The booker longlist is out but does it matter when most of the best books are in translation !

zone

Well my mind has been elsewhere and it isn’t to today I’ve fully come round to thinking about the booker longlist and what last years changes meant .I did say at the time the Booker prize missed a trick by not only opening it too all books written in English but they should have included all books translated into English .That would opened a global prize ,but maybe also helped get books into translation more into the limelight ,For since the list has come out there has been many newspaper articles and blog posts written about the long list ,for me I agree with Naomi and a few others ,the list is very male and very white,as some people feared the Commonwealth seems to have suffered with the Americans coming into the prize .Now as Susan pointed out in her recent piece for the blog the time is right to get a prize or more notice for books in translation .This week is a prime example I escaped into books to find solace in fiction and thus read two of the best books I have read in the last few months Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmin Uribe a Spanish lit prize-winning novel by a basque writer ,thinking on a flight to New York about the novel he is writing about his families past in fishing , that is  forthcoming from Seren Books .The other book is Zone by Mathias Enard ,now this book came out in the US last year and is one of the first two books from the new UK publisher Fitzcarldo editions ,this book strangely again about a trip we follow a French intelligence officer on a rail trip from Milan to Rome ,it is one of those sprawling books that is hard to pin down ,but drags you into another world .Now I had two thoughts about these books ,firstly would they even get a publisher if written in English as they break the mould of what is viewed as a novel ,recent case have shown books that maybe play with the novel as form or are maybe seen as to sprawling struggle to get publishers the two examples that spring to mind are A naked singularity by Sregio de Le Pava ,that did a tour of publishers to only first come out a s a self published book ,then people saw its beauty and both publishers in the US and the UK brought it out ,like wise the prize-winning A girl is a half-formed thing had a lot of rejections before it was picked up by a new small imprint and as you all know went on to win and be shortlisted for a number of prizes .I feel what translation would have brought if include in the book is challenging fiction books that break the creative writing stranglehold and market forces that  lead fiction published  in English these days .So how are we going to get the public to get books in translation a new prize is an idea ,a European booker ? a way to generate interest and like the booker maybe for once get the one or two book lit readers instead of the booker winner or shortlisted book that they have seen in waterstones or an independent bookshop for their  two weeks in say Tuscany ,and pick a book in translation because they know it has been a prize book ! One can dream but we in translation circles have to try new ways and stop scratching are goatees and thinking how clever it all is and break down the walls .SO the booker missed the chance ,we should make our own chance and make people sit up and see what they are missing .

Umbrella by Will Self

Umbrella by Will self

English fiction in modernist style

2012

source – review copy

Now I was a fan of Self’s early books having read grey area,my idea of fun ,the book of Dave amongst a few but its been six years since I ve read him the last book was the book of Dave .So when there was a lot of interested in his new book Umbrella ,which takes its title from a James Joyce quote I decide maybe it was time to go back and see what had change with Will Self since I last read him .Will self is london based writer and was in the 1993 Granta new writer list .He is well-known in the uk for his frequent media appearances in the UK on tv .He has published nine novel and eight short story collections and numerous books of non-fiction .

A brother is an easily forgotten as an umbrella

– James Joyce

opening the book this quote is a puzzle by the end you get it !!!

 

So umbrella ,I was looking forward to this book then I saw some people didn’t like it and other had struggled with it .This is Self’s take on modernism but we should be shocked I feel Self has played with styles all his writing life great apes was a Swiftian novel a bit like Guliver travels a man wakes in an environment where he is the odd one out  and Dorian was a tribute to Oscar Wilde  with a modern retelling of the picture of Dorian Grey .So this time he is tinkering with Modernism but is it a copy or is he bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century well I m going go with the second of those views he has updated the Modernist style .So the book itself is mainly about the De’ath family (which after hearing an  interview recently with  Self is partly based from research he had done into his own family ) anyway the main character from this family in the book is Audrey De’ath we see here in the 1920 but she ends up with the sleeping sickness that spread the world at this time ,left her like a fly caught in amber alive but not interacting with the world as she is motionless and thus is really a person caught out of time anyway the second of many storylines in this book sees the return of one of Self’s favourite character Dr Zack Busner (Self said in the same interview I heard he keeps returning to this character because of his interest in psychiatry and the working of the brain ) .So what connects there two is that Busner is working with Audrey in the 1970’s in one of the old asylums to unlock her from her state .Now I ve not read or seen the film but supposedly this is a similar thing to the book from Oliver Sacks where he helped people with the same condition as Audrey .Elsewhere we see the world war via Audrey brother who is on the frontline .We also meet Busner in the here and now looking back on what happened in the seventies .

