The author of ‘Arctic Summer’, Damon Galgut, who was in India to participate at the 5th edition of Tata Literature Live says, “I don’t usually read books that have been recently published.
I prefer older offerings that have been tested by time, without the hype and publicity that distort perception.” He shares his top five books that made an impression on him
leaves an impact
‘The Folly’ by Ivan Vladislavic who is one of South Africa’s best writers and bafflingly under appreciated. He’s ripe for some big international enthusiasm by now. This is his first novel, though I only came upon it recently. In a country obsessed with social realism, Vladislavic has always tried to find less obvious ways to approach the world. An immaculately-written allegory or parable (though neither word is quite right) about two unlikely neighbours, it’s a clever and elegant book that lodges in the mind like a dart.
This is hardly a new recommendation, but I can never get enough of ‘Pale Fire’ by Nabokov. Is there a more intelligent and entertaining novel in the world? Taking the form of a poem in four cantos by an American poet named John Shade, the real heart of the book is the foreword and commentary by a devoted academic admirer. The embodiment of the unreliable narrator, this second voice is either visionary or insane. If I were banished to Mars and could take only one book with me, it could well be this one.
The Lives of Others’ by Neel Mukherjee is one of the angriest books I’ve encountered. A look at Indian social life through the prism of the Naxalite rebellion in Bengal, it’s a powerful reading experience.
keep it short
‘The Alphabet of Birds’ by S.J. Naudé is another South African recommendation which is a collection of short stories that has appeared in Afrikaans but will soon be published in English translation. Some of the most unsettling and unusual narratives I’ve ever read, the stories deal with loss and yearning through a vision that verges on the surreal. Highly recommended.
Not a new book, but I’ve only lately arrived at ‘Breath’ by Tim Winton. On the surface it’s a story about boys and surfing, but - like the sea it describes - it’s full of dark shadows and unseen currents, some of them almost religious in nature. A wonderful piece of work by a natural craftsman.