Maclehose Press books of the year
Just as Jérôme Ferrari was awarded the Prix Goncourt a few weeks ago, the Books of the Year round-ups began to appear in the press and his novel Where I Left My Soul (trs. Geoffrey Strachan) kept cropping up.
It was described by Michael Holroyd in the Guardian as “The most powerful novel I have read this year . . . a devastating story that shows how the victims of torture often become torturers themselves”.
He chose it again in the New Statesman: “a novel taking us from Buchenwald and Vietnam to Algeria, and leading to the conclusion that those who suffer most go on to cause most suffering.”
In the Spectator, Allan Massie found Ferrari’s novel “brilliantly and movingly done. The book, a prize-winner in France, has received less attention here than it deserves.”
Ferrari’s star is indeed rising, and a translation of his Goncourt-winning Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome is now in preparation.
In the Financial Times, Angel Gurria Quintana included it in the Fiction in Translation Books of the Year: “a devastating study of the effect of systematic torture on both victims and perpetrators. Though firmly rooted in the savagery of the Algerian struggle for independence, the novel has modern echoes that make it uncomfortable and illuminating.”
Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (trs. John Fletcher) was selected in the Economist (“Three women whose lives are strung between Africa and Europe find the strength to say no, by the winner of the 2009 Prix Goncourt), a choice echoed across the Atlantic in Kirkus Reviews and the New York Times 100 NotableBooks of 2012.
Nicholas Shakespeare chose Elizabeth Hay’s novel Alone in the Classroom in the Telegraph: “by my favourite living novelist . . . a story of murder and obsessive love in prairie Canada, and better even than Alice Munro”.
In the Independent this last weekend Boyd Tonkin chose Angharad Price’s The Life of Rebecca Jones (trs. Lloyd Jones): “a gem of a short novel . . . The fictional voice Price gives to her great-aunt compels and captivates.”
And of Cees Nooteboom’s perceptive analysis of Germany he wrote “The year’s strongest literary portrait of a city came in Roads to Berlin (trs. Laura Watkinson), the great Dutch writer’s bittersweet tribute to the fateful capital that moulded his upbringing, and his imagination.”
Of our crime novels, Joan Smith has nominated Antonin Varenne’s Bed of Nails (trs. Siân Reynolds) as her Best Crime Title of the Year in the Sunday Times: “The crime novel that has stayed in my mind this year is from France . . . simply superb. It is an unexpected read right from the opening pages. . . Varenne handles dark themes of suicide and sadomasochism with a profound human sympathy.”
In the Independent Barry Forshaw picked out Paulus Hochgatterer’s The Mattress House (trs. Jamie Bulloch), “with dark doings in Austria as psychologically truthful as one might expect from this psychiatrist-cum-writer. Hochgatterer gives ammunition to those already whispering that the next big thing in crime (after Scandinavia) may just be coming from . . . Austria and Germany.”
But what about Italy? Valerio Varesi’s The Dark Valley (trs. Joseph Farrell and shortlisted for this year’s CWA International Dagger) was chosen by Laura Wilson as one of her Crime Books of the Year for the Guardian: “Finally, for those who enjoy foreign locations but are tiring of Scandinavia, Italian author Valerio Varesi’s The Dark Valley, set in the Appenines and featuring the excellent Commissario Soneri, is a rich, rewarding read.”
What was your MacLehose Press Book of the Year? Send us your comments!