Miss Dearth ….Miss Dearth ? She doesn’t respond but she hears ,oh yes she does .They go on and repeat the same procedure for the three male guinea pigs ,who are found becalmed in their back water of the mens dormitory .Busner has charged Inglis with ensuring that all of them are got every morning cleaned and dressed and shaved .She was sarcasm itself :Ooh ,par-don ,Doc-tor ,but you want me to pre-tend dey goin’ onna Journey ? her hands on her hips ,her breast proud ,a reddy flush in her cheeks .Busner though bitterly,was her go-slow ever called off ?

as you see time drifts and it is hard to pin .

 

Now I like some modernist writers anyone that reads this blog Know I m a huge Henry Green fan one of the best modernist writers but also like James Joyce but never quite got Woolf  and yes in places he has feel of all  these writer are in there but also a large part of Self and his earlier works ,it has a stream of consciousness style to the narrative and a jumpy style where he starts in the 1920’s and some how ends the sentence in the 1970’s or now  ,I liked this it is like a core sample you sometimes see in a museum  instead of sticking throughout with years and layers of time  and going between them ,Self has taken a core sample and driven the narrative through time this can be initially quite disturbing too me as a reader, but after a time you get use to it and I always feel as a reader you need to be pushed to the limit  .There was a punctuation tick Self  uses  that did really annoy me at the start and it was the constant use of a … here there and everywhere but after a time this blended into the narrative and I noticed it less ,also like Joyce did he makes up words by sticking ends onto them so we get toothpasting this is a very Joycean thing to do in fact I follow a twitter feed  a Joyce fan that is listing all his inventive verbs for Finnegans wake .I enjoyed this book a lot more than other people it seems I ve now heard Self is planning to writer two further books so this is just the start of his modernist era or should that be neo modernist I feel he has paid homage to Joyce ,Woolf and Green but also thrown in enough of his style to make this feel like the beginning of a new style .This is one of three booker shortlisted books I ve read and this is just second on my list so far but I could see it winning the booker prize .It was a welcome return for me to a writer I used to enjoy a lot but had drifted away from .

Have you read this book ?

Do you like new takes on modernism ?

Booker guessing 2012

Booker longlist 2012 guesses

Well I was in two minds about doing this two reasons I failed miserable last year and also I am much further away from the ebb and flow of what are the mover and shakers that are happening in English literary at this moment ,but I find twitter helps me keep up with what may be hot .I have had a love of the booker in my twenties when I read a lot of books from the lists ,so will use this years list as a guide to what I ll be buying in the next few months to read .I feel with Peter Stothard at the helm this year the list will be more to my taste than last years list .so I ll get my crystal ball out and give you my feeling for the longlist bakers dozen due out next week .

  1. Umbrella by Will Self – a change of direction for will in a way stream of consciousness writing this time but with a few familiar faces .I loved will’s early books and he should have been on a shortlist before now .
  2. Zoo time by Howard Jacobson his new one he won with his last and was writing this at the time an insight into publishing world through the novelist Guy Ableman .
  3. Capital by John Lancaster  the story of Pepys road a normal London street and via that street we see a cross-section of modern britain .as the street has all from the up and coming to the down and out 
  4. Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel The second part of the trilogy that started with the booker winner Wolf hall more of the life of Thomas Cromwell 
  5. Ancient light by John Banville an actor looks back at his teen years  in 50’s Ireland an illicit love affair in the fields and in the back of cars 
  6. Hawthorn and child by Keith Ridgway a couple of blogger been singing this ones praises .A middle-aged detective sorts through scatter clues an adventurous text they say ,Try Bolano I say 
  7. The casual vacancy by J K Rowling I know I may be off my head but it is her first adult book and set in an english village .I love book set in villages and would get people talking if it was there 
  8. Merivel A man of his time  by Rose Tremain ,she been on shortlists and maybe give Mantel a run for her money . Set in court of Charles II about the restoration man Robert Merivel a courtier and physician. 
  9. Pure Timothy Mo its been a long time since he had a book out over ten years I read one that made shortlist years ago be nice to see this book set in Thailand and dealing with Islam make the list 
  10. Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka a dying sportswriter tries to track the greatest cricketer in the world a spin bowler that disappeared .Mark of Eleutheropbia loved this one .
  11.  The Street sweeper by Eliot Perlman another that I know some blogs love ,Lisa from ANZ litlovers first drew my attention to it .an interwoven bunch of stories set in New York .
  12. All that I am by Anna Funder her first book stasiland was a prize winner and this is her first work of fiction set in 1933 follows a group of friends that have become outlaws due to hitler .
  13. well I going leave this blank can’t make mind up between Carey ,McEwan and strangely Amis (as TLS still seem to like him )

So what you think ?

Wonder how I will do this time ?

