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Nikolski Paperback – Feb 10 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada; Reprint edition (Feb. 10 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676978800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676978803
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #141,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Despite the preponderance of clues and artefacts scattered throughout the story, Dickner does not tie everything up in a neat package. He lets certain threads dangle, giving Nikolski more substance and nuance. The story lingers in the mind long after the last page has been read, leaving the reader in its strange and wonderful orbit."
The Gazette

"Nikolski offers a breathtakingly original perception of the world, mixing geography, cartography and longing in a language and construction both intellectually sophisticated and emotionally affecting."
The Globe and Mail

"The characters are so infused with vitality and surprise that they become unforgettable; the language (and in translation - remarkable) is as lively as the characters; and the humorous, sweetly sad view of life in general is engaging… This novel is so richly textured and multi-layered that a single short review may do it a disservice. But its comic brilliance is undeniable - a hugely enjoyable read."
Edmonton Journal

"Chock full of arcane detail about the sea, fish lore, antique books, travel and archaeology, Nikolski is the product of an eccentric mind propelled by an exuberant spirit."
–Marianne Ackerman, The Walrus

"Lederhendler's cadences and elegant vocabulary are a pleasure to read, while Dickner inexorably sweeps the reader along with the tide as the characters mature. This novel will bring a smile to your face and will be one you will want to read again."
Winnipeg Free Press

"One cannot say it enough: this book is the discovery of the year… The humour is striking; his vision stunning."
–Carole Beaulieu, L'actualité

"Nicolas Dickner has a limitless imagination, great erudition and an inventive pen. He is the incarnation of the future of Quebec writing - nothing less."
–Pierre Cayouette, L'actualité

"If you are interested in the great wide world, submerse yourself immediately in this phantasmagorical, lively and fascinating novel."
–Hugues Corriveau, Lettres québécoises

"A carefully crafted, sumptuous first novel that will restore your taste for flights of fancy and for treasure hunts in time and space."
–Benoît Jutras, Voir

"Stylish, offbeat, poignant and perceptive."
–David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas

"Dickner excites the imagination of the reader to the point of ecstasy."
Le Monde

"Nicolas Dickner, who uses beautifully spare prose which can be as darkly comic as it is affecting, isn't trying to tell a conventional story, he's trying to tap into a very modern idea: that we need to understand that we all connect with each other somehow, family or not. And he does so impressively well."
Metro (UK)

About the Author

Born in Rivière-du-Loup in 1972, Nicolas Dickner grew up in Quebec and studied visual arts and literature in university. Afterwards, he travelled extensively in Europe and Latin America before settling in Montreal, where he now resides. Dickner won two literary awards for his first published work, the 2002 short story collection L'encyclopédie du petit cercle, including the Prix Adrienne-Choquette for the best collection of short fiction of the year. Dickner's first novel, Nikolski, was originally published in Quebec by Éditions Alto in 2005, and then in 2007 by Éditions Denoël in France. It soon garnered rave reviews and prestigious awards, including the Prix des libraires du Québec, the Prix littéraire des collegians, the Prix Anne-Hébert for best first book, and France's Prix Printemps des lecteurs - Lavinal. The English edition, with the translation done by Lazer Lederhendler, was published as part of Knopf Canada's well-regarded New Face of Fiction program in 2008. Since then, English rights have also been sold in the UK and the United States.

Nicolas Dickner is also the author of Boulevard Banquise, a children's book, and a second short story collection, Traité de balistique, both published in 2006. He is currently a literary columnist for Voir and is working on his next novel.

Lazer Lederhendler is a four-time finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award, and won the award in 2008 for his translation of Nikolski. His translation of The Immaculate Conception by Gaétan Soucy was shortlisted for the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the French-to-English Translation Prize from the Quebec Writers' Federation. Lederhendler lives in Montreal, where he teaches English and film at the Collège international des Marcellines.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was initially drawn into this novel - in the beginning, the characters were developed as quirky, compelling people and I was very interested to see what would happen to them, and what their connections all meant. However, it felt as though the author, at the end, either lost interest or could not decide himself what should happen or what it all meant, or perhaps he felt that the "loose ends" could simply be left and still provide meaning to a reader. Unfortunately, they do not. As a reader, the "loose ends" provided neither meaning or "nuance" but only disappointing flatness and disengagement.

