Take a closer look at the 2016 Longlist, and be your own judge…
A General Theory of Oblivion
by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
On the eve of Angolan independence, Ludo bricks herself into her apartment, where she will remain for the next thirty years. She lives off vegetables and pigeons, burns her furniture and books to stay alive and keeps herself busy by writing her story on the walls of her home.
The outside world slowly seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of a man fleeing his pursuers and a note attached to a bird’s foot. Until one day she meets Sabalu, a young boy from the street who climbs up to her terrace.
The Story of the Lost Child
by Elana Ferrante
The quartet traces the friendship between Elena and Lila, from their childhood in a poor neighbourhood in Naples, to their thirties, when both women are mothers but each has chosen a different path. Their lives are still inextricably linked, for better or worse, especially when it comes to the drama of a lost child.
by Han Kang
Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares.
In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalisation. She unknowingly captivates her sister’s husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming – impossibly, ecstatically – a tree.
Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.
Mend the Living
by Maylis de Kerangal
Early one blustery day near Le Havre, three teenagers head down to the sea together to go surfing. They are old friends: Chris, Johan and Simon. Exhausted after just one hour in the rough waves, they begin their drive back to town, but Chris, the driver, falls asleep at the wheel and the car skids off the road. Whilst Chris and Johan escape with a few broken bones, it soon becomes clear that Simon is beyond resuscitation, brain-dead in a deep coma.
Apart from his brain however, Simon’s organs are in perfect condition. His devastated parents face an agonising decision. If his life support is switched off straight away, his organs can still be used to save other lives, but by consenting, his parents will be choosing to end what remains of their son’s life. They decide to go ahead: Simon’s heart, lungs, liver and kidneys can be removed and used in organ transplants. And with that decision, their son’s life ends and the implacable mechanisms of organ donation and transplantation click into gear.
Simon’s heart is removed and a match is found in Paris: Claire Mejan, who suffers from myocarditis can only hope for survival if she receives a heart transplant. She has just a few hours notice before her transplant will take place. In the space of just twenty-four hours, Simon Limbres will have said goodbye to his girlfriend, gone surfing with his two best friends, lost his life in a horrific accident, had all his organs removed and shipped around France to waiting matches, and, as his doctor cleans and stitches his empty shell of a body, his heart will begin to beat again many miles away, inside Claire Mejan’s body.
by Eka Kurniawan
A wry, affecting tale set in a small town on the Indonesian coast, Man Tiger tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families and of Margio, a young man ordinary in all particulars except that he conceals within himself a supernatural female white tiger. The inequities and betrayals of family life coalesce around and torment this magical being. An explosive act of violence follows, and its mysterious cause is unraveled as events progress toward a heartbreaking revelation.
Lyrical and bawdy, experimental and political, this extraordinary novel announces the arrival of a powerful new voice on the global literary stage.
The Four Books
by Yan Lianke
In the ninety-ninth district of a sprawling labour camp, the Author, Musician, Scholar, Theologian and Technician – and hundreds just like them – are undergoing Re-education, to restore their revolutionary zeal and credentials.
In charge of this process is the Child, who delights in draconian rules, monitoring behaviour and confiscating treasured books. But when bad weather arrives, followed by the ‘three bitter years’, the intellectuals are abandoned by the regime and left on their own to survive. Divided into four narratives, The Four Books tells the story of the Great Famine, one of China’s most devastating and controversial periods.
by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
In an unnamed African city in secession, profit-seekers of all languages and nationalities mix. They have only one desire: to make a fortune by exploiting the mineral wealth of the land. Two friends – Lucien, a writer with literary ambitions, home from abroad, and his childhood friend Requiem, who dreams of taking over the seedy underworld of their hometown – gather in the most notorious nightclub in town: the Tram 83. Around them gravitate gangsters and young girls, soldiers and stowaways, profit-seeking tourists and federal agents of a nonexistent State.
Tram 83 plunges the reader into a modern African gold rush as cynical as it is comic and colourfully exotic. A daring feat of narrative imagination and linguistic creativity, Tram 83 uses the rhythms of jazz to weave a tale of human relationships in a world that has become a global village.
A Cup of Rage
by Raduan Nassar
A novella about the highly erotic relationship between a young, urban, feminist woman and a similarly well educated, but older, cynical and macho small-scale farmer in the Brazilian outback; this book is shocking and infamous.
