I had the pleasure of seeing artist Olafur Eliasson’s Tate Modern exhibition In Real Life on the weekend and loved his selection of books on the environment which I thought I’d share with you here. As fans of Eliasson will know, environmentalism is central to much of his work as seen in his melting ice blocks displayed in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Some of these titles sound unbearably depressing so I would probably begin with the more solution oriented sounding ones. For an initial call to action, Greta Thunberg’s book is a inspiring place to start.
I’m very excited to announce that Johanne has joined us as a reviewer. Johanne has just started her Masters Degree at the University of East Anglia where she’s focusing on biography and creative non-fiction. She brings a younger voice to Bookstoker and through her passion for translated literature she’ll surely introduce us to books we otherwise wouldn’t have found. Johanne has quietly written some reviews for us already. Have a look. A Stranger at My Table, So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edward Munch, The Birds, Unquiet and Will and Testament. Welcome Johanne!
It’s the season for literary prizes and hot on the heels of the Nobel Prize for Literature comes this year’s Booker Prize. Unusually, and in breach of their own rules, the committee decided to split the prize between Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during those discussions.
I’m an ardent admirer of Atwood (see reviews of Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale) but I’m not convinced The Testaments is amongst her best books. Sure, it’s a timely novel touching upon momentous issues such as totalitarianism, religious extremism and feminism, but the literary aspects of this book are by no means perfect. Atwood has won before, 19 years ago, for the The Blind Assassin.
Bernadine Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Booker (high time!) for Girl, Woman, Other, 12 intertwining stories about black women’s lives. It sounds like an energetic, different book and we’re reading it as I write. Watch this space!
You’d think that the Nobel Prize Committee for Literature would play it safe this time around after having been suspended last year due to a sexual misconduct scandal, but no. The 2019 prize has been awarded to Peter Handke, an Austrian playwright, author and translator with a long track record of winning literary prizes. Unfortunately, Handke has also been an outspoken supporter of Serbian nationalism and, amongst other things, spoke at the funeral of Slobodan Milošević. In this day and age, the timing of awarding the prize to Handke seems particularly misjudged. No matter his skills as an author. Why they didn’t chose someone else amongst the numerous talented living authors is mind-boggling.
Poor Olga Tokarczuk, whose win for the 2018 prize (awarded this year because of said scandal) risks being drowned in the controversy around Handke’s prize, is the one we should focus on perhaps. Her novel Flights, which won the International Man Booker Prize last year, seems like a good place to start.
Out today, the 2019 Booker Prize short-list. A mix of well-known and not so well-known authors of different nationalities; British, American, Nigerian, British/Turkish, British/Indian and Canadian. Two literary superstars: Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie. Some names we have seen before: Elif Shafak and Chigozie Obioma. And two names that were new to us: Lucy Ellmann and Bernardine Evaristo.