There are a lot of new books coming in 2021. Here are the titles I am looking forward to reading the most, although I probably won’t get round to all of them this year. All publication dates where known apply to the United Kingdom only.
High-profile debut novels out in early 2021 include Luster by Raven Leilani and No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood whose memoir Priestdaddy I reviewed last month. Several of the books I will be looking out for are second novels by authors who have written impressive debuts. Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley is set in modern-day Soho in London and sounds like a real departure from the Booker Prize-shortlisted Elmet. The High House by Jessie Greengrass is the second novel by the author of Sight. It addresses climate change and is out in April. Panenka by Ronan Hessian sees the author of the word-of-mouth success Leonard and Hungry Paul return with his new novel in May about a man who is living with mistakes he made in the past. Out in February, Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford tells the possible stories of five children if they hadn’t been killed by a V2 bomb in London in 1944 – a very different concept and setting from the 18th century New York depicted in his debut Golden Hill.
I have an ever-growing list of anticipated books due to be published in 2020. Here are the titles I am looking forward to reading the most. All publication dates where known are for the United Kingdom only.
In non-fiction, Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O’Connell is the Wellcome Book Prize-winning author’s second book after To Be a Machine. Due in April, it will explore how we get to grips with the future and the possible end of the world in an age of anxiety.
Also due in April, Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister promises to be an equally eye-opening account as his/her bestselling debut book of how the legal system really works, this time focusing on themes of ignorance, corruption and fake news. Continue reading
I am sure there are many books of various genres currently being written about Britain leaving the European Union right now, but maybe not so many which satirise the complex bureaucracy of the EU itself. However, Robert Menasse’s novel addresses the latter topic, won the German Book Prize in 2017 and has now been translated into English by Jamie Bulloch. Set in Brussels where the headquarters of the main EU institutions are located, the Directorate-General for Culture has been tasked with organising a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the European Commission. Martin Susman, the Austrian PA to ambitious Greek Cypriot Fenia Xenopoulou suggests putting Auschwitz survivors at the centre of the jubilee event. Meanwhile, the complexities of European agricultural policy, trade deals and the cost of pork exports to China cause headaches and petty power games galore and Inspector Brunfaut is investigating the death of an unnamed man in the Hotel Atlas. Oh, and a pig is running wild in the streets of Brussels too. Continue reading
I’ve been a bit out of the loop with translated fiction in the last few months as non-fiction seems to have taken over my reading recently and I am currently shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize. However, the Man Booker International Prize longlist was announced this week (to be known as the International Booker Prize when the Man Group sponsorship ends this year). The 13 titles are:
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Oman), translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth
Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue (China), translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan
The Years by Annie Ernaux (France), translated from the French by Alison Strayer
At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong (South Korea), translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell
Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf (Iceland and Palestine), translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli (France), translated from the French by Sam Taylor
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann (Germany), translated from the German by Jen Calleja
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina and Italy), translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (Sweden), translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombia), translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa (Netherlands), translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett
The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán (Chile and Italy), translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
I have an ever-growing list of books I want to read which will be published in 2019, even though it is extremely unlikely I will get round to all of them in the next 12 months and more will inevitably distract me as the year goes on. Here is a selection of some I will be looking out for. All publication dates where known apply to the UK only and may be subject to change.
Among fiction titles, there are numerous sequels and instalments of series due in 2019. Spring by Ali Smith is the third book in the Scottish author’s seasons cycle following Autumn (2016) and Winter (2017) with Summer presumably following in 2020.
A part of me wonders if The Testaments by Margaret Atwood would ever have been written if the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale hadn’t been so successful. Set 15 years after the original book, the new volume won’t be based on the grim storylines of the second season broadcast last year, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t be a light and cheery read either. Continue reading
Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori, ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata tells the story of Keiko Furukura, a socially awkward woman in her mid-thirties who has been working at the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart shop for the past eighteen years. She feels under pressure from others, particularly her family, to appear “normal” and meet society’s expectations, by which she must find a career with more prospects or get married and have children.
