Guide

From Life Pi to Little Life: 15 best novels from 21st century booker shorts

Existing since 1969, the Booker Prize is one of the most important world literary awards, annually awarded for the best novel written in English. Until 2014, the circle of nominees for the award was limited to authors from the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland or Zimbabwe, but in the last few years the prize can be awarded to English-speaking authors from any country in the world. Books that have become Booker finalists are internationally successful, but even getting on the long list of the prize is an extremely important achievement for the writer.

Last year, in the final of the Booker Prize, a struggle broke out between the Brief History of the Seven Murders by Marlon James and Little Life by Chania Yanagihara. James's award-winning work, retelling the criminal story of Jamaica with the voices of dozens of storytellers, was released in Russian in October; Yanagihara’s much more intonationally subtle and quiet novel, which received the status of an unconditional masterpiece in a year, was published in Russia just a couple of days ago.

By the release of "Little Life" in Russian, we have collected the most interesting books that have been included in the shortlisted awards in recent years.

Chania Yanagihara. "Little life"

2015

The most important English-language book of 2015 has already collected a mountain of awards and received the status of a new classic. Chania Yanagihara, an American of Japanese descent, was able to combine in her second novel the seemingly incompatible: violence, suffering and the joy of being. The plot of the Little Life story is focused on ambitious talented young friends living in New York, and their literally small life in a modern metropolis with difficulties in starting a career and resting on each other. And also the drama of the past, which nothing can erase, but which, nevertheless, can and should be experienced, like any life experience.

The story of Judah’s lawyer is that trauma experience that is silent in our society, which makes the Russian translation all the more valuable: Yanagihara in his book sets the precedent for a calm, non-dramatized conversation about the most terrible things and about the past, which remains part of the present. By intentionally erasing the time, the writer emphasizes that the tragedy of violence is a timeless phenomenon. As, however, and friendship.

Richard Flanagan "Narrow road to the far north"

2014

The military love affair of the Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan is named after the haiku book and travel notes of the 17th century Japanese classic Matsuo Basho. The novel’s events were based on a little-known episode in World War II in Europe - the construction of the Thai-Burmese Railway, or the Death Road, in which more than a hundred thousand Australian prisoners of war were involved.

The events of 1943 are interspersed with the past and future of the protagonist, the surgeon Dorrigo Evans, and the military line is mixed with love. Evans survived a tumultuous romance with his uncle's second wife, and this love is remembered by the whole life that he lives with another woman. The "narrow road to the far north" was welcomed by critics, although there were sharply negative reviews, partly rightly falling upon the style and melodramatic narrative. Nevertheless, the difficult and not fully assembled Australian book is interesting as a way of understanding reality with the help of world art.

Karen Joy Fowler. "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves"

2014

An American science-fiction writer and fantasy author, known to the Russian reader for the Jane Austen Book Club and Ice City, she became a finalist for the Booker Prize for her novel on growing up, family and social experiment as part of our everyday life.

"We are all beside ourselves," said on behalf of Rosemary Cook, a girl with great psychological problems, whose whole family is breaking up for reasons that are not completely understood. It is unclear why, at five, Rosemary was separated from her beloved sister Fern, why her mother had a nervous breakdown, and her brother became a member of the radical green organization and is hiding from the FBI. But much becomes clear when it turns out that Fern is not a person.

“We are all beside ourselves” is, on the one hand, the question of where the boundaries of human intervention in the natural world go, and on the other, a compassionate description of the family, with all its extravagance like any other - that’s why those apply to it the same laws of injury as the rest.

Eleanor Cutton. "Luminaries"

2013

XIX century, gold mines of New Zealand. Perhaps it is the luminaries that bring people into one place whose fates are imperceptibly intertwined. The longest book in the history of the Booker Prize from the young New Zealand Eleanor Catton could have taken place thanks to the plot: murders, poisoning, sex, money, esotericism - Jack London, mixed with Sally Potter's Piano. However, Catton herself says that she wanted to combine plot twists and breathtaking adventures from books for children and adolescents with the structural complexity and skill of modernist literature.

The experiment was a success, and through the never-ending adventures and passions the author’s conductor’s baton, which for hundreds of pages is not distracted for a second, barely noticeable. And the life of the characters, like the life of the theatrical heroes of "Anna Karenina" by Edgar Wright, is secondary to the life of writing.

