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A cool and penetrating look at modern relationships,
This review is from: Seven Years (Paperback)
'Seven Years' is a coolly-written account of a young German professional who finds himself involved in two relationships of very different characters. The novel follows Alex from his student days through his early career as an architect in partnership with a fellow student, Sonia. At the same time, Alex finds himself drawn to a Polish illegal immigrant who seems almost the polar opposite of Sonia: plain, unintellectual, religious.
Selfish and listless, Alex is a difficult man to like. The key to the novel's power is precisely Stamm's unwillingness to ignore his protagonist's shortcomings, or simplify his psychological plight. Stamm is one of those undramatic writers who demand that the reader read between the lines and below the surface. There are no great events to catch the attention, and Stamm (in Hoffmann's limpid translation) is a colourless stylist. Alex's life is mundane, even typical of his class and generation. This makes his obsession with Ivona - the unsatisfying and unsuitable woman with whom over many years he repeatedly risks his relationship with Sonia - increasingly perturbing in its fundamental irrationality. Stamm expertly suggests the complexities and deep undercurrents of adult emotional life, the fundamental unknowability of others, and the unexpected difficulty of answering the question of what we really want.
Recommended for the reader who is prepared to be patient, and prefers subtlety to fireworks.