#ManBooker shortlist predictions

Straight up, where does the year go?! Honestly, it felt like last week I was thinking about the #manbookerinternational shortlist – yes us, bookworms remember the passage of time via bookish events and books we’ve read… (surely i’m not the only one…) so without further ado, let us begin! *party popper emoji*

Expectations aka. What I would like to see on the shortlist

  • Autumn (Ali Smith) — Possibly her best work to date. See my review here.
  • Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie) — This is was downright amazing. Review to come. Also I think if this one doesn’t make it that Exit West may take it’s place…
  • Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor) — Like nothing I’ve ever read and so very very clever. Review here.
  • Elmet (Fiona Mozley) — I know next to nothing about this one – but there’s always got to be an underdog yeah? Also I didn’t get on so well with History of Wolves which could be the ‘other’ underdog.

VS

Reality aka. What I think will appear on the shortlist

  • Solar Bones (Mike McCormack) — Wasn’t for me, but can definitely see it’s appeal and brilliance. Review here.
  • The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) — Currently reading at time of posting. It won the Pulitzer so anything goes.
  • Days Without End (Sebastian Barry) — I have absolutely no desire to read this one, but it seems to be getting all the praise.
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy) — Lots of hype. Probably worth it. Yet to read it.

The others?

Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders) — Okay so it’s basically impossible to predict the shortlist and there are far too many good books to choose from.

4,3,2,1 (Paul Auster) — it’s a chunker, let’s face it. It may be amazing, I could still be persuaded…

Swing Time (Zadie Smith) — You all know my thoughts by now. However, if Whitehead doesn’t make I suppose this would fit in it’s place nicely…


 

Who do you think will make the shortlist? Keen to hear your thoughts!

-xx

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Solar Bones – Mike McCormack

I’ve always wanted to adore a stream-of-consciousness* novel. Sadly, I’m still looking to do so.

Solar Bones is the story of Marcus Conway, a dead man (not a spoiler)** who finds himself in his kitchen wondering why things have changed, placements are slightly odd etc. We soon learn the story of his life and those he loved, his feelings on politics and grief, on being a father. Another Man Booker discussing themes of death and dying, accompanied with serene, shocking at other times imagery, (Lincoln In the Bardo, Autumn) and all this in one two hundred word run on sentence.

“this herd of cattle coming through single file to find themselves in the open expanse of the maple dance floor, between walls hung with satin drapes now black with rot and the mirror ball on it’s chain over the centre of the floor, the finest dance hall in West Mayo full of Angus cattle, and there they would lie down and close their eyes chewing cud until they were turned out in the morning.”

I very much wanted to adore this, and even if I didn’t enjoy it consistently, I definitely can appreciate McCormack’s elegiac prose. I think I’ll probably always remember Agnes’ contemporary art exhibit. What an image. His caring for his sick wife also will stay with me. Perhaps I read this at the wrong time and it’s merely a case of ‘it’s not you it’s me’ syndrome – I gather this to be a rather frequent reason for the dislike of such stylistic novels. One needs time to devote themselves. I read this in snippets which I think detracted from McCormack’s lyrical intent. Solar Bones definitely deserves a weekend of it’s own.

2.5 stars from me but wholly appreciated and one I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the shortlist.

“a surge of red script flowing across the gallery, ceiling to floor, rising and falling in swells and eddies through various sizes and spacings, congested in the tight rhythms of certain examples only to swell out […] a maelstrom of voices”


* “It seemed obvious to me that the prose would proceed as a continuous outpour because that is the way a ghost would think…continuous, never stopping for fear that, as a ghost, he might dissipate or falter. This is not, as some critics have commented, a stream of consciousness – it is far too continuously scrolling for that; I always understood the style to be more in the nature of a stream of post-consciousness.” †

** Okay, so this is blurbed on the cover, however, I kind of found it to be spoiler-y as it predicted the ending for me. Leaving me lethargic about picking it up every time I put it back down, but I also have a penchant for going into books blind. Alas, McCormack states:

“I made a deliberate decision to flag that at the beginning so that it would not come as a cheap reveal at the end of the book. I like the way that it privileges the reader throughout with a knowledge that Marcus does not have … it gives the reader a hold on the situation that Marcus does not have.” †

† “A Stream of Post-Consciousness”: Mike McCormack on Solar Bones


How did you get on with this one friends..? Very keen to discuss and hear your thoughts. I find discussions always enable me to appreciate books further even if I didn’t get on so well with them.