Will selfie "Umbrella" ("Umbrella")

2012

Will Self is one of the few followers of great modernism in modern English literature, for whom form is not a way to play with the reader, but a global artistic task and the ability to convey in the text the complexity of human experience.

The penultimate novel of the writer is several streams of consciousness that intersect and overlap each other to show a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s, modern London and the fronts of World War II. Dr. Zach Busner, who decided on the experimental treatment of the patient Audrey, who spent half a century in lethargic oblivion, is the basis of the minimized cross-cutting plot. The treatment is unexpectedly triggered, and snatches of memories and thoughts of Audrey and the psychiatrist make up the frame of the novel.

World literature, the stream production of umbrellas, a description of the hostilities and the dehumanized world of the modern city are dissolved in a stream of text that is not broken into chapters, which acts equally according to the laws of large literature and jazz improvisation.

Emma Donohue. "Room"

2010

Emma Donoghue's “room” was successfully filmed, and, in addition to Booker's shortlist, the book received many other prizes. Unsurprisingly: the author of cheerful and ironic texts about relationships, Donoghue took up the darkest story of a boy who lived the first five years of his life alone with his mother kidnapped and held by an unknown man. Perhaps this is why the plot, which is based on a real story, does not grow into a novel by Dennis Lihan or Stephen King.

A room in which there are only a few pieces of furniture and a TV set, mom and kidnapper Old Nick - this is the whole world of the boy, and this world is dear to him. The horror in the book is as much as touching and funny. And how the mother keeps her mind and raises a child who needs to brush his teeth and do exercises, and how the boy does not want to say goodbye to the world in which the mother is the only important person, turns the story of crime and insanity into a novel about the love of parents and children.

John Maxwell Coetzee. "Summertime" ("Summer")

2009

Any text by prolific and versatile Nobel laureate John Maxwell Kutzee is an event, but the book Summer, which has become Booker's finalist, is not an ordinary case. “Summer” is the third part of Kutzee’s pseudo-autobiographical trilogy; it consists of attempts to find out who the deceased writer John Kutzee was, and is told in the form of an interview with five of the author’s relatives and acquaintances.

Coetzee in life is one of the most stellar writers: he did not take the Booker Prize twice, and in his interviews and books he constantly indicates the minimal significance of his figure. In "Summer", the writer brings this idea to its logical conclusion. Each of the interviewed people and their loved ones is no less interesting than the late John Coetzee himself, and instead of learning about himself, the author clearly suggests the reader to enjoy the texts he creates. And he is present precisely in them - at least, it is in them that he speaks of what is important to himself.

Ian McEwan "On the shore"

2007

In 1998, McEwan received the Booker Prize for the satirical novel Amsterdam, and three years later he again appeared on the shortlist of the award with one of the main books of the new millennium - The Atonement, whose film adaptation brought to a new level of fame as Kira Knightley and James McAvoy and director Joe Wright. The short and devoid of scope of McEwan’s book “On the Shore” is much less known.

In 1962, a 22-year-old couple marries for love and experiences the hardest test of the first wedding night of virgins. An inexperienced and excited young man, a class lower than his beautiful young violin wife, a girl from a cold family of intellectuals who, more than anything else, does not want sex, - and a world in which one can not only talk about feelings and pleasures, they are not accepted to experience .

A comical situation from the side, narrated on behalf of the main characters, becomes both a story of misunderstanding, and of the English class society and of England itself. In its modesty and lack of claims, “On the Shore” is much thinner than many Booker winners. Although the point, of course, is that in any era there are much more talented writers than geniuses, and Ian McEwan is certainly from the latter.

John banville "The Sea"

2005

One of the most original English-language writers of our time, John Banville is a master of the novel about impostor syndrome, people with identity problems, or literally fake personalities. In the novel "The Sea", however, this feature of the characters of Banville fades into the background, and in the first place there is a reflection on the modern novel and reflection on how to survive the grief.

Max Morden, an art historian whose wife recently died, arrives on the coast of Ireland, in a place where he spent the summer 50 years ago and where his life changed. The story of Max’s first love, reflections on art, the undercurrent of a post-modern novel, the author of which flirts with the expectations of readers and critics, is all important, but not so much as the motive behind experiencing the loss, which is in fact much more important than the art of fiction.

Julian Barnes. "Arthur and George"

2005

The books of one of the main English writers of the turn of the century have already been booked for four times, and in 2011 he still received the Prize for the Presentiment of the End award. The novel "Arthur and George" in Russia is little known, and in vain. In the book about the lives of two historical characters, Barnes combines his talent as an intellectual writer, for whom form is an integral part of the utterance, and the ability to tell intricate stories that cannot be torn off.

