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Seven Years Paperback – 4 Apr 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (4 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847085105
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847085108
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Seven Years is far from being merely another novelistic account of an affair. What helps it transcend this is one of the great characters of contemporary fiction ... Brilliantly translated by Michael Hofmann, Peter Stamm's prose comes across as relentlessly undemonstrative. Yet it is booby-trapped throughout, with devastations waiting to happen'-Toby Litt, Guardian

'The book is cool and immensely accomplished, told retrospectively in a way that seems to flatten suspense while bringing out the half-tones that shadow even the most apparently clearcut decisions'- Adam Mars Jones, Observer

'How many writers have written with this degree of brutal perceptiveness and wisdom about the indeterminate depths of heterosexual desire? Wharton, Roth (sometimes), James Salter, Kundera. Stamm inscribes his name on that august list' -Neel Mukherjee, The Times

'Stamm s prose is mesmeric in its smoothness, and Michael Hofmann has delicately rendered it in an English idiom that contains all the felicities and tensions of the German original ... Stamm develops a beguiling and disturbing tale of the connections between power and devotion, belief and self deception ... The novel's cumulative effect is highly unsettling, its concluding moments are breathtaking, and the ripples that it sets in motion radiate in the readers mind, long after the novel's conversation has ended' -Times Literary Supplement

'Hard to put down ... while Stamm s simple but strong plot has a distinct thrillerish frisson, his intelligence is clearly, impressively evident throughout'-Daily Mail

'Peter Stamm is a brilliant writer, a latter-day applicant to the tradition of Camus, whose voice, as translated by Michael Hofmann, has its own distinctive coldness. Though his prose is never obsessively spare, he gets a lot done quickly' --New Statesman

'This is the (new) novel I liked best last year. It s so cleanly written, it s philosophically interesting, yet not for a moment does it sacrifice drama, character [or] story. It s like a beautifully made Le Corbusier house inside of which are hidden some very ugly, but honest, things' --Zadie Smith

'I love this novel …It has the makings of an existential classic' --Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Peter Stamm was born in 1963, in Weinfelden, Switzerland. He is the author of the novels Agnes, On A Day Like This, Unformed Landscape and the collection In Strange Gardens and Other Stories, as well as numerous short stories and radio plays. His latest novel Seven Years is forthcoming from Granta Books. He lives in Zurich.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 15 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
Peter Stamm's latest novel 'Seven Years' is first person narrated by German architect, Alex, who tells us the story of his relationship with two very different women: his wife, Sonia, and his sometimes mistress, Ivona. The story which is set mostly in Munich, moves backwards and forwards in time as Alex relates how, as a student, he first meets Ivona, a young Polish woman, in a beer garden; he tells us: "I noticed that she was watching me... I felt like hurting her, being rude to her. Her ugliness and pokiness were a provocation to me..." Yet although Alex is, in many ways, repulsed by Ivona's physical unattractiveness, he somehow finds himself irresistibly drawn to her, visiting her several times in her dreary bedsitting room with the aim of seducing her.

Sonia is an entirely different kettle of fish; a fellow architecture student, she is beautiful, intelligent, from a wealthy family and a different social class to Alex; she admires Le Corbusier, where Alex favours Aldo Rossi; she is confident and ambitious where Alex is more cautious and less driven. Alex does not feel he has a chance with Sonia, he finds there is something unapproachable about her: "She was like one of those dolls whose clothes are sewn onto their bodies" and he cannot imagine she would ever go to bed with him. But Alex is wrong; Sonia has decided that she wants Alex, and what she wants, she usually gets, and before long they are married and have set up their own architecture firm and look forward to a life of shared ideas and values. However, Alex cannot settle and when, after seven years together, Sonia has not become pregnant, he starts thinking about Ivona and begins visiting her again even though he knows he is behaving badly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alan F Kirby on 2 Jan 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Peter Stamm builds with patience and understating accuracy. Class, gender and character are all under the microscope of his apparently simple language. There is not a question of liking or sympathising with any of the characters as they are revealed in a reality which seems beyond those terms.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By monica on 11 Sep 2013
Format: Paperback
This seems to me the sort of book that might if written in English have been a Booker Prize or National Book Award nominee: middle-brow, mid-market, and doggedly domestic with smooth if unremarkable writing free of freshness, atmosphere and of any other quality that would make it stand out from similar books. In fact, for me it was so nearly free of interest that in the end I resorted to skimming.

The plot's been ably sketched in another review, but it's a plot Stamm doesn't build upon: A great deal might have been made of the narator's almost obsessional desire for Ivona, of the sense of power their encounters give him, of Ivona's own obsession with whatsisname and its effect on her life. But it wasn't. After the standard account of Uni Days, Uni Mates, & Uni Ambitions the book settles into flatness. If you can imagine someone whose diary entries are brief notes on the day just passed going back later to flesh them out, you can imagine what much of this book is like--'Visited a German battlement--kissed Sonia.' 'Party at Ruediger's. His mother's gemutlich. Met a boring veterinarian there.' 'Stayed in my room after I got back from work. I think Birgit's going off the deep end.' Expand those notes into long passages and you have a Seven Years.

By the way, anyone who's not already learned how misleading--'the makings of an existential classic'--or downright idiotic--'a novel to make you doubt your own dogma'--blurb can be couldn't find a better lesson than the cautionary one coming with this book.
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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 Dec 2013
Format: Paperback
A bleak but oddly compelling account of an unusual version of the traditional love triangle. Alex, an architecture student, meets Polish illegal immigrant Ivona in a bar. Ivona is plump, humourless and drably dressed, and Alex's first reaction is repulsion. However, this is soon followed by a strange feeling of attraction, and over the next months he begins to visit Ivona regularly. The visits follow a predictable pattern - the pair kiss and embrace fiercely, but never have full intercourse, and Ivona seems oddly passive throughout. Meanwhile, Alex falls for a fellow student, the cool and beautiful Sonia. As he enters a relationship with Sonia, he realizes that he should give up Ivona - and for a while he does. But Sonia's coolness in bed, upper middle-class family and her bold career ambitions have a dampening effect on Alex's ardour, and soon he's trying to balance both women - with Sonia as his acknowledged girlfriend and Ivona as his secret mistress (though they still do not have a full relationship). When Sonia discovers what's going on, she is understandably hurt, and Alex, terrified of losing her, offers to dump Ivona and marry Sonia. To his surprise Sonia agrees. Seven years pass, during which Alex and Sonia establish their own architectural business, buy a house, and try to start a family. But Sonia cannot become pregnant, and her continued coolness in bed begins to depress Alex, although he still needs her in his life. So when Ivona contacts Alex to ask for some money, he immediately agrees to see her - and without meaning too, finds himself starting a full relationship with Ivona. But then it turns out that Ivona has more than one motive for wanting to see Alex again - and what happens next will ensure that Alex's relationship with both women will change for good.Read more ›
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