What we are left with in the end is just meaninglessness [SPOILERS BELOW]- all of the characters are left in unclear, unresolved situations less interesting than the ones they started in, there are significant gaps and unanswered questions, and absolutely no ties between the characters are explained or drawn out. The novel does not end on a note that creates wonder or imagination - it ends almost on a note of boredom. For example, why create such an interesting, complex character in Joyce and then fail to tell us anything about her motivations for her actions in the last half of the book, what she's done, and why she is going where she is? She starts out as a beautiful, complex young person but ends up being treated as a flat blank. Also, why would Joyce not report the body she found? If she did not, it's incredibly disturbing and bizarre, and distracts from everything we know or could wonder about her. Similarly, Noah starts out as a complex, confused but engaged character and ends up being portrayed oddly dispassionate. What happened to Arizna, her business and why does she demonstrate no love or affection for her son or son's father? And, the Nikolski compass just falls down a vent - and that's it?

It honestly just felt like I had wasted my time caring or bothering with the story.
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Format: Paperback
Every character in this light comedy-satire seems to be fishing for something, although not necessarily fish or even in water. Yet, most places where the action takes place are somehow located on islands: Montreal Island, Stevenson Island, and an island off the Venezuelan coast. Finally, and not to be overlooked the "magnetic north" and the title of the novel, Nikolski, a village one of the small Aleutian islands off Alaska. Sounds a bit like a mystery story? In a way, yes, as first time Quebec novelist Nicolas Dickner spins a delightful yarn around his three primary characters, either moving to or through and/or living in Montreal until...

Noah, who, until he was eighteen, lived with his mother a nomadic life in a trailer, crisscrossing the western regions of Canada, arrives in Montreal to study archaeology and discovers the "archaeology of trash" as an intriguing topic, "trash being the artifacts of civilization" and much "fishing" is involved. Joyce, from a long line of Doucettes of dubious reputation in Atlantic Canada, pursues her ambitions to live up to the family's tradition and to become a modern-day pirate. She also goes on fishing expeditions, but of a different kind: she scrounges through industry trash to find all the bits needed to get a workable computer built and much more... Finally, a first person narrator of a kind, who runs a second-hand bookshop also has some fishing to do...

Do these characters link together in some way? Are the connections stronger than strangers meeting in the night? It is for the reader to find out. The author introduces some secondary characters, charming in their own way, who may have to offer some clues or provide connections.
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Format: Paperback
Pirates. Trash. Fish. Destiny. Maps. A village, 'inhabited by thirty-six people, five thousand sheep and an indeterminate number of dogs.' What Nikolski lacks in plot, it certainly makes up for in uniqueness of theme and setting. Throughout the novel, the three protagonists remain ignorant of their biological connection but are inexorably linked by nomadism and idiosyncratic obsessions. Noah, an archaeology student, Joyce, a fish-store clerk and an unnamed used bookstore employee all emerge from far-fetched, dysfunctional childhoods as rootless adults living in Montreal. Dickner's characters lack depth and develop little; his saving grace is a whimsical, quirky style that ultimately produces a mostly enjoyable read.
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Format: Paperback
The book begins with a nameless character who begins a solo journey to Montreal, and begins working at a highly unusual bookstore. His prose is lyrical and intoxicating, the detail captures the heart. The two additional characters (Joyce and Noah) are added to the mix, starting from very different locations and upbringings in Canada, somehow end up with in a few blocks of eachother in downtown Montreal. At a few points in the story these three individuals do interact and affect eachothers lives, but briefly, and never to the extent you would expect or hope, which adds to the intrigue. All three stories are intriguing, slightly surreal and truely captivating. Definately worth the read!,
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The first 100 pages of this novel were fantastic. The middle section was enjoyable but seemed to lack the momentum of the beginning. The end was terribly disappointing, to me almost uninspired. I'm kind of amazed that this novel managed to win Canada Reads 2010, mind you this year's selection was a little uninspired so maybe it was appropriate.
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