LBF 2016 and Man Booker shortlist party

Well I hadn’t planned to go to London book fair this year but I was very lucky to get an invite to the Man  Booker international shortlist Party. So as LBF was on the same week I decide to have a wander round especially after I found that as a Book blogger we can get in for free. It was a nice chance to catch up with my favourite Publisher Susan from Istros books who just before the Fair announced that she was joining forces with the wonderful Peter Owen which gives them one the ,most passionate people in the book world in Susan to help them get them selves out there, A glance at Peter Owens backlist is enough to make you dribble!! Whilst at their stand I also had a great chat with the Croat Poet Aleksander Hut Kono who was doing his poetry  at the LBF ,which he has translated him self into English. He also is an Opera Librettist.

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I saw the Large Books are My bag Bag at LBF . I decide to sit in on a translation session about how to promote books in translation mainly how to repeat the knausgaard effect(if only we knew hey) , I had want to ask How Ferrante sells so well is the opposite of being Knaugaard open and great to talk to also sells books maybe it is the narrative of the writer that sells . I felt a little more mention of some of the big sites online for translation would help. The editor talking about it only mention Lit Hub and Brain pickings ! , surely Complete review , three percent to name two would be worth a mention. Fiona gave a great chat about Knausgaard thou .

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I then decide to Have something to eat and make my way toward the Booker event I also had a quick look in the Oxfam on Kensington high street on my way to Kensington Palace. I had a coffee in a small cafe which by the food they were serving I will go to again the Cafe Diana for a meal having just had a snack. Then slowly walked to MAn booker event.

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I was among the first to arrive and Meet quickly David and Clare my fellow shadow bloggers I have met David before and it was nice to meet Clare and put a face to the blog so to speak. I also meet at last after nearly crossing paths over the years Simon of Savidge reads one the oldest bloggers about the net . I also had a good chat with Paul from Maclehose and a few other Maclehose folks who missed the actual shortlist but both their books are still on the Shadow Jury shortlist. We then listen to how Man booker had evolved into the new prize as the need was felt after the actual prize had changed its guidelines for all lit written in English  to be included it was felt that the Man booker international prize had to evolve and so it took over the Old IFFP and set up a replacement for the old Man booker international prize that ran every two years and was award to a writer for the body of work . Please not the last winner was the wonderful Laszlo Krasznahorkai !

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Then Boyd went through his and the Jury’s choices for the shortlist . Here is the shortlist . We had a few more drinks but I left early as I had a long trip across London and also a few hour train trip meant I wouldn’t be home till early hours friday.

Booker night, damm I’ve not read any

 

Tonight sees the booker winner announced and like last year I have not read a single book from the shortlist .I last read the full shortlist in 2009 in the early days of this blog. But my tastes have shift or have they ? I watched the artsnight show presented by Ben Okri about this years shortlist and by the end of the show went damm Stu what you doing . THis years list maybe is the one that I should have tried . I have read Anne Tyler and Tom McCarthy  before and connected with both Tyler writes great family drama and McCarthy is talented writer if a little overrated imho but C was thought-provoking. I was brought A little life by Hanya Yangihara by Amanda for my birthday, but have yet to get to it. When the list was first announced a the longlist stage I would put money on A little life, BUt it is the last three books that Ben Okri really sold me and reminded me of what years ago I loved in the booker .Marlon james has written about the attempt  killing of Bob Marley , The fisherman by Chigozie Obioma could herald a new voice in African writing it seems and draws on the oral tradition of His homeland .Then there is  Sunjeev Sahota book about immigrants in Sheffield from India (I only live ten miles from Sheffield so this appeals on the level I don’t think there is enough immigrant lit ).I wish BBC had shown the Okri show at the start of the shortlist (I know it couldn’t have been done , but they could have done all longlisted writers maybe). Next year I shall take more note and maybe raise my eyes out of my current translated read and look at what makes the shortlist and in the mean time will pick up the three books by James, Obioma and Sahota as and when I see them. I’m not going hazard a guess at a winner but for fun will pick some comparable translated books similar in one or many ways to the shortlist.

