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Stone Upon Stone

4.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  369 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
A masterpiece of post-war Polish literature, Stone Upon Stone is Wiesław Myśliwski’s grand epic in the rural tradition—a profound and irreverent stream of memory cutting through the rich and varied terrain of one man’s connection to the land, to his family and community, to women, to tradition, to God, to death, and to what it means to be alive.

Wise and impetuous, plainspo
Paperback, 537 pages
Published January 2011 by Archipelago Books (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,366)
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Nov 15, 2014 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2014, reviewed

Stone upon stone is an epic saga and vast panorama of rural life and the peasant's view of the world . The main character , country bumpkin Szymek Pietruszka , a cross between a philosopher and chronicler , in a simple though not plebby way spins a story of his own life . And we , readers actually feel as if we were sitting on the threshold of his homestead and before our eyes passed a colorful parade of people and events which he had participated .

Country road , winding and full of holes whic
Jan 15, 2016 Lee rated it it was amazing
Finished it and said something like "whoa, great book." The title is perfect -- per the epigram it's from a folk song: "stone upon stone / on stone a stone / and on that stone / another stone." A perfect title because it's a simple introduction to the novel's alinear associative structure/progress across the clear-cut beginning, middle, and end of a few eras -- the narrator's pre-war youth of mostly satisfying work in the fields, fighting in the resistance during WWII, and the post-war soviet er ...more
Dec 14, 2011 Sparkyestonia rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to figure out why this book took me so dang long to read - the characters often will get into a monologue that will go on for 4 to 5 pages - in a single paragraph. There's not much white space in this book. Brace yourself for this, as it is so worth reading.

About the time you think the main character is a total schmuck, he does something so touching or noble it makes your heart ache. At times I read excerpts out loud to my spouse, and I felt that I was singing a song; somethi
The discursive narrative style is a blend of artfulness and artlessness that disarmed me with its power. All of the harrowing, deadly, tender, and memorable events in Szymek Pietruszka’s life are revealed to the reader, with many digressions along the way. Some events are sharply told in a single paragraph. Others reveal themselves in small increments that build throughout the novel, as if some memories are too painful to tell all at once. Szymek is irreverent and explosive. He's a drunk, a lout ...more
Jan 07, 2014 Caroline rated it really liked it
Mysliwski builds dual portraits of the protagonist Szymek Pietruszka and his village just as Szymek is building the tomb for himself and his brothers, a bit at a time as materials come his way. Time loops around. We get a bit of an introduction to someone with a comment that foreshadows their eventual relationship with Szymek, or a casual aside about an event or an outcome, told in the course of a different story. Eventually the mason comes back and builds up that wall, filling in but maybe not ...more
Apr 25, 2016 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: btba-2012
I should start this review by saying it is completely inadequate. This fine book is a wealth of quiet wisdom that in its simple delivery reminded me of three other favorite books: Gilead, So Long, See You Tomorrow, and Stoner. Here, as in those three, we have wide-reaching reflection about a life. Here our narrator is Szymek Pietruszka, who, through a back-and-forth style, attempts to add up the pieces of his life as a farmer in rural Poland during the middle half of the twentieth century.

When S
Mar 03, 2011 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Mysliwski has created a masterpiece. And Johnston's translation makes this great work accessible to all English readers. Farmer Szymek Pietruszka muses on his life and we are allowed to enter into this fascinating, complex man's views, tall-tales, tragedies, and wild nights at dances. It's cleverly written, and by the end of the long (534 pages) novel the reader longs to spend more time with the fascinating narrator.
I'm from Polish agrarian ancestry, and I wish to thank Mr. Mysliwski for giving
Paul Brannan
Oct 24, 2013 Paul Brannan rated it it was amazing
This is the Polish Zorba. A rambling, epic of a book charting the life of a hard-drinking, womanizing, beast of a man who lives life on his own terms, no matter the consequences.

Through the eyes of Szymek Pietruszka, a peasant with scant education, little money and even fewer prospects, we are shown a slice of rural life before, during and after the Second World War.

The transition is captured in minute detail and delivered in a series of soliloquies that act as metaphors for the change in Poles’
Apr 20, 2012 Tuck rated it it was amazing
A true saga and probably masterpiece of rural Poland farmer describing himself, his farm, family, village, and country coming into the modern world (no so long ago). He still lives on the farm, but his 2 bothers have moved to the city for good jobs, indoor plumbing, heat, that kind of thing, his parents are dead, his town is dysfunctional and drunk and poor and generally either whiney, vindictive or both. He is a bachelor, a horndog, and perpetually lonely, thinking, and likes it that way, sorta ...more
Sep 19, 2014 Judith rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have read in months. Many other readers have given precise and informative reviews of this book. I will only say that it is a brilliantly painted picture of humanity, humanity at a certain time and place, but a humanity that encompasses a life fully detailed, humility, braggadocio, fear, dreams, prayers and curses. Szymek's world of Polish peasantry evoked the parallel world of my forefathers, Jewish tavern owners who a few times even peek through the narrative. E ...more
Louise Silk
Jan 20, 2012 Louise Silk rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a fascinating book. One man painting an epic tale in a kind of stream of consciousness that is at once engaging and dull.