I have recently read this year’s winner of the Man Booker International Prize ‘Flights’ by Olga Tokarczuk which was first published in Poland back in 2007 and has been translated by Jennifer Croft. I didn’t have time to shadow the MBIP last spring but as August is Women in Translation Month, this seemed like a good time to find out what to make of it. ‘Flights’ is about an unnamed woman and her reflections on travelling – and that’s about it as far as plot goes in this very fragmented book which can only be described as a “novel” in the loosest sense possible as it is more of a collection of thematically linked observations and vignettes. Continue reading
Winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt and recently translated from the French by Sam Taylor, ‘Lullaby’ by Leïla Slimani has been one of the most talked-about novels so far this year, partly inspired by a real-life case of a nanny who killed two children in New York in 2012. Paul and Myriam live in a fashionable area of north-west Paris with their two young children, Mila and Adam. Paul works in the music business and Myriam is a criminal lawyer of North African descent who hires a nanny, Louise, to look after the children when she decides to resume her career. Initially, Louise appears to be perfect and indispensable to the family, but her behaviour becomes increasingly concerning. Continue reading
The Man Booker International Prize 2018 longlist was announced yesterday. The 13 books are:
The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor
The Impostor by Javier Cercas, translated by Frank Wynne
Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, translated by Frank Wynne
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky
The White Book by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith
Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff
The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai, translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes
Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Camilo A Ramirez
The Flying Mountain by Christoph Ransmayr, translated by Simon Pare
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi, translated by Darryl Sterk
The Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra, translated by Natasha Wimmer
Although I’m not participating in the shadow panel this year, I have been thinking about possible contenders for this year’s Man Booker International Prize longlist which is due to be announced tomorrow. My predictions last year were very wide off the mark – maybe this year I will manage more than one…
I have read a handful of eligible titles in recent months but I have only reviewed a couple of them on my blog:
Women Who Blow on Knots by Ece Temelkuran (translated from the Turkish by Alexander Dawe) – this is a book which has garnered increasing attention. I’m less sure about its shortlist chances – the plotting is a bit all over the place – but its topical themes contrast strongly with what is still likely to be a longlist dominated by male authors.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami (translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen) – short story collections are eligible as well as novels, although none have been longlisted so far. I enjoyed Murakami’s latest offering a lot and a place on the longlist would certainly help boost the profile of the Prize. Continue reading
This year’s Wellcome Book Prize longlist has been announced today. The twelve books are:
Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris
In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli
Plot 29: A Memoir by Allan Jenkins
The White Book by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)
With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty
To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell
Mayhem: A Memoir by Sigrid Rausing
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky
The Vaccine Race: How Scientists Used Human Cells to Combat Killer Viruses by Meredith Wadman Continue reading
I have read a lot of great books this year, some new and some not quite so new. Here are some of my favourites:
Among new fiction titles, The Nix by Nathan Hill and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng were both memorable stand-outs. I also reread His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman ahead of the publication of La Belle Sauvage, the first part of the Book of Dust trilogy – a thrilling and imaginative story which did not disappoint. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack was an unexpected delight from this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist – beautifully written, gripping, funny and inventive. Continue reading
Translated from the Turkish by Alexander Dawe, ‘Women Who Blow on Knots’ by Ece Temelkuran won the Edinburgh First Book Award earlier this year and I bought my copy during my visit to the city last summer. It tells the story of four women embarking on a road trip across North Africa from Tunisia to Lebanon during the Arab Spring. They are Tunisian activist and dancer Amira, Egyptian academic Maryam who is obsessed with Dido, Queen of Carthage, an unnamed Turkish journalist who narrates the story and the mysterious elderly Madam Lilla who has connections with the Russian mafia and intelligence agencies. It is Madam Lilla who invites the three women to accompany her on the trip although her real intentions for travelling to Lebanon only become clear much later. Continue reading
‘The Evenings’ by Gerard Reve has been hailed as a “postwar masterpiece” and “the best Dutch novel of all time” but has only recently been translated by Sam Garrett and published in the UK for the first time by Pushkin Press late last year, nearly seven decades after it was first printed in the Netherlands. It tells the story of Frits van Egters, a 23-year-old clerk living with his parents in Amsterdam who struggles to fill his non-working hours with anything meaningful, spending his evenings walking past the canals, seeking out conversation with his small group of friends including his brother Joop.