Not long now til the shortlist annoucement, accruing excitement…!

til next time,

do svidaniya x

Man Booker Longlist musings

Better late than never here’s some thoughts on this years longlist. This will be the third time I’ve attempted to read the longlist and the second time I will review them in detail. I thoroughly enjoyed the rush last year although I found the longlist to be underwhelming as a whole. This years International was less so – although I didn’t read the whole list, I found some true gems + new authors to adore.


This year’s longlist? Exciting, predictable yet surprising with a few books I had not known existed. Note: predictable as a MB descriptor is kind of obsolete as those who follow the MB are generally rather knowledged in book releases so it kind of makes sense that one would be able to predict part of the longlist.

Exciting. I’ve already read two before it was announced! Hamid’s Exit West and Smith’s Swing Time.  Ahead of the game this year – feels good. I really enjoyed Hamid’s novel and have since read some of his other works – definitely a new fave author of mine. An old fave – Zadie, my girl, however Swing Time fell flat for me. Reviews of these to come.  Now to the rest of the list.

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

Kind of not surprised at this. Kind of intimated by it’s size. It’ll be my first Auster.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Again, not surprised due to it’s hype + Costa award win. Honestly don’t know much about it. Will probably borrow from the library at some point.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Just read this one from the library. Review to come. Had never heard of it.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

A decent 3-4 star read. Enjoyable. Deserving of it’s place to say the least.

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

One I had marked to read. Have currently got it out from the library. A whole book in one sentence. Intriguing.

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Have started reading this one. It is delicious. I knew next to nothing about it and had never heard of it. Probably want to read everything Jon has ever written.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

Surprised. Have never heard of this one. Again, very intrigued.

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Bought this one the other day. Lots of hype. Have yet to read anything by her. But I have an inkling I will enjoy her work.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Predictable yet pleased. Seems so innovative and fresh. Have been meaning to read for the longest time. Finally bought a copy.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Never heard of prior to it’s listing. Sounds amazing. The cover is to die for. It’s been pre-ordered.

Autumn by Ali Smith

Love me some Ali Smith. Predictable somewhat but deserving I imagine. My copy is in the mail.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

As much as I love Zadie, this one floored me. Surprised to say the least. Would’ve preferred Homegoing or Stay With Me – flawless debuts, alas. It may not be my favourite of Zadie’s but the themes she encompasses are no doubt very important. Wouldn’t be annoyed if it was shortlisted.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Predictable but maybe it’s worth it. I don’t know much about it, but after loving Homegoing (and coming from a country where slave narratives aren’t always taught in school) I’m rather excited to pick it up and see what the buzz is about.


And there you are!

What are your thoughts on this year’s longlist?! Which ones are you keen to read and which ones would you rather see in the basement growing dust then on this list?

Stay tuned for reviews,

for now,

Do svidaniya bookish friends

xx

Confessions & predictions – #MBI17

I’ve listened to some brilliant stories read by their authors on the newest NY’er podcast (the writer’s voice). I’ve showered and powdered mid-afternoon for ultimate cosy feelings. I’ve left the washing in the rain for days to harden and sparkle with the first of the year’s frosts. And, I abandoned the Man Booker International project I had embarked on with such excitement, well kind of, not quite.

There’s a couple of reasons why:

  • Conveniently I started a new job around the time of the longlist announcements. So I was busy adjusting to a new-ish lifestyle /and/ kind of poor. Most of the MBI listed books are hard to get and I didn’t have the foresight or funds to order ahead of time. (My library had a few, but not many. Funny story – I’m still waiting for the copy of Compass to arrive to the library!)
  • The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Same time-ish! (Who does that? ha!) I couldn’t decide so I went with the MBI, I knew I couldn’t do both. And while I was surprised by the winner this year (gobsmacked more like it) in hindsight I have an inkling I may have enjoyed the Bailey’s more than I have the MBI.
  • Anxiety. I love reading but sometimes restrictive lists leave me feverish and not in a good Samanta Schweblin way. My anxiety has manifested physically these last few months and so I’m slowly embarking on a calmer and more purpose-driven life. Slowly being the key phrase.

 

The winner of the Man Booker International award is announced on 14th June. 

Here are the MBI long and shortlisted books I got to:*

*I DNF’d The Explosions Chronicles by Yan Lianke (China), Translated by Carlos Rojas

Okay so. The winner?

I feel like the winner of such an award ought to be both daringly original and accessible. Yes, the man booker is an especially literary prize, however, I’m sure the aim of any book award is to encourage people to read. So accessibility is kind of key.

