In 1993 Polish writer Zaniewski's novel was published simultaneously in 9 different countries (in English the following year with the help of translator Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough). The story follows the narrator-protagonist rat from birth to death, with much indiscriminate mating, violence, scrabbling for food and trash, and dire conflicts with humans, cats, dogs, and other rats. Zaniewski apparently presents a rat's life and point of view as directly and accurately as can be done -- although this particular one manages to get to a greater variety of landscapes (regular European city, war-torn European city, desert town under a burning bright sun -- perhaps northern Africa?) via ships and train, than the average, one imagines. Narration also slips from first to second person and back on a regular basis, even in the same paragraph, which is not jarring but a cause for wonder. Top marks for imagination and consistency, but lowered score for an unremittingly bleak and oppressive narrative.
This report prepared by David Loftus