seem stillborn."

Andrzej Stasiuk
Dalkey Archive Press, 168pp, £10.99

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 November 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Dead End