My personal favourite is Judas but I’m not sure how original it is.

Compass I haven’t read, and am not sure I will. (At least not at this point in time). From what I’ve read *about* it, it could be too literary to win – if that makes any sense?!

The two Nordic entries are beautiful, quiet reads. I adored them almost equally but they’re an acquired taste and not necessarily original in their scope. I didn’t have a problem with the dialect in The Unseen, however, I imagine it hinders accessibility.

My winner prediction?

Fever Dream is incredibly original as is David Grossman’s A Horse Walks into a Bar. I found both highly accessible and engaging in current events, climate change/our effect on the landscape and the Israel/Palestine conflict plus the role of grief in society respectively. I would be happy if either of these won, and super happy if my *personal fave* won!

Food for thought ~

  • Have you kept up with the literary awards these last few months??!
  • What’s your favourite of the MBI shortlist?
  • Who do you think will win? (And what did you think of the Bailey’s winner?!)
  • Does anxiety affect your reading habits?

 

Do Svidaniya for now my chickens

xx

 

Judas – Amos Oz

(Tr. Nicholas de Lange)

“In many flats in Jerusalem you might find van Gogh’s starry whirlpool skies or his shimmering cypresses on the living room wall, rush mats on the floors of the small rooms, and Doctor Zhivago or Yizhar’s Days of Ziklag lying open, face down, on a foam sofa-bed that was covered with a length of Middle-Eastern cloth and piled with embroidered cushions.”

Dear Mr. Oz, you had me at van Gogh.

I can hear you now, ‘but you vehemently dislike novels centered around religious content’ and yes, yes, yes you would be right. But, we all know that people only grow with trying new things and getting out of their comfort zone. So here we are. I’m out on a limb. I have zero (absolute zilch) knowledge about Christianity, the Bible, Jesus and religion in general. So, let’s talk about why I adored this novel and wished I had bought it so I could’ve underlined the crap out of it because I’m sure the library frowns upon such methods.

  • The writing style. Oz’s characterizations. His subtle warmth, delicate humour, absolutely vivid and stunning scene setting.

“Professor Eisenschloss was a small, compact man with thick beer-bottle lenses in his spectacles, and movements that reminded you of a cuckoo darting busily out of a clock.”

  • Short chapters. C’mon now, who doesn’t love a short, sweet chapter? Much like those who dislike cheese, prefer vanilla to chocolate and wear underwear in their own homes – untrustworthy I tell ye.

“Anyone willing to change, will always be considered a traitor by those who cannot change.”

  • Shmuel Ash.  How can you not love the guy?

“He suddenly wanted very much to live in that attic, to curl up inside it with a pile of books, a bottle of red wine, a stove, a quilt, a gramophone and some records, and not go outside, for lectures, debates or love affairs. To stay there and never leave, at least while it was cold outside.”

Something tells me that Shmuel and I are the same person, maybe not all the time, but definitely at times – we have our moments. Disclaimer: I have worked as a carer looking after the elderly for over five years, so I may be a tad biased.

I also adored Atalia. I would like to talk more about her, but I can’t find the words at present.

“And on the ceiling of your attic room, directly over your bed, oceans and continents take shape in the cracking plaster: you lie on your back for hours on end gazing at the archipelago of peeling plaster, islands, reefs, gulfs, volcanoes, fjords.”

Basically, if Amos Oz doesn’t win the MBI I’m not sure what I will do. That being said, I’ve only read half the shortlist, but if a compassionate, soft-spoken, affecting story that can entertain a self confessed agnostic/atheist cannot win a major literary prize, then what can?

“A slanting beam of sunlight filtered through the slats of the shutters, and innumerable tiny specks of dust whirled in it, like so many brightly-lit worlds in a shining milky way.”

This was my first Amos Oz, and it definitely won’t be my last.

Fish Have No Feet – Jón Kalman Stefánsson

(Tr. Philip Roughton)

“Music can dispel the darkness, rip us out of melancholy, anxiety, negativity, and swing us over to joy, exuberance at being alive, at existing here and now; without it, the human heart would be a lifeless planet.”

I’m not sure I fully understood this one. I really wanted to adore it and carry it with me on dark days but I didn’t connect quite as much as I’d hoped too. It started out brilliantly I must say, and if you take a look at my copy you would wonder why I’ve underlined so many passages if I didn’t adore it.

