I Love this Dragon. An Interview with Andrzej Stasiuk (fragments)

Andrzej Stasiuk, the author of “On the Road to Babadag” will write about Lublin for the citybooks project. His piece will be then translated into four languages and published online. What will Stasiuk write? We don’t know that yet. He talks to Sylwia Hejno about strolling along Zamoyska Street, a sense of affection he has for eastern cities and why not winning the title of the European Capital of Culture was a good thing.

You’ve stayed in Lublin for almost two weeks now, what do you see from your
window?
Faces from my childhood. I was brought up in a poor neighbourhood in Warsaw. I see poor worn out men in their 50s. I even helped one of them. He looked so bad that I went up to him myself and asked: “Well, do you need some…?” Him: “Fucking badly!” I gave him some cash and he was amazed that some angel visited him standing in this gate. And when I was on my way to Warsaw a couple of days ago, three quiet and discreet beggars asked me for help.

(…) You’ve said some strong words about other cities.
And I’m happy to do that now and again. Lets take Krakow as an example. It’s a city filled with self-love and self-admiration as if no one ever travelled anywhere to notice that the world is full of similar cities. When I see that attitude, I stick a spike right in the middle of this backwater’s ass with great delight. Krakow is just another Central European town, just as dirty with pigeon shit as many others. Lublin hasn’t got a huge ego, it’s easier to get to the essence of it, easier to touch it.

(…) Lublin lost the competition for the title of the European Capital of Culture. Is it
good or bad?

Jesus, it’s great. What do you need this whole circus for? For a moment you would notice more money coming in, because you would be the Capital of Culture, but what does this tittle really mean? The year passes, all the artists and experts leave and you are left with the same burnt out bulbs, the same old merchants on the Jewish market, the same old man with a limp. Those titles and events they never last long or matter too much. It’s all about some officials organizing a claque for themselves. This is what I think, that in the end we always end up alone where we were, not European enough, overpowered by our relationship with in the East. It’s something we hate, but also something that defines our identity. Let Wrocław be the Capital of Culture. I used to like this city a lot for its lack of pretentiousness. It was a melting pot of the West and the East. But five or six years ago it went nuts, just like Krakow. They started to believe that Wrocław is the best, that it’s almost Berlin. They even built themselves a lookalike fountain. It started to affect people who live there, it’s hard to talk to anyone in the streets now.

From: Sylwia Hejno, Kurier Lubelski, 03.12.2011