There's very little plot. Instead we meander with him through stories of Polish peasant life around WWII. There is the land, the cemetery, the community, the church and the family. This has all of the ingredients that proves that any life lived is unique and worthy no matter the suffering.

The translation is excellent. The language flows so smoothly that I felt like I
Dec 20, 2014 Laysee rated it really liked it
I very rarely leave a book unfinished and I had wanted to consign “Stone Upon Stone” to the heap of unreadable books after the first chapter. It took me a very long time to get to the end of the first chapter. But I felt I needed to read some more, so I read another two chapters and still I wanted to ditch it. However, I am thankful I kept on reading because it turned out to be an unusual story that touched me in unexpected ways.

I have never before read Wiesław Myśliwski. He is a Polish novelist
Feb 14, 2013 Darryl rated it really liked it
Having a tomb built. It's easy enough to say. But if you've never done it, you have no idea how much one of those things costs. It's almost as much as a house. Though they say a tomb is a house as well, just for the next life. Whether it's for eternity or not, a person needs a corner to call their own.

Symek Pietruszka has returned to his home village in late 20th century Poland, after a two year hospital stay that has left him crippled but unbowed. He is in the twilight of his remarkable yet lar
Marie cuatt
Oct 07, 2011 Marie cuatt rated it it was amazing
Telling his story,Szymek,an ordinary man, a Polish peasant takes us through his life, pre-World War II, during and afterward. The author characters are rich in the ways a whole people who have learned to survive a difficult life in a land that is continually at the mercy of stronger neighboring countries or nature.

The depth, the brutality, the simplicity and the beauty of the everyday is so very beautifully described by the author.
To have a piece of land, to grow enough food to maintain life and
Jan 05, 2016 Prowisorio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recensies
Sommige boeken zijn simpelweg te goed. Dan schieten complimenten zoals 'prachtige stijl', 'originele en buitengewoon passende metaforen', 'schitterend meanderende en bovenal uitermate boeiende verhalen' domweg tekort. En dat is zeker het geval als al dat fraais door de schrijver niet wordt gebruikt om aan te tonen hoe goed hij kan schrijven of hoe fantasierijk hij is, maar uitsluitend ten dienste van het verhaal: "En de maan was als een koeienuier, die als je maar aan haar spenen had getrokken, ...more
Literary Review The
Feb 06, 2013 Literary Review The rated it it was amazing
By Stephanie Steiker

For The Literary Review
Volume 54 "Emo, Meet Hole"

Only when I was living in Krakow about ten years ago and saw a production of
Beckett’s “I’ll Go On” in London did I suddenly see Ireland and Poland as doubles—
small countries with beleaguered pasts, a history of failed uprisings, proclivities for
Catholicism and drink, and a preternatural talent for dark absurdist humor, gift
of the gab, and, whether despite or because of all the aforementioned, damn great
But as mu
Sep 15, 2012 DROPPING OUT rated it it was amazing
Over the expanse of 500+ pages, Szymek Pietruszka, a Polish peasant, recalls his hardscrabble life, that of his family, and his village, from his childhood (circa 1920), through the War, and into the Communist Era (ending circa 1970s). Told in the first person, free-associating one incident after another, with no formal plot, some "paragraphs" extending over pages. The narrative will go, often within a sentence or phrase, from an incident that evokes a belly-laugh to one of hair-raising horror.

Marek Pawlowski
Naprawdę dobry zbiór opowiadań jak zwykle u Myśliwskiego napisany ponadprzeciętnym językiem. Każde z kolejnych roztacza wokół siebie atmosferę polskiej wsi najczęściej z jej ciemniejszej strony. Myśliwski ma niesamowity talent to kreowania pewnej egzystencjalnej atmosfery, bohaterów, którzy są otoczeni przez swoją historię i zdarzenia rozgrywające się w opowieści. Czytelnik jest natychmiast wrzucony w świat z całą jego głębią i o ile na początku można się trochę w nim gubić wraz z każdą opowieśc ...more
May 06, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Starting with the building of a family tomb, Szymeck Pietstruszka, a Polish farmer shares an unending stream of stories of his childhood, his family, his varied career as a barber, a soldier, a wedding official and being a farmer. That he loves life, tries to do the right thing most of the time, and has a healthy fear of God and is at times a smart ass, is clear, and one cannot but continue to cheer him on.

