Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveller. His journeys - by car, train, bus, ferry - take him from his native Poland to small towns and villages with unfamiliar yet evocative names in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine. Here is an unfamiliar Europe, grappling with the remnants of the Communist era and the arrival of capitalism and globalisation.
'Where did Moldova end and Transylvania begin,' he wonders, as he is being driven at breakneck speed in a hundred-year-old Audi - loose wires hanging from the dashboard - by a driver in shorts and bare feet, a cross swinging on his chest. And so his journey continues all the way to Babadag, near the shore of the Black Sea, where he sees his first minaret.
Pawel, a young Polish businessman, is in trouble; in debt to loan sharks his only hope lies with former friends, many of whom are now prominent in Warsaw's drug-dealing underground. Embarking on a desperate fool's-gold chase through the city's grimy apartments and creaking transport system Pawel struggles for survival as part of a generation adrift in moral space and disconnected from family, neighbours and friends.
Nine is a brilliant novel from one of Europe's finest writers: both an existential crime novel and a major work of literature.
Born in Warsaw in 1960, Andrzej Stasiuk has risen to become one of the most important and interesting writers at work in Eastern Europe today. Author of over a dozen books and winner of many prizes, he came to writing in an unusual way: in the early 1980s, he deserted the army and spent a year and a half in prison for it. Afterwards he wrote a collection of short stories, The Walls of Hebron, about his experience, which became a huge success. He and his wife, Monika Sznajderman, run a small publishing house in Czarne.