Tuesday, October 07, 2008

9 - Andrzej Stasiuk

Written in 1998, this book is set in post communist Warsaw. Pawel is a failed business man and is in pursuit of money to stay alive. His apartment has been ransacked and he has 3 days to pay the debt back. He approaches his friends, who are in same if not worse state. Bolek, active in Warsaw under world and a drug dealers is still trying to make a mark for himself and Jacek is an addict and struggling.

The three protagonists, their companions are on a constant motion through out the novel. Pawel in need for money, but not knowing where to get from, Jacek and Bolek rather aimlessly, without any defined destination. Each of them, in separate threads, move in their own paths between apartments, trams, cars and by walk continuously. When there is no hopes, and no real friends, each of them live a risky and eventful life from which there is no escape. There are others like Iron Man, The Blond guy who completes their limited circle apart from the girlfriends, whose existence does not bring any value to their already ruined life. It is a continuous run for survival with no alternative.

This book also looks upon the post communist optimism in Warsaw ( people starting business), new found open market economy ( Nike , the French brands of perfumes, the Marriot and other symbols of capitalism are used magnificently) and the failure of them to take off or to match to the hope with which it started cause the disruption of the society, springing up the drug cartel and other underground organisations are I think signify the harsh reality hit the people. As Jacek asks Pawel ""Why did you go to a pool if you don't know how to swim ?"

Stasiuk sees the minute events, people and places with his microscopic eyes and reproduces each in detail. Such descriptive writing are uncommon in contemporary fiction. his writing about the childhood memories of Pawel, Bolek and Iron Man and Jacek are in beautiful prose and very impressive.

A very dark and pessimistic novel with an abrupt ending, presents a very disturbing view of Warsaw life in general.


Andrzej Stasiuk ; Translated by Bill Johnston

Vintage Books

230 Pages

Rs 406
More reads : NY Times, Complete Review

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