A famous book of Brazilian modernism, it could at first sight appear a piece of chauvinist fantasy, but that would be to ignore the fact that the author is at an ironic distance to the narrator, and although almost all the book is in the narrator’s voice, it becomes clear that the book is a scathing portrayal of the male psyche, its infantilism and tantrums – the egotistical man unable to deal with the new gender role, yet this does not stop the book also being a merciless reckoning with second-hand, glib liberal posturing.
by Marie NDiaye
Clarisse Riviere’s life is shaped by a refusal to admit to her husband, Richard, and to her daughter, Ladivine, that her mother is a poor black housekeeper. Instead, weighed down by guilt, she pretends to be an orphan, visiting her mother in secret and telling no-one of her real identity as Malinka, daughter of Ladivine Sylla.
In time, her lies turn against her. Richard leaves Clarisse, frustrated by the unbridgeable, indecipherable gulf between them. Clarisse is devastated, but finds solace in a new man, Freddy Moliger, who is let into the secret about her mother, and is even introduced to her.
But Ladivine, her daughter, who is now married herself, cannot shake a bad feeling about her mother’s new lover, convinced that he can bring only chaos and pain into her life. When she is proved right, in the most tragic circumstances, the only comfort the family can turn to requires a leap of faith beyond any they could have imagined if it is to be embraced.
Centred around three generations of women, whose seemingly cursed lineage is defined by the weight of origins, the pain of alienation and the legacy of shame, Ladivine is a bewildering, beguiling story of secrets, lies, guilt and forgiveness by one of Europe’s most unique literary voices.
Death by Water
by Kenzaburo Oe
For the first time in his long life, Nobel-laureate Kogito Choko is suffering from writer’s block. The book that he wishes to write would examine the turbulent relationship he had with his father, and the guilt he feels about being absent the night his father drowned in a storm-swollen river; but how to write about a man he never really knew?
When his estranged sister unexpectedly calls, she offers Choko a remedy – she has in her possession an old and mysterious red trunk, the contents of which promise to unlock the many secrets of the man who disappeared from their lives decades before.
by Aki Ollikainen
1867: a year of devastating famine in Finland. Marja, a farmer’s wife from the north, sets off on foot through the snow with her two young children. Their goal: St Petersburg, where people say there is bread.
Others are also heading south, just as desperate to survive. Ruuni, a boy she meets, seems trustworthy. But can anyone really help?
A Strangeness in My Mind
by Orhan Pamuk
Since his boyhood in a poor village in Central Anatolia, Mevlut Karataş has fantasized about what his life would become. Not getting as far in school as he’d hoped, at the age of twelve, he comes to Istanbul – ‘the center of the world’ – and is immediately enthralled both by the city being demolished and the new one that is fast being built. He follows his father’s trade, selling boza (a traditional Turkish drink) on the street, and hoping to become rich, like other villagers who have settled the desolate hills outside the booming metropolis.
But chance seems to conspire against him. He spends three years writing love letters to a girl he saw just once at a wedding, only to elope by mistake with her sister. And though he grows to cherish his wife and the family they have, his relations all make their fortunes while his own years are spent in a series of jobs leading nowhere; he is sometimes attracted to the politics of his friends and intermittently to the lodge of a religious guide.
But every evening, without fail, he still wanders the streets of Istanbul, selling boza and wondering at the ‘strangeness’ in his mind, the sensation that makes him feel different from everyone else, until fortune conspires once more to let him understand at last what it is he has always yearned for.
Told from the perspectives of many beguiling characters, A Strangeness in My Mind is a modern epic of coming of age in a great city, and a mesmerizing narrative sure to take its place among Pamuk’s finest achievements.
A Whole Life
by Robert Seethaler
Andreas lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps, where he arrives as a young boy taken in by a farming family. He is a man of very few words and so, when he falls in love with Marie, he doesn’t ask for her hand in marriage, but instead has some of his friends light her name at dusk across the mountain.
When Marie dies in an avalanche, pregnant with their first child, Andreas’ heart is broken. He leaves his valley just once more, to fight in WWII – where he is taken prisoner in the Caucasus – and returns to find that modernity has reached his remote haven…