Arriving at the Gare du Nord will never feel the same again after this haunting and unsettling debut fiction. A lonely young woman, a diffident observer of the the game of Parisian bourgeois life, works there as the disembodied voice who announces departures. Then she falls in self-tormenting love with an unattainable man. So a journey into thwarted passion and childhood terrors begins, which the author – a New York-based journalist – steers with a touching and assured command of her heroine's inner world.
In the remote mountains of Colombia, retired teacher Ismael enjoys small joys and old friendships in spite of his country's civil strife. Then the endless conflict, between ill-defined bands of soldiers, guerrillas and paramilitaries, strikes home with shocking force. A massacre, and his wife's abduction, lead Ismael and the townsfolk into a limbo of fear and confusion. This finely-wrought but softly-spoken novel of love, war and grief not only laments a people's tragedy but celebrates the fragile virtues of everyday life at the end of its tether.
In the Bogota of the late 1980s, a high-minded journalist has published a book about a family friend who fled Nazi Germany. Bizarrely, his father, a famously incorruptible teacher, vehemently attacks his son's work. Why? Through a deft story-telling architecture, we return to the 1940s, a German émigré milieu, and the trauma that shaped his father's life. The novel expertly fashions a misty mood of doubt and secrecy in a history-shadowed Colombia that feels as if mature Le Carré had wandered into the labyrinths of Borges.
Daniela, teacher and lover of language, travels from Israel to east Africa to comfort her bereaved brother-in-law at his archaeological dig. Behind his grief lies memories of another tragedy that links personal loss with political anguish. At home, husband Amotz runs his lift-engineering business and makes mind-shifting discoveries of his own. A profound portrait of a marriage, but also a study of cultural border-crossings and the toll they exact, this novel by one of Israel's modern greats entwines private life with public fate.
This fearless epic of history and memory establishes the exiled Ma Jian as the Solzhenitsyn of China's amnesiac surge towards superpower status. Ma's panoramic, hour-by-hour drama of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the violence that crushed them combines with scenes from the forgetful aftermath. A nation slips into oblivion and greed as a survivor languishes alone. For all its documentary richness, the novel grips and moves as fiction on a human scale: it not only commemorates a suppressed fight for freedom, but helps to renew it.
Albania's émigré master often uses the bloody medieval past to explore his region's sinister modern history, and this fable-like adventure is no exception. The Ottoman pasha leads a vast army towards intractable Albania, where a citadel cannily resists. The invaders quarrel and plot as an unimaginable defeat looms. Meanwhile, a chronicler finds that his predicted story of triumph founders in the fog of war. Mystery and suspense fuel a classic parable of power and its pitfalls, as an empire begins to falter in its tracks.
vrijdag 3 april 2009
Shortlist Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
De shortlist voor de Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, een royale prijs van £ 10.000 (eerlijk te verdelen tussen schrijver en vertaler) voor vertaalde fictie in Groot-Brittannië, is bekend. Vorige genomineerden en winnaars waren onder andere Per Petterson met Paarden stelen (winnaar 2006), Sjón met De blauwvos (longlist 2009) en Daniel Kehlmann met Het meten van de wereld (shortlist 2008). Voor dit jaar zijn de kanshebbers (tekst schaamteloos geplakt en geknipt van de website van The Independent):