From Publishers Weekly
Grim and harrowing, this novel by a deserter from the Polish army under communism paints a vivid and disturbing picture of contemporary life in Poland. Pawel, a young man in debt to loan sharks, wakes up one morning to a trashed apartment. As Pawel makes his way around Warsaw, trying to borrow money from Bolek, a drug dealer, and Jacek, his addict friend, Stasiuk chronicles their endless circuits around a Warsaw in the grip of booming cutthroat capitalism. Pawel, Jacek, Bolek and Bolek's henchman, Iron Man, are pursued by thugs and leave chaos in their wake, which has dire consequences for their women friends Beata, Syl and Zosia. Hobbled by the fast pace and gadget trappings of modern life, the characters are unable to express themselves, to connect with one another or to fully understand much of what they're doing. The seedy Warsaw criminal underground underscores Stasiuk's bleak motif, creating a tone that is unmistakably European and distinctly influenced by Poland's former communist regime. The novel, impressively translated by Johnston, offers a sobering vision of the new face of central Europe in a narrative that is at once hallucinatory, haunting and abject. (May)
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There is a plot skulking somewhere within Stasiuk's gloomy third novel--most likely a noirish drama populated by palookas, losers, and dames--but it's evident only in glimpses as fragmented and ambiguous as faded, wrinkled Polaroids. The narrative follows the wanderings of three Warsaw residents: Pawey, a salesman hounded by loan sharks; Jacek, an addict scrambling for the next score; and Bolek, a drug dealer wallowing in meaningless wealth. Suffocated by boredom, dread, and a dull, persistent horniness, the men kill their hours traversing the bleak, foggy city in endless successions of buses, trams, and cars. They occasionally pause to attempt clumsy communication with girlfriends, strangers, pets, or adversaries before boarding the next 17 or 29. As Stasiuk gradually gathers ever more peripheral characters into his patient and sympathetic arms, it becomes increasingly apparent that each one of these disengaged drifters is a supporting character in search of a protagonist--and that's the point. Nine
stinks like cheap cigarettes and tastes like a busted lip but is tenderly observant and elegantly translated from the Polish. Daniel KrauseCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved