Friday, June 13, 2014

Impac Award 2014

We have a winner!   Yes a South American but not Andres Neuman.   This time it is a Columbian,  Juan Gabriel Vásquez  with the third of his novels to appear in English, The Sound of Things Falling, translated by Canadian Anne McLean. Vásquez is also the first South American to win.

According to the published information about him, 'Vasquez (41) studied at the Sorbonne, and in addition to his years in Paris, has also lived in the Ardennes in Belgium and Barcelona, before returning to his birthplace, Bogotá, to settle.
He became internationally established on the publication of his coolly assured, historical thriller The Informers in 2008, which drew on a marginalised Nazi witch hunt as its inspiration. The Secret History of Costaguana (2007; English translation 2010) is the story of an angry man who believes that Joseph Conrad stole his life.
The Sound of Things Falling is a hard-edged narrative influenced by the legacy of drug trafficking in Colombia. It is an emphatically contemporary work, independent of the influence of magical realism that has tended to define Latin American fiction.
In Vásquez’s book, the narrator, Yammara, a young lawyer, becomes seriously wounded when in the company of an acquaintance, a former drugs trafficker. Yammara has other problems, however, and becomes intent on finding out what kind of a man he has become. In order to do so, he must not only examine himself, he must investigate his country’s past.
Chance plays a central part in the story. Adopting the role of a keen anthropologist Vásquez pieces together various events, including two dramatic plane crashes balanced against the image of a hippopotamus escaped from the bizarre zoo created by drug baron Pablo Escobar in the Magdalena Valley.
The photograph of the animal shot dead by captors in 2009 reminded Vásquez of seeing the body of Escobar collapsed on a roof after the shoot out that ended his life.'

Sound interesting?

Friday, June 6, 2014


Our two greatest writers are in the news again!   Eimear McBride has won the Baileys Women's Prize for fiction with her novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.   The Baileys used to be the Orange Prize and represents a major award for her following on her achievement in winning the Goldsmith Prize.   She is also short listed for the 2014 Folio Prize.   Her book is probably the most exciting piece of writing in Irish literature since Joyce and you can read my review published on 14 November 2013.   Eimear is currently working on her second novel.

The second major Irish writer to make the news is John Banville who has won the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in Spain.   This is an award given for a body of work rather than a particular novel and in this case, the judges cited not only his work as the novelist John Banville but also his alter ego, Benjamin Black.   According to the judges, 'Banville's prose opens up dazzling, lyrical landscapes through cultural references in which he breathes new life into classical myths and beauty...'

Shortly, now, we will have the results of the Impac Award jury!   There is a shortlist of ten including The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan and Absolution by Patrick Flanery, all impressive works.   The money, however, appears to be on Traveller of the Century by Andres Neuman.   Neuman is a South American writer from Buenos Aires; his novel is translated from Spanish and is about philosophy, love, war and history going back into post-Napoleonic Europe.   Judging by the blurb, there seems to be hints of Borges there or Claudel.   I shall get back to you about this one!   Award to be announced on 12 June.