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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Andrzej Stasiuk

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To purchase Nine

Title: Nine
Author: Andrzej Stasiuk
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 229 pages
Original in: Polish
Availability: Nine - US
Nine - UK
Nine - Canada
Neuf - France
Neun - Deutschland
Nueve - España
  • Polish title: Dziewięć
  • Translated by Bill Johnston

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Our Assessment:

B : grim but evocative portrait of 1990s Warsaw

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 19/3/2002 Eberhard Rathgeb
The Independent . 24/7/2007 Boyd Tonkin
Independent on Sunday . 20/4/2008 Tom Tomaszewski
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 8/6/2002 Bernhard Fetz
New Statesman C- 28/6/2007 Anthony Cummins
The NY Rev. of Books . 11/10/2007 Eva Hoffman
The NY Times Book Rev. A 10/6/2007 Irvine Welsh
TLS . 20/7/2007 Toby Lichtig
Die Welt . 4/5/2002 Eberhard Straub
Die Zeit . 4/4/2002 Gabriele Killert

  From the Reviews:
  • "Das Buch ist Teil einer Erkundung des Ostens. (...) Stasiuk bricht seinen Roman Neun einfach ab, als die Aussichten über Warschau richtig trübe geworden sind und sich keiner mehr etwas vormachen kann." - Eberhard Rathgeb, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "For all its street-smart pace and grit, Nine is studded with hauntingly graceful and tender passages (Bill Johnston's translation reads beautifully). (...) Impatient with join-the-dots exposition, Stasiuk can be elliptical to the point of opacity. He cuts from scene to scene, mind to mind. Keep up, and the rewards justify the effort. If Quentin Tarantino mutated into a Polish literary novelist, his work might resemble Nine." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "A book like this makes most British and American writing seem so asinine." - Tom Tomaszewski, Independent on Sunday

  • "Combined with a frustrating style, which contrives unwarranted mystery from personal pronouns, Nine's excess of misery rather blunts the edge to its attack on capitalism." - Anthony Cummins, New Statesman

  • "In its very inexpressiveness, the narrative voice of Nine becomes an active element, oscillating across a range of overtones. (...) In some ways, Nine seems to draw on the tradition of fictional angst and revulsion, as if Nausea and The Stranger were crossed with the dyspeptic vision of Michel Houellebecq. But the combination of elements Stasiuk evokes, the small hopes and widespread corruption, the tawdriness and seductiveness of the material world, the hooligan toughness and melancholy cynicism, belongs unmistakably to post-Communist Eastern Europe." - Eva Hoffman, The New York Review of Books

  • "I caught a flavor of Hamsun, Sartre, Genet and Kafka in Stasiuk’s scalpel-like but evocative writing. Nine feels like a major work of modern fiction, a portrait of an uprooted and restless generation of Eastern Europeans and of a city resigned to the fact that post-Communism is not quite as advertised. This book will undoubtedly win Andrzej Stasiuk a greater following in America and, with luck, will pave the way for the translation of more vibrant literature from Eastern Europe." - Irvine Welsh, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The writingis intensely atmospheric. (...) Nine is a novel almost wholly given over to mood. (...) Nine is not always intelligible; it is sometimes frustratingly opaque, but it is brooding, beguiling, memorable. It is a serious novel about politics, society, doing what one must; it approaches the intellect via the senses." - Toby Lichtig, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Das Leben kann jeden Augenblick beginnen und eine beliebige Richtung nehmen oder aufhören. Mit diesem Spatz in der Hand lässt es sich auf dem Dach der Welt zumindest vorübergehend aushalten. Freiheit ist im Scheitern und Ausweglosen möglich." - Eberhard Straub, Die Welt

  • "Das alles sieht nur der Autor mit seinem himmelblauen Madonnenblick, und vielleicht sollten wir ergriffener sein, denn es ist sicher kein leichtes Stück Arbeit gewesen: den Geist der Unreife eines Witold Gombrowicz mit der dreckigen Unschuld eines Céline und einer Art Bitterfelder Weg zu diesem rußschwarzem ostalgischen Existenzialismus zusammenzuschmieden, der das Herz eines Betonkommunisten erwärmen müsste, wäre da nicht dieser paranoische Katholizismus. Wahrscheinlich handelt es sich um so etwas wie postmoderne Ironie. Aber eine Ironie, die man nicht versteht, ist wie ein Angeklagter, der die Aussage verweigert." - Gabriele Killert, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Set in post-Communist Warsaw, Nine is a grim, dark tour of the Polish capital. It is a book where many of the characters are in almost constant motion, trying to get somewhere (and/or escape) -- and yet there's a pervasive feeling of aimlessness, of the impossibility of finding a hold (or a place), or of getting away from all this. On trams and busses, by car, on foot: much of Warsaw passes by. It's almost incidental, yet this backdrop can't help but bleed into the story itself.
       Stasiuk's descriptions seem mere colour, but they're evocative and set the scenes, at every point:

The brickwork had the color of congealed blood. Like a wound seeping through a bandage.
       The characters seem almost bludgeoned into indifference at what has become of their environment, with only the occasional vaguely outraged outburst:
     "Beirut, Bolek; this place is Beirut."
     "We could take a piss on it, then torch it."
     "Come on. You'd torch your family home ?"
       Unwilling to torch it to the ground, they certainly seem willing to take a piss on it: filth and messes are everywhere, pointless destruction from the opening scene on.
       Despite the general sense of aimlessness, Pawel does have something specific in mind. He owes two hundred million old zlotys to some unseemly characters and is desperate to get his hands on the money. But for all the land of opportunity the new Poland was supposed to be he has nowhere to turn to, no real options.
       His story isn't unusual:
     "I was doing this and that, getting a loan, getting a ride; business was going to save the world. Then later, when things took off ... I needed money from one day to the next, and I'd make it back right away. But with the bank things always drag on ..."
       But, as his friend Jacek (who has his own worries), reminds him: "Why did you go to a pool if you don't know how to swim ?"
       The capitalist dream has certainly not come true here. Pawel's small shop isn't successful enough; Jacek and Bolek are involved in a far more dubious business
       Stasiuk seems to revel in the city's grimness: the book is half Kafka, half underlit 40s noir. Nine is an urban nightmare -- with a particularly Eastern European slant --, and it's considerably more style than substance. But Stasiuk does have the style to pull it off: the writing and many of the scenes impress. Not a pretty picture, by any means, but well done.

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Nine: Reviews: Andrzej Stasiuk: Other books by Andrzej Stasiuk under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk was born in 1960.

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