Nicolas Dickner

Published: 7 January 2010
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 272 pages
ISBN: 9781846271663

Translated by Lazer Lederhendler


Three young people, born thousands of miles apart, each cut themselves adrift from their birthplaces and set out to discover what - or who - might anchor them in their lives. Over the course of the next ten years, Noah, Joyce and an unnamed narrator will each settle for a time in Montreal, their paths almost criss-crossing and their own stories weaving in and out of other wondrous tales, about such things as a pair of fearsome female pirates, a team of urban archaeologists, several enormous tuna fish, a mysterious book without a cover, and a broken compass whose needle obstinately points to the north Alaskan village of Nikolski. Intricately plotted and shimmering with originality, Nikolski charts the curious courses of migration that can eventually lead to home.

About the author

Image of Nicolas Dickner

Born in Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, Nicolas Dickner won two literary awards for his first published work, the short story collection L'encyclopédie du petit cercle. His debut novel, Nikolski (Portobello, 2009) scooped almost every major literary award in Quebec, as well as the Governor General's Literary Award for Translation. More about the author


‘[A] bewitching debut ... [This] is a glorious book, packed with strange beguiling detail about travel, the sea and archaeology’ Richard Whitehead



Nikolski is captivating, combining all the great facets of storytelling. Dickner has created an intricately woven plot ... Nikolski is a magnificent example of the fine art of crafting a narrative ... a multi-layered book, which superbly blends fact and fiction, analyses the function of archaeology and contemplates the way our civilisation will be viewed by future generations’ Shona Fairweather

Nikolski is full of wonderful imagery and eclectic characters ... an allusive, often beautifully written and entertaining novel (elegantly translated from Canadian French). Dickner's book leaves the reader with an airy impression of having dallied in an alternative universe’ Philip Hoare

Nikolski marches to its own offbeat drum, wandering here and there, wherever strikes its fancy. It provides a number of inexplicable events that never really seem inexplicable, since we are in the middle of a novel, after all, where "inevitable interpretations" will accrue even if a writer seems to resist them. But I suspect the promising and clever Nicolas Dickner knew that all along’ Patrick Ness

‘A brilliant exercise in multilayered storytelling’ Kate Saunders

‘A delightful, playful and very contemporary debut by a brilliant new author ... a quirky yet elegantly written novel’ Linda Leatherbarrow

‘A good-humoured exploration of how imagination can be used to flex and reinvent what seems to be fixed, from maps and networks of communication to ostensibly rigid social hierarchies. This is an optimistic reminder that "territory isn't measured in square kilometers" as any place can simultaneously accommodate many creative uses’ Thomas Marks

‘A prize-winning best-seller in Dickner's native Canada and its easy to see why ... It's a dreamlike conundrum of a novel’ Tina Jackson

‘An occasionally dazzling debut novel ... Clever and poignant’

‘Dickner's thrilling prose, which won him numerous prizes ... is irresistible. Deceptively simple words give shape to complex meanings and the truth about fish shops, book shops, fossils and parenthood is revealed anew, and joyously, on every page’ Melissa Katsoulis

‘Fabulous debut ... Dickner embodies the meaning of a true storyteller; his prose is perceptive, witty, and simply addictive ... Nikolski is a brilliant read and Dickner is an author to keep your eye on’

‘If you have a taste for the novels of Georges Perec, Thomas Pynchon or Michael Chabon, then you'll probably go for Nicolas Dickner too ... like those other writers Dickner achieves a similar suggestive allusiveness to some deep grand design ... I suspect we will be hearing more of him in the future’ David Mills

‘It will take you on a beautiful, quirky journey with three lost souls seeking a refuge ... Dickner deserves high praise for a funny, poignant and perceptive debut’ Abigail Dean

‘Nikolski is a wonderful book of eccentric characters, strange events, broken families and oh so much more ... The writing is wonderful, almost poetry.’

‘Nikolski is an intriguing debut ... don't expect a neat resolution: this novel is about journeys rather than destinations’ Melissa McClements

‘Stylish, offbeat, poignant and perceptive’ David Mitchell

‘The French edition of this debut won four literary awards for the French-Canadian author’

‘The original, French-language version of this book won many prizes in Canada and this elegant, stylish translation reveals why ... Nicolas Dickner, who uses beautifully spare prose which can be as darkly comic as it is affecting, isn't trying to tell a conventional story, he's trying to tap into a very modern idea: that we need to understand that we all connect with each other somehow, family or not. And he does so impressively well’ Ben East

‘This is a multilayered story of three migrating souls finding their place in life’ Sarah Broadhurst

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