Monday, October 09, 2006

Waking to a weight on my foot took me back momentarily to childhood when my cat would snuggle into bed. This morning the sensation was accompanied by my husband's very sleepy but nevertheless horrified "is that a cat?!" It was one of the "marauding kitties" again, who seem to appear all too frequently on this blog! Not quite sure how the cat got in, but the only spot was a small gap in the window which he must have slunk through. I lay there for a bit (it was 5am) without moving, but remembering that his humans last week complained of fleas he'd brought in, suddenly galvanized me. Amazingly, he was still purring as I threw him out.

Thanks to kimbofo at Reading Matters for drawing my attention to the latest official "best books" list: the Observer's poll for "best British, Irish or Commonwealth novel from 1980 to 2005." Their full list is available here, but suffice to say the top ten are:

1.Disgrace (1999) JM Coetzee

2.Money (1984) Martin Amis

Joint 3rd. Earthly Powers (1980) Anthony Burgess
Atonement (2001) Ian McEwan
The Blue Flower (1995) Penelope Fitzgerald
The Unconsoled (1995) Kazuo Ishiguro
Midnight's Children (1981) Salman Rushdie

Joint 8th. The Remains of the Day (1989) Kazuo Ishiguro
Amongst Women (1990) John McGahern
That They May Face the Rising Sun (2001) John McGahern

Of course, the trouble with lists is that we both love and hate them. There's always someone who has been left off, or should never have been added in the first place. With this list I am very happy with some of the selections. Kimbofo asks is Coetzee that good? (there are three other titles of his which were also nominated) and I say a wholehearted yes! Coetzee is a thoughtful, evocative writer, who leads us into uncomfortable territory. He wrote about race issues at a time in South Africa when very few did, and in the post-apartheid dispensation he has quietly (or disquietingly) moved on with new subjects where other South African writers are finding it harder to write about a post-apartheid experience with any clarity. At the same time, his books are universal in scope. I really enjoyed DISGRACE. We read it in our book group and found that it is so very well written, painful in some conclusions about the new South Africa, and the central character is odious, yet still one wants to know what happens to him; his daughter is a woman we all wanted to shake until her teeth rattled. I argue this is an aspect of good writing - that despite disliking a character in the extreme, the writer manages to make the reader care about him/her.

I am surprised by how many writers had multiple titles nominated, yet others are missing entirely. Other than Coetzee, the only other African nomination is Buchi Emecheta's GWENDOLEN, (called THE FAMILY in the US edition) which I find a very odd choice. Of course like all readers out there I can rattle off ten other titles, I think should have appeared, and I do think the African contingent have been sorely underrepresented, but I'm fairly prosaic about these things. . .

How on earth did J.K. Rowling appear on this list, do tell?!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the comment on IN AN AFRICAN MINUTE. I fixed the links.

sounds like you are doing some interesting work; i'm always fascinated with good African lit titles. I'll be following your work!


10:42 am  
Blogger equiano said...

Thanks for stopping by Joshua - interesting to read about your life in Uganda.

1:27 pm  

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