November 29, 2011 by markstani
Over the next ten days this site will run down Eleutherophobia’s Top Ten Books Of The Year – in reverse order, of course. But first, in an especially strong year for world fiction, it’s worth highlighting a number of notable others that narrowly failed to make the cut. The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize threw up an excellent longlist, and ultimately a very worthy winner in Santiago Roncagliolo’s dark and mysterious tale of a Peru struggling to shake off the Shining Path, Red April (Atlantic).
Also from the list, Marcelo Figuera’s delicate, elegaic Kamchatka (Atlantic) – about a family living in fear of authoritarian rule in seventies Argentina, and Michal Witkowski’s garish Lovetown (Portobello), a chronicle of sleazy queens in post-Communist Poland, were most worthy of note.
From the much-maligned MAN Booker shortlist came Patrick McGuinness’s gripping account of the crumbling of the Ceausescu regime in Romania, The Last Hundred Days (Seren), Carol Birch’s rollicking Victorian high seas adventure, Jamrach’s Menagerie (Canongate), and an unarguable winner in Julian Barnes’ precise and profound muse on memory, The Sense Of An Ending (Jonathan Cape).
Possibly the strongest longlist this year was provided by the the MAN Asian Prize, including Rahul Bhattachariya’s richly chaotic tale of a year in Guyana, The Sly Company Of People Who Care (Picador), as well as a devastatingly sad insight into the AIDS tragedy facing rural China in Yan Lianke’s Dream Of Ding Village (Corsair).
From the sub-continent came Mirza Waheed’s gripping first novel The Collaborator (Viking), which shed overdue light on the Kashmiri conflict, and which was deservedly shortlisted for the Guardian First Novel Award. Meanwhile former Booker winner Aravind Adiga followed up ‘White Tiger’ with his study of the residents of a Mumbai housing complex, Last Man In Tower (pub. Atlantic). It is testament to the strength of this year’s prize lists that Adiga’s accomplished follow-up barely merited a mention among them.
Finally, a word for Tommy Zurhellen’s Nazareth, North Dakota (Atticus), a tumultuous re-telling of the New Testament, re-imagined in a Badlands landscape of dingy bars and love motels. Zurhellen’s follow-up is due in 2012. Watch this space.