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Stone Upon Stone

4.38  ·  Rating Details ·  442 Ratings  ·  68 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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Jun 10, 2014 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing
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 pass a colorful parade of people and events which he had participated.

Country road, winding and full of holes hich one could
Jul 31, 2015 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
Jul 19, 2016 Ken rated it liked it
Imagine sitting with a great storyteller for over two weeks. His mind is full of stories from rural Poland, from the war before and after, from his adventures as a young wag and an aging but likable man. In no time at all, one thought strand leads to the next and he jumps. He has no problem with time, either, going back many years and then only a few, up to the present and back to wherever. Chronologies are for the history books, not the storytellers!

As you might expect, though, some stories are
Vit Babenco
Nov 25, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
I would've simply called Stone Upon Stone a narrative wonder.
“Though if you ask me, eternity’s the same whether you’re eaten by worms in your grave or fishes in the sea. When the Day of Judgment comes, the folk in their graves and the ones from the sea will have to rise up just the same. And it’s a lot less trouble in the sea than when you have to build a tomb.”
The protagonist lived a long, rebellious and troubled life and now he attempts to build a tomb for himself and his kin. And in the proce
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
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
Dec 15, 2012 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: btba-2012, 1984
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
Jan 02, 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
Rick Slane
Feb 12, 2017 Rick Slane rated it really liked it
I read an English translation from the original Polish. I kept thinking of the stream of consciousness narrator as one of Tolstoy's happy serfs despite his fight against the Germans and a debilitating injury he suffers all the while concerned with building a family tomb.
Jan 14, 2011 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
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 14, 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’
Sep 04, 2015 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Not only is this a great, timeless novel, but it is a very funny one. It won the "Best Translated Novel" Award from Pen, and translator Bill Johnston, who teaches at Univ. of Indiana, deserves ample praise for delivering a novel that should be as well-read or studied as Faulkner. Its associative (digressive?), non-linear structure may bother those who want a traditional plot, but its vocabulary is positively plain. I couldn't find one complex word to add to my Nabokovian word 'wall'. This doesn' ...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
Aug 09, 2016 Argos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Son yıllarda okuduğum en güzel roman. Çeviri olağanüstü, bir köylünün dilinden insanı, insanlığı, insanlık hallerini o kadar güzel anlatıyor ki, kısa cümleler ve basit tanımlamalarla seller sular gibi okunuyor. Hele bir konudan bir konuya geçerken, konular buketi ile çok keyifli bir okuma sağlıyor. İleride bir kez daha okuyacağım.
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
Nov 24, 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
Elif Çakmak
Çeviri muhteşemdi.
Feb 24, 2013 Ellen 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
Feb 06, 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
Apr 10, 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
Sep 08, 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 05, 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
Jan 30, 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
Jamie Ross
Dec 05, 2011 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.
Mar 26, 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.
Sep 16, 2011 Jezier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Temat książki nie wydawał mi się specjalnie pociągający, ale napisana jest z prawdziwym mistrzostwem stylu. Świetnie się ją czytało, mimo że los chłopa jest mi raczej obojętny.
Lex Bijlsma
Dec 28, 2013 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".
Carol Peters
Apr 09, 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.
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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?” 2 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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