Fish Have No Feet and you don’t need any either in this novel. Stefánsson’s lyrical prose sweeps you along, no navigation needed, but let me tell you now that if bleak poetry isn’t your slice of pie this novel will drown you and drown you good. Fish Have No Feet is reflective, nostalgic, depressive; filled with rhetorical questions and existentialist musings.

“I’m not so sure we seriously try to understand other people – do we really give it our full attention? Don’t we actually do the opposite, and constantly try, all our lives, to make others see the world as we see it? Isn’t that our great misfortune?

I can definitely see why this one has been nominated for the Man Booker International and good pickings, for it has everything I love. Iceland, bleak weather, bleak landscapes, bleak meandering questions about what it is to be alive, lyrical prose, and did I mention it’s a bleak novel? It’s translation is definitely beautiful and muted and I can only imagine how stunning it is in its original language, but in spite of all this, something still doesn’t sit right with me. A definite A++ for Stefánsson’s writing and use of the passive narrator (which is done so well – and I also enjoyed the footnotes) but I can’t help but think that this has all been done before.

“Can happiness be luck, a lottery win, or does it come, on the contrary, only to those who have worked for it, with their diligence and way of looking at things? Life, writes Margrét in her diary, is nothing but a senseless beast if happiness is just luck.”

Basically, in the end Margrét was all I was reading it for. The passages of her story were my favourite and even though I still adore Iceland (as I write this I’m listening to sigur rós and wishing our rain would turn to snow) there was just too much penis for my liking. Now, not to sound like a raging feminist, but I’m sure the penis thing has been done before. And that’s great it still continues as I’m sure there are many men who still read books and will have enjoyed this novel. But, like I said, it’s been done before. Imagine if this was filled vagina imagery. Would it have the same reception?

“It’s raining and ten years have passed. You blink and you’re older, the darkness of death hangs over the mountains. Time passes so swiftly, yet sometimes so slowly that we nearly suffocate.”

Fish Have No Feet is a great book and I don’t doubt it’s literary success of which it deserves but in the end I got annoyed with the philosophical meanderings of the penis while the women filled themselves with drink or attempted suicide on account of their “excessive imaginations.”  2.5 stars – which would’ve been one if it wasn’t set in my dream country.

The art of translated fiction

You’re at your desk, another early start, stillness abounds. You type slowly listening to the silence of  the dawn. You have miniature bonsais on your desk and a giant rubber plant  looms in the corner. Your room is softly lit and smells of fresh pressed coffee.

There’s something about the art of translation that always makes me want to romanticize it in the cold light of morning. Even as a child there was something so intriguing to me about translated literature (a favourite of mine being Chinese Cinderella) and now? There are many. Haruki Murakami, Chekhov and Tolstoy to name a few, although Banana Yoshimoto will always be my dream girl. And recently I’ve loved such works as The Story of My Teeth, A General Theory of Oblivion and The Vegetarian. 

“To the extent that I had come to understand that despair does not necessarily result in annihilation, that one can go on as usual in spite of it, I had become hardened. Was that what it means to be an adult, to live with ugly ambiguities? I didn’t like it, but it made it easier to go on.”

     – Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto

 

I read and write for feelings of connection. I read and write for ways to understand reality, to understand the difficult times and to find the beautiful in the ordinary every day. And I am no longer fulfilled  with just the dominant narrative. I want to find myself, the familiar in the unfamiliar. I want to discover new ways of seeing. Basically, how can anyone not love something as wonderful as works of translated fiction?

“You drove it out of you many years ago,
closed the place, tried to forget it all.
You knew it wasn’t in the music and so you sang
you knew it wasn’t in silence and so you were quiet
you knew it wasn’t in solitude and so you were alone.
But what could have happened today
to scare you like one who in the night suddenly sees
a beam of light under the door of the next room
where no one has lived for years?”

     – ‘Death’, Vladimir Holan, Tr. Jarmila and Ian Milner

 

One of my favourite poetry collections to date is The Poet’s Lamp: A Czech Anthology (ed. Alfred French) which I stumbled upon secondhand years ago. You get a kind of feeling from reading a work that has originated in an entirely different, sometimes unknown to you, culture and language. A whole different set of beliefs that may not even make sense to you and yet here in that moment, in that complete translation, another world becomes accessible to you. But it is more than that. It is those pieces of yourself in others; entirely different, yet entirely the same, that universal human experience no matter your ethnicity.

So it is with such zeal that I will be reading the 2017 Man Booker International Prize Longlist and, of course, reviewing each of the books both here and over on my Instagram.

What are some of your favourite works of translated fiction? Do let me know!

Stay tuned little chickens and happy reading!