The Calm After The Storm: Richard Flanagan Wins The 2014 Booker

on Thursday, October 16, 2014
A collective sigh of relief was heard across Bookeringham Palace yesterday as the invading hordes were chased away by a new Commonwealth literary legend. Ok, so he's not that new and, well, he's from that place what the convicts got shipped to but all hail Sir Richard of Tasmania, Lord of Literature.

It's a bit of a sad indictment on my reading habits this year but I've yet to read The Narrow Road To The Deep North. Indeed, I only managed two on the shortlist - Jacobson and Smith - neither of which I felt deserved to win. Granted it's a subjective game of relativity; I might have liked the other four even less. And, as much as it pains me to admit, it's not like I have any say in the outcome. But I'm glad Flanagan won not only because he's an Aussie (which hopefully means we can stop claiming DBC Pierre) or because giving it to a writer from the Commonwealth preserves the parochial charm of the Booker Prize but because, by all accounts, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is a deeply literary novel, a story of love, hardship and survival on the Thai Burma Railway dying WW2. In other words, Flanagan's win represents a return (albeit perhaps only briefly) to the essence of what has always made the Booker a great prize to follow. It also adds a slightly humorous dimension to his being passed over for this year's Miles Franklin. The Narrow Road To The Deep North is sitting on my bookshelf waiting for the next quiet patch in my life... which means I can look forward to reading it sometime in 2017.

The Found Man: Patrick Modiano wins The Nobel Prize for Literature 2014

on Friday, October 10, 2014
Well, that was unexpected. Following the usual predictive malarky that yearly pits Haruki Murakami against Adonis and, for the really hopeful, Phillip Roth, the Nobel Committee has thrown us one from left field by awarding the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature to French writer Patrick Modiano. I don't think he was even on the betting radar. That said, far from being one of the annoyingly obscure or, worse, token laureates, Modiano is quite the deserving recipient. I've only read a couple of his books (I think only four or five exist in English translation, of which maybe two or three are in print) but they were both excellent - intriguing, challenging, deep but strangely accessible. Like the Academy, I'd go for Missing Person as a starting point. It's a slim but weighty novel in which an amnesiac goes in search of the identity he lost during the war. Modiano really grapples with ideas of identity, guilt, complicity and the like in a way very have done before or since. I'd also recommend Search Warrant/Dora Bruder (same book, published under two titles) which is widely regarded as his masterpiece. A fascinating study into the fate of a missing girl deported to Auschwitz that was triggered by a missing person notice in a wartime magazine, it digs deeply into the soul of Occupied France and, more importantly, Modiano himself.

Guess it's back to the drawing board for the punters amongst you. Here's hoping your favourite lives to go another round!