As some of you may already know, August is Women in Translation Month (founded by book blogger Meytal at Biblibio in 2014) which aims to increase readership of translated books by female authors and raise awareness of the gender imbalance in publishing (estimates vary but currently only around 25-30% of books translated into English are by female authors). The three titles I have been reading this month from authors based in Israel, Austria and Mexico showcase the variety of fiction written by women around the world and championed by independent publishers Pushkin Press, Peirene Press and Granta.
Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston) tells the story of Dr Eitan Green, a neurosurgeon who has recently relocated to the Israeli city of Beersheba and is involved in a collision with an illegal Eritrean immigrant while he is driving home from work through the desert. In a panic, Eitan leaves him to die at the side of the road, but the dead man’s widow shows up the next day on his doorstep holding his wallet which he left at the scene and blackmails him into providing medical assistance to other illegal immigrants in the area. To complicate matters even further, Eitan’s wife Liat is the police detective tasked with uncovering the identity of the driver who left the scene of the hit-and-run. Continue reading
‘Men Without Women’ by Haruki Murakami is the renowned Japanese author’s first new collection of short stories to be translated into English in over a decade. Echoing Ernest Hemingway’s collection of the same name, the seven tales in this collection are indeed about men experiencing loneliness and isolation without the women who are now absent from their lives for various reasons. The stories have been translated by Ted Goossen and Philip Gabriel who have both worked on many of Murakami’s previous books.
The official winner of the Man Booker International Prize was announced last night with A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen taking the £50,000 prize split equally between author and translator. The novel about a stand-up comedian going into meltdown on stage has been praised by the judges as “an extraordinary story that soars in the hands of a master storyteller” and “a mesmerising meditation on the opposite forces shaping our lives: humour and sorrow, loss and hope, cruelty and compassion, and how even in the darkest hours we find the courage to carry on.” Continue reading
The Man Booker International Prize shadow panel’s scores are in and we can now announce our own shortlist of six books. They are:
There is a fair amount of overlap between our shortlist and the official shortlist with just ‘Bricks and Mortar’ and ‘Fish Have No Feet’ being favoured over ‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ and ‘A Horse Walks Into A Bar’. My personal preferences lean towards the books by Jacobsen, Stefánsson and Schweblin while other shadow panel members have made strong cases in favour of the more avant-garde titles. We will be deliberating our choices this month and announcing our winner in June.
The official Man Booker International Prize shortlist of six books was announced on Thursday:
I think this is an interesting selection with some very strong contrasts in genre and style. The shadow panel shortlist will be revealed at a later date as we have decided to allow ourselves a bit more time to finish reading the longlist and deliberate our views. You will have to wait until 9am UK time on Thursday 4th May to find out how many of our collective choices match those of the official judges… Continue reading
Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer is the biggest of the big tomes on this year’s longlist and I have been reading it in between other books on the longlist over the last three weeks. For that reason, I’m not sure if I felt the full force of its power but as the book is so fragmented anyway, I don’t think I felt any more disorientated each time I picked it up again than I would have done if I had read it straight through without distractions. Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire, it follows a variety of characters involved in the sex trade in an unnamed East German city from the end of the Cold War to the present day exploring the consequences of legalised prostitution, corruption, capitalism, and much much more. Each chapter explores a different character associated in some way with the industry and the chorus of unique voices effectively becomes a collection of interconnected short stories. At the centre of the story is Arnold Kraushaar and his rise “from football hooligan to large-scale landlord and service-provider for prostitutes”. Continue reading