His reminisces of the dances he attends, the drunken fights, his lovers and only love and
Carol Peters
Apr 14, 2016 Carol Peters rated it it was amazing
I don't know if peasants still exist, but this novel depicts them in Poland before/during/after WWII. A remarkable novel. Hard to believe I am the same species. Very long, could not put it down.
Feb 09, 2012 Jakub rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-the-library
Myśliwski to najlepszy współczesny polski prozaik. I tu to potwierdza. Ciężko właściwie mi to ująć w słowa. Zwłaszcza, że Myśliwski robi to tak dobrze. Potrafi pisać o sprawach ważnych i o sprawach drobnych w taki sposób, że jego słowa wnikają w czytelnika. Czasem wnikają delikatnie i płynnie, a czasem mogę czynić spustoszenie niczym szrapnel. Szymek to świetny bohater, choć do bohaterstwa mu daleko. Pełen sprzeczności, porywczy, na swój sposób i mądry. W rzeczywistości pewnie nie zbliżyłbym się ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
Like no other book--a Polish peasant tells his story from childhood before World War II to about 1970, and it is truly like sitting down to listen to him as one story brings another to mind. He is at once reprehensible, funny, touching, and inspired.
Jamie Ross
Apr 08, 2012 Jamie Ross rated it it was amazing
Szymek likes his women and he likes his booze, but he loves the land and the power of words to weave stories—a gift he employs masterfully. Destined to become a classic if only it will garner the attention it deserves.
Jun 21, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation
This is rambling, fictional memoir that goes back and forth in time from before WW II to the sixties in Poland. It is a long read at 534 pages, but I think it is worth the time. What I liked: the rural life descriptions of farming, socializing, and keeping a household; the philosophical monologues that crop up throughout, and illustration of how painful modernity can be to traditional cultures. I like reading translated works, because they are more unpredictable than works in English and often b ...more
Lex Bijlsma
Mar 24, 2015 Lex Bijlsma rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Maarten 't Hart in het kwadraat, en dan in Polen. Ik wou dat ik een euro had voor elke alinea die begint met de woorden "Nou, en toen".
Jun 23, 2015 Jdu FFH rated it really liked it
Shelves: polentsjechenslo
Het platteland is in de ogen van de huidige stadsbewoner, en dat zijn we allemaal, een idylle vol heerlijke natuur, vrijheid, huppelende dieren en altijd lekker weer. Dat heeft allemaal niet veel te maken met hoe het er daadwerkelijk aan toe gaat op het platteland, laat staan met de ontberingen die vrijwel alle generaties voor ons op dat land hebben meegemaakt. De aarde geeft, de aarde neemt, en Wieslaw Mysliwski heeft daar een vuistdikke roman over geschreven, vanuit het perspectief van een Poo ...more
May 21, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Imagery is lacking in modern media. It takes time and effort to conjure a world of nuance and physical context. And it takes time to digest as well. An easy and pretty effective shortcut is to create some great CGI explosions, Buzzfeed top ten lists with gifs, and vibrant teal toned backgrounds. I will be the first to admit that these more novel mediums mostly suffice in my hectic world. But every once in a while--like a good meal served over hours among friends--I like to pick up something with ...more
Apr 08, 2014 Jean rated it it was amazing
To say this book is a slow start is putting it mildly. I started this book in Nov, read it off and on (mostly off), renewed it 3 times, returned it, then checked out it again in March, read it off and on again, and finally finished it after 2 renewals.

It's written in a train of thought style where the narrator starts off on one story/memory then veers around tangentially as one thing leads to another in his memory before he ends up where he started finishing the original story. The stories run o
Aug 09, 2011 Carol added it
This is a raw look at lives that were lived raw, from cutting grass by hand with a scythe to getting drunk and fighting as a hobby.
And oh man, can the characters in this book talk. One character can go on for four or more pages in one long run on thought mixed with lecture and philosophizing. I don't know if this is a trait of Polish farmers in the 1930's and '40's or if it's the author's style, maybe both. I'd sometimes lose track of who was talking. There's a lot of telling people what to do d
A almost exclusively a monologue, filled with rural (do I dare call it peasant? :-)) common sense and wisdom. Charming and fascinating. Read and read, swallowed pages perhaps missing out on details but absorbing the spirit of the story. The editor note advertises the protagonists turbulent faith but I found myself far less interested in the story then in the characters and relationships between them. It was for me, yet another insight into the “other peoples world”. Not my environment and not my ...more
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Wiesław Myśliwski is a Polish novelist. In his novels and plays Myśliwski concentrates on life in the Polish countryside. He is twice the winner of the Nike Award (Polish equivalent of the Booker Prize) for Widnokrąg (1996) and Traktat o łuskaniu fasoli (2006).

His first novel translated into English was The Palace, translated by Ursula Phillips. His novel Stone Upon Stone (Kamień na kamieniu), won
More about Wiesław Myśliwski...

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“She wasn't planning on being a saint, right? Why would she? She'd get old and then regret it. What pleasure was there in being a saint? All you'd do is be in a picture on the church wall, or they'd hand you out during the priest's Christmastime visit or sell you at church fairs, or you'd have your name in the calendar. But you have to be a big-time saint for that. You'd have to kick another saint off, because there's already four or five of them for every day. Even the most saintly ones are going to get squeezed out soon. It's not worth the effort. On top of everything else, you never know if it's only down here you're considered a saint, but afterwards you're actually going to go roast in hell. How can we know what happens afterwards?” 1 likes
“Słowa same poprowadzą. Słowa wszystko na wierzch wywleką. Słowa i z najgłębszej głębi wydrą, co gdzieś boli i skowycze. Słowa krwi upuszczą i od razu lżej się robi.” 1 likes
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