A little life by Hanya Yangihara  – The tower by Uwe Tellkamp – another epic book about growing up , not as much about abuse but the abuse of  power that they saw by the state at the time .

A spool of Blue thread by Anne Tyler -When doves disappear by Sofi Oksanen a story that goes back and forth in time like the Tyler story does.also there is a link between the two main characters .

when the doves disappeared by Sofi oksanen

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy A project for revoloution in New York by Alain Robbe-Grillet A challenging  experimental novel from France set in america as Satin island is a play on Staten island in New York .

alain robbe Grillet

The fishermen by Chigozie Obioma – Our Musseque is another tale of African life tough and brutal as well but seen through the eyes of kids .

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A Brief history of seven killings by Marlon james – The anatomy of a moment by javier Cercas another book about a moment in history , this was about the attempt coup in the early 80’s in Spain .

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The year of runaways by Sunjeev Sahota – She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh  Another story of immigrant life in Sweden not Sheffield thou .

 

She Is Not Me

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 .

The garden of Evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

The Garden of evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

Malaysian fiction

Now this is the second book by Tan Twan Eng to make the booker lists ,his first was longlisted in 2007 .Tan Twan Eng grew up in various places in Malaysia ,eventually becoming a lawyer in the area of intellectual property .He then decide to become a full-time writer ,he published his first book in 2007 the gift of rain ,this book like the garden of evening mist was set in Malaysia and was about the Japanese control of the area in the second world war .This his latest also looks back on that time .

Every child longs for a larger-than-life uncle and, because I had none ,Magnus Pretorious became a figure of fascination to me ,although he hardly anything more than a vague presence in my life when i was growing up .What I knew of him I heard from my parents and from things they left unsaid broken-off twigs of conversations I picked up whenever I walked in on them ,and from what Magnus told me after I got to know him better

Early on remember her past .

So garden of evening mist is a complex book that brings together many themes ,secrets ,love and hate  ,gardening and people .The garden in the title is being made by a famous Japanese gardener in  Malaysia this is after the second world war and this garden is well crafted in the Japanese style of gardening called Sakkei borrowed scenery a Japanese style from the past  that Nakamura Aritomo worked for the emperor in Japan caring for his gardens  .

According to the lay of the land, and depending upon the aspect of the water landscape, you should design each part of the garden tastefully, recalling your memories of how nature presented itself for each feature. (tr. Inaji 1998:13)

A quote found on wiki about Shakkei

The other main character in the book is a Malaysian women Teoh Yun Ling  she survived one of the hideous Japanese war camps during world war two  and hates all things Japanese since then til she meets Nakamura .She is Nakamura apprentice ,this sets up a wonderful parallel of love and hate between these two characters and there initial frostiness   .Throw in the fact that Malaysia itself is undergoing a civil conflicted  and is descending into chaos,Tan has set up to a wonderful book  that encompasses love ,loss and death and the remembrance of the dead .Also add his wonderful eye for the world around him the garden and surrounding area jumps of the page at times and you are transported to the garden of evening mist . You’ve got one of those books I have been crying out for on the booker lists  a discovery.for me this alongside the Will Self I reviewed last week are equal favourites for me .

 

It was hard for me reading this book and its setting and time not to think back to Anthony Burgess Malaya trilogy set at the same time as this book is also set ,but that book was from the view of a British officer in Malaya ,this was the view of a native and the book is mostly told from Yun Ling view both at the time and looking back as an older women at the time .There was something about Eng style of writing that drew me in at times it reminded me of Romesh Gunesekera a writer I also discovered years ago when he was short-listed for the booker with his book reef  .I think it was the style of prose , that harks back to the greats of English literature  writer like Conrad and dickens (even burgess as I ve mentioned ) .I feel this is a sign of what makes a lot of  Asian writers very readable to me as a reader , because in a way they are removed  from the here and now of what is modern fiction in the uk and tend to have read the classics growing up so on the whole their style harks back to an old age of writing  .It’s fair to say I loved this book probably the best book I ve read published in English this year or even recent years .

Have you read this book ?

Who is your favourite Asian writer ?

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 ?

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