Arthur Conan Doyle took on the role of Sherlock Holmes during the Edalgie historic affair to acquit British lawyer George Edalgie, a parsed father. The book consists of tiny chapters: one about Arthur, one about George; one is told in the past, the other in the present, so that the gradual interweaving of the lives of these people begins to seem set from the very beginning. Barnes’s language is transparent and elegant, small details are important (as in any detective story), and postmodern motifs will be found and recognized only by those who need them. According to the book from 2015 is an English series.

Zedie Smith "About beauty"

2005

A favorite of critics and one of the most prolific modern British writers, Zadie Smith wrote the novel "About Beauty" as a homage to E. M. Forster, and her text echoes his classic book, Howards End.

The lives of two antagonistic families - Belzee's atheist liberals and Kipps religious pragmatists - are gradually intertwined. Tragicomedy with the participation of members of both families at the same time talks about modern society, and about enduring values, and about art as a way to see the world, and what beauty is and what its manifestations are. Zadie Smith writes vividly, noting the small details not to make them part of the plot, but to enjoy the beauty of everyday life. And this is an art subject to a few artists.

Kazuo Ishiguro. "Do not let me go"

2005

Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the most influential figures in modern British literature. The combination of English and Japanese detached observation made him a unique author and in 1989 brought him the Booker Prize for the remainder of the day book.

“Don't Let Me Go” is a philosophical novel that mimics science fiction: the main characters live in a world where they are not free people, but organ donors for others. The main character, Katie, reflects on her childhood, school, first love, friendship and the meaning of life. The plot twists first debunk the idea of ​​a growing-up novel, but only so that after reading the supposedly deconstructed genre reassembles itself, and we realized that all science fiction is about us. Unlike an overly dramatic film adaptation, the novel is great with that muffled sad note that never turns into a roar or a squeak, that very balanced and fatalistic detachment that could be defined as a truly Christian humility.

David Mitchell "Cloud Atlas"

2004

The third book of the British David Mitchell is a genre potpourri of six related stories unfolding in different times and spaces: from a ship in the Pacific Ocean in the 19th century to an abstract area in the post-apocalyptic future. The book has the structure of a nesting doll: five of the six differently told stories have two chapters, one until the middle of the book, the other after, so the last chapter is the end of the story from the very beginning.

The life of each hero - whether it be a young composer in England in the 1930s or a female manufacturer Sonmy 451, refusing slavery in dystopian Korea - is connected with the lives of the heroes of others and the declared theme of rebirth, and the motive of oppression, which, according to Mitchell, is inalienable part of the history of mankind. Cloud Atlas is not at all easy to read, and the combination of postmodern techniques and the maximum seriousness of the author’s idea does not always seem understandable. But the fact that there is no second such book is certain.

Colm Toybin. "The Master"

2004

One of the main Irish writers of our time, an essayist, journalist, author of short stories and two film novels, among which the notorious Brooklyn not so long ago, Toybin, for unclear reasons, has not yet been transferred to Russia.

"Master" is an artistic version of the biography of Henry James, in which the relatively small segment of the life of one of the key writers of the turn of the XIX-XX centuries is constantly interspersed with the memories of the hero. The novel tells the story of a person who does not have the opportunity to live his own life not so much because homosexuality in the James era is a matter of the law, but because he is so used to suppressing all his feelings that he did not leave himself the opportunity, albeit secretly, to be himself.

Toybin himself is an open homosexual and author of a breakthrough collection of essays entitled “Love in Dark Times: From Wilde to Almodovar”. However, the book is interesting not only as a statement on issues of sexuality and gender, but also as a well-organized clever and delicate text, after reading which it is difficult to be indifferent to Henry James, who is not very beloved now.

Yann Martel. "Life of Pi"

2002

The story of the son of the owners of the zoo in Pondicherry Pi Patel is at the same time a fairy tale, adventure and reflection on what is believability. Pi is a teenager who combines adherence to three religions and understands animal behavior thanks to his parents, gets into a shipwreck on his way from India to Canada, but escapes and ends up in a boat alone with a tiger.

The most improbable character and his life in an equally unlikely situation are described by Martel with such realism and dynamism that it is impossible to resist. In the end, the Canadian writer successfully copes with his task: to show that the miraculous is not just entertainment, but magical reality - as good a method for searching for truth as any other.

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