Trevor for booker

I ve long been a fan of the Irish writer William Trevor ,for those of you not familiar with him he is often called the irish Chekov ,Tim Adams of the observer said of him “widely believed to be the most astute observer of the human condition currently writing fiction .He has long been a booker bridesmaid with five nominations one long list in 2009 and four shortlists 1970 (Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neils hotel ),1976(The children of Dynemouth) ,1991(Reading Turgenev) ,2002(The story of Lucy Gault ).So rather than the Booker prize do what they did with the other booker bridesmaid Beryl Bainbridge and have a prize after she died why not honour the man whilst he is here I feel after the fuss this years prize caused say oh well we’ll stop for a year give it to William as a special one-off price for 2012 for the body of his work ,I would imagine many readers would be disappointed with this choice also it would honour William’s contribution to modern English literature he is a writer that has mixed Chekov, Maupassant short story talent with a touch of Irish tradition from Joyce and O’Connor with the English literature of Maugham and Greene .I love the booker I felt I gave the wrong impression last week it has led me to many good books ,my problem was with this year and recent years that I felt let down with the prize that has been dear to me .But never wanted to lessen the prize and I don’t think readability is dumbing down it is up to each of us what is readable .I felt near the prize being given some people went a little over the top with the vileness of the opinions and also the puppets that think these people are a sort of demi god of English literature !Any way if you think this is a good idea please write a post maybe if enough of us little people shout loud we can make the Horton’s of this world listen !!!! Please support this William Trevor is a writer that touches the soul !!

books ,booker ,literature prize ?

Well I stuck my nose in a conversation about the booker prize and the new prize announced this week as a counter to the booker ,now I view the new prize as a positive move the booker has been around unchallenged as the premier prize for literary fiction in the english speaking world for a long time ,so like most things that have had control of a market for a long time maybe it has got a little flabby at the waist and let its self go a bit and standards have dropped  .The new prize is in part a reaction to this years jury which in literary terms is a little lightweight and the choices of long list and shortlist have sparked much discussion on what the booker means in people’s eyes ,also a comment by the judge Chris Mullins in regards readability of the books he choose .I had long been a fan of the booker and have read many shortlisted booker books over years .

So what does the booker mean to me as a prize well I look at literary fiction a like Everest we maybe have to be like sir Edmund Hilary reach the peak  but then climbing didn’t stop and give up ,no but like all climbers we look for the new unclimbed peaks however hard ,or the new route up the mountain via a new path ,or a new way of climbing that maybe dangerous or innovative  and I think this metaphor works for the booker and reading for me in general I like to challenge myself . This is what reading  as the climbing metaphor  is ,not for climbing the same route or going to Ben Nevis and making out it is a hard as climbing Everest ! So that said what does this reader look for in his booker shortlists and winners well I ve a few things, and will use previous winners and shortlisters to show what I look for and why I think the prize has drifted of late as most of the books mention are pre 2003  –

 

Language 

I like a book that shows the bounds of the english languages and what can be done with it I perfect example would be James Kelman how late it was ,how late a book that showed the ability of language and regional accents a book wrote in a clear broad Glaswegian accent was it readable well if you were from Glasgow yes but otherwise it was a wonderful insight into how broken english can be shattered and remade in Scotland into a brutal but effective language that suits its setting .

Genre expanding  

Now I m going pick two books both works of magic realism the are Midnights children by Salman Rushdie  and Famished road by Ben Okri both winners in the 80’s They both approached the Magic realism genre in different ways Rushdie use it as a blueprint for the tale of modern India ,Okri as a way to open village life in Africa and Africa myths to the reader .Keneally Schindler’s ark also did same for biographical novels .#

sets a new mark 

I like books that when you read you can say that will be cited for years after as a turning point in fiction .I ve got a recent winner in mind Wolf hall I think even thou I didn’t really enjoy it ,I can see it being a book that has raised the bar on historic fiction and  will be the one the people say was a game changer and will be the one people read to get inspired to write historic fiction .

just talent 

Now some writers just oozes talent now around booker shortlist it is obvious who has influenced english literary fiction for years people like Beryl Bainbridge and William Trevor although neither won a booker both have had multiple short-listed books  over 20 plus years why because the constantly show the bounds of the English language Peter Carey and J M Coetzee have both won on more than one occasion and this  is due to there talent as writers both try to set a new path to follow  with each new  book and usually succeed in showing how you can be different even in the same field of fiction .

There are the things I look for in a winner books that try to climb Everest set new marks and leave me as a reader want more ,I think the rot set in with the booker in 2003 the short lists since then have been weaker that earlier ones so a new prize is welcome and well all be able to judge what difference it has made to the booker and what direction the new prize is set in .Although I must note it is a missed chance for a general prize for  literary fiction that also including translations   published within in a year .I personally think this hasn’t happened because it would show how much great fiction is coming to readers from outside the English speaking world !! that does all of what I state in the qualities of a booker winner and usually far better

What do you think ?

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