30 September 2011

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro


There it is, my faithful friend - broken. 

I can't quite bear the thought of replacing it yet, so it's a good thing I had Nocturnes sitting steadfast by my bedside.

Nocturnes is a collection of five short stories, all centered around the theme of music and the passing of time.  I suppose it says as much on the cover, much more poetically than I ever could - "Five Stories of Music and Nightfall".

The "nightfall" part requires a bit of thinking.  Certainly there are key events which happen at night or in the evening.  But that's a bit too literal - nightfall refers to the setting of the sun on - the close, the end of - relationships in a world where too many things, from friendship to marriage, are transient.  Ishiguro seeks to capture those fleeting moments in our lives when a connection is made with someone, but that connection is destined not to last, except in memory. 

08 September 2011

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

Grove Atlantic, 2010
This is a collection of three separate journeys undertaken by a South African traveller, Damon.  The author, Damon Galgut, is South African.  The character, Damon, is a writer.  I'm not sure how much of the work is actually autobiographical, but I imagine that it must be. 

Because what is certain is that the words on the page come from a deeply personal, intimate place.  Damon's travels are isolated and lonely, yet his memories feel familiar.  It is as if a window to a man's soul has been opened, and when you look in, you see yourself standing there.  Author, character and reader form some kind of trinity and there is a sense that it does not matter whether Damon the traveller and Damon Galgut the author are one and the same.

06 September 2011

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Atlantic, 2008
I should probably focus on reviewing the two remaining books I've earmarked to complete Project Booker but I was in the mood for a bit of comic relief so I scanned my bookshelf, and The White Tiger called out to me.  I thought I heard a wolf-whistle.  Though I've read it before, I responded to its proposition, since it is a champion specimen and we are on the subject of the Man Booker Prize after all.

When The White Tiger pounced upon the Booker 3 years ago, I was delighted.  It is not a dramatic / epic colonial saga by an Indian author that typically finds its way to the shortlist every couple years or so.  For once, a truly humorous novel with a young, modern voice was given the recognition it deserved.  Not satirical humour (though there is that), nothing you have to "get", not clever dry wit, slightly removed - No, this was in-your-face, dark, unadulterated comedy.