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Nine: A Novel [Hardcover]

Andrzej Stasiuk , Bill Johnston


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Book Description

May 1 2007
Pawel, a young businessman in debt to loan sharks, wakes up one April morning in a sea of debris, broken glass, ripped upholstery, and clothes spilling out of the wardrobe. He turns to two friends for help: Bolek, a former coal miner, now a drug dealer who lives in tasteless luxury; and Jacek, an addict, who is himself on the run through Warsaw, a washed-out city, a hostile landscape of apartment blocks, railroad stations, wild gardens, factories, and suburban wastelands.

In this novel Andrzej Stasiuk portrays a generation of Poles, freed from outdated ideologies but left feeling adrift and disconnected from family, neighbors, and friends. At once existential crime fiction and a work of art, Nine establishes Stasiuk as a major voice in European literature.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (May 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151010641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151010646
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16.7 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,517,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Krause
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 in fact - excellent language and atmosphere rendering, but weak plot May 2 2007
By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Pawel leaves his apartment one gloomy morning and... cannot come back. This is the beginning of "Nine" a novel by Andrzej Stasiuk, set in the 1990's in Warsaw, Poland.
Pawel is one of many people, who after the transition were lured by the prospect of earning some money in their own business, which was finally allowed. He borrowed a lot of money from some dubious characters to opn a small store with underwear, and now he is in trouble. He visits his old friends and acquaintances, trying to borrow the sum, at the same time running away from the thugs sent by his creditors.

Pawel wanders around Warsaw, using public transportation most of the time (occasionally a car); looking through the bas of streetcar window, he thinks about the past and sees the changes (or lack of changes) in the city. This is the side of Warsaw that was unknown (or unfamiliar: of course somehow in the corner of my mind I knew that it existed) to me when I lived there (I was at the university at the same time, and had lived in Warsaw all my life): Pawel sees mostly poverty, housing projects or dilapidated old huts on in the suburbs, dirt, the drug addicts and prostitutes at the Central Station, illegal Vietnamese streetsellers...

Stasiuk describes the dark side of Warsaw very suggestively, using strong imaging and words, his prose is very masculine (I usually try to avoid such classifications, but here it is hard to avoid). The atmosphere of the novel is heavy, depressing, with many excellent observations, so that the city life during this transition period can be perfectly reconstructed. Unfortunately, this is all there is. The whole novel is a snapshot of the daily life, and a very good snapshot, but the plot does not really get anywhere, it is only a description of a few days from a life of Pawel and some other characters to who he is connected more or less loosely. All the threads (which are also not very explicitly shown, rather hinted upon) lead nowhere, only giving a general sense of danger and hopelessness. For me, this is a weakness of this book, especially if it is supposed to be a novel. I like Stasiuk's more recent books, in which he focuses on his impressions from travels around Eastern Europe, much better - he is perfects at catching the specific climate of small, forgotten places and at telling stories of ordinary people. "Nine" is not Stasiuk's best, but it gives hope for more translations into English (for now, of what was translated, I recommend "Tales of Galicia").
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anonymous Lives Dec 30 2008
By Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Andrzej Stasiuk is emerging as one of the most interesting new writers in Post-Communist Poland. His themes seem to constantly explore the disjointed lives of misfits in a society undergoing great changes. As such, Stasiuk is the observer of that change which took place in Poland with the collapse of Communism, the rapid growth of the Free Market, and of the impact on the lives of the less fortunate. In "Nine" one drifts in and out of the lives of a group of individuals living on the fringes of society; tramps, drug addicts, criminals, dodgy dealers. They have an anonymity to them so that, at first, they could be anyone but then something brings them into focus and we place them into a context. And this is also true about the book - initially pointless, difficult to focus on but gradually coalescing into some sort of structure. The book is difficult to get into because of its episodic, almost disjointed quality but the quality of writing rewards the reader. The real focal point of the book, the real glue to it all, is the city, Warsaw, pulsating with anonymous lives and speeding traffic like blood coursing through veins. There is something about the "slice of life" here, just a snapshot, a sampling of anonymous lives.
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull Sept. 24 2012
By S. Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
I can't comment on whether it was the translation that was bad or just the book itself, but I couldn't make it past about 30 pages. There was no plot, and the author gave us no reason to care at all about the main character, who just seems to drift aimlessly around the city. The pages are filled with seemingly random details, like a plane flying over head, or a tram passing by, or a star twinkling in the night, but these details do nothing to add to the story or to anything really. It reads like a disconnected group of observations, none of which appear particularly insightful, or interesting in the slightest. I wonder what the author's intentions were in writing this.
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lousy English translation Aug. 10 2007
By rkd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Maybe this novel is good in Polish (po polsku), but the English rendering is terrible. I should have stopped after the third sentence as that set the tone for the entire novel. Painful to read and no doubt does an injustice to the author.

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