The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
Translated from the original Dutch by David Colmer
Nominated by: Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, The Netherlands + The Association of Public Libraries The Hague, The Netherlands + Gemeentebibliotheek Utrecht, The Netherlands + Open bare Bibliotheek Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Publisher of Nominated Edition: Harvill Secker, England
The Twin is the first novel by Gerbrand Bakker, beautifully translated from the original Dutch by David Colmer. Though rich in detail, it’s a sparely written story, with the narrator’s odd small cruelties, laconic humour and surprising tendernesses emerging through a steady, well-paced, unaffected style. The book convinces from first page to last. With quiet mastery the story draws in the reader. The writing is wonderful: restrained and clear, and studded with detail of farm rhythms in the cold, damp Dutch countryside. The author excels at dialogue, and Helmer’s inner story-telling voice also comes over perfectly as he begins to change everything around him. There are intriguing ambiguities, but no false notes. Nothing and no one is predictable, and yet we believe in them all: the regular tanker driver, the next door neighbour with her two bouncing children, and Jaap, the old farm labourer from the twins’ childhood who comes back to the farm in time for the last great upheaval, as Helmer finally takes charge of what is left of his own life.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Translated from the original French by Alison Anderson
Nominated by: Katona József County Library, Kecskemét, Hungary + Veria Central Public Library, Greece + Bibliothèque Municipale de Mulhouse, France + Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, France + Dublin City Public Libraries, Ireland + Seattle Public Library, USA + Biblioteca Demonstrativa de Brasília BDB, Brazil + Edmonton Public Library, Canada
Publisher of Nominated Edition: Europe Editions, USA + Gallic Books, England
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is the story of what happens when Madame Renée Michel, the lowly concierge of a suave Parisian apartment block, finds her life-long habits of secret aesthetic indulgence and intellectual engagement interrupted by two of the buildings tenants; one, a precocious twelve-year-old schoolgirl, the other a wealthy Japanese widower of exquisite taste and impeccable manners. The strange triangle of connection that builds between these three characters uncovers a secret life of the mind, running beneath the prosaic and materialist obsessions of the French haute bourgeoisie. Author Muriel Barbery cleverly blends a subtle postmodern narrative with deep-rooted human interest to produce a perfectly constructed novel, erudite and whimsical by turns, and full of unpredictable, affecting relationships.
In Zodiac Light by Robert Edric
Nominated by: Biblioteka Glowna Województwa Mazowieckiego, Poland
Publisher of Nominated Edition: Doubleday, UK
Robert Edric’s latest offering is an insightful, masterly crafted piece of fiction based on true events. The novel traces the story of Ivor Gurney, ex-soldier, poet and composer who spent the second half of his life in the City of London Mental Hospital, Dartford, until his death in 1937. Suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, Gurney was neglected by the military and by his own family. Only a handful of his friends were there for him as he tried to fight off madness and oblivion which he believed had long been waiting to claim him. Written in an economical, Hemingwayesque manner, this is a true gem of a novel allowing us to understand the inner workings of a creative mind.
Settlement by Christoph Hein
Translated from the original German by Philip Boehm
Nominated by: Stadtbibliothek Leipzig, Germany
Publisher of Nominated Edition: Metropolitan Books, USA
Hein’s beautifully translated novel enlists the reader’s help in constructing this profound portrait of German reunification. The story of East German refugee, Bernard Haber, is masterfully told in five first-person narratives by various friends and associates; it spans fifty years of his life, and traces the vicissitudes of his immersion into 1990s capitalism. The power of this stylish novel lies not only in the authenticity of the different voices through which Haber’s life is so poignantly explored; the personal stories also bring to life the complexities of a multi-faceted social and political world.
The Believers by Zoë Heller
Nominated by: The National Library of Estonia, Tallinn
Publisher of Nominated Edition: Fig Tree, UK
It is Heller’s assured and seductive style that lures the reader into this brilliant exploration of family life in post-modern times. The compelling story of a radical lawyer who is dying, and whose wife discovers that he has another family, is handled with wry humour, and the far-ranging issues of infidelity, adoption, drug abuse, religious and political orthodoxies, parenthood and love across the racial divide are artfully intertwined. Ironic, and subtly observed, The Believers achieves the rare goal of interrogating with cutting clarity the progressive culture born in the sixties, but without cynicism or piety. The triumphal ending, in which the widow transcends the personal pain of betrayal, affirms love and inclusiveness, but remains true to the spirit of the equivocal that makes this a remarkable novel.
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
Nominated by: Buchereien Wein, Austria + Cork City Libraries, Ireland + Waterford County Library, Ireland + Cape Town Central Library, South Africa + Richmond Public Library, Virginia, USA + San José Public Library, California, USA + Hartford Public Library, Connecticut, USA
Publisher of Nominated Edition: HarperCollins Publishers, UK + Fourth Estate, UK + Pantheon Books, USA
Joseph O’Neill was congratulated by Barack Obama on the BBC for having created Netherland, a magnificent novel that shows how hard it is for Americans to recover from the shock of 9/11. Comical, melancholy and satiric by turns, Joseph O’Neill plays his variations on the theme of New York with consummate skill from one end to the other.
God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin
Nominated by: M.I. Rudomino State Library for Foreign Literature, Moscow, Russia
Publisher of Nominated Edition: Viking, UK
How rare it is to find in any novel – let alone a first novel– a voice so compelling and authentic that it carries the entire story. With Sam Marsdyke, the troubled teenage anti-hero of Ross Raisin’s God’s Own Country, we have just such a voice– raw, hurt, blisteringly inventive— and perfectly fitted to the sad tale of a farm boy whose growing social alienation leads him to wreak havoc on his community. Marsdyke’s flight across the Yorkshire Moors is a journey from civility into depravation but also a desperate, anarchic rush for freedom, which completely absorbs and overwhelms the reader. Written with an extraordinary verbal ingenuity and a riotous play with dialect, this is a fresh and vivid novel which challenges our view of those who slip through the conventional nets of sanity.
Home by Marilynne Robinson
Nominated by: Cape Breton Regional Library, Sydney, Canada + Lincoln City Libraries, USA + Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs, USA + Miami-Dade Public Library System, Florida, USA
Publisher of Nominated Edition: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, USA + Harper Collins, Canada
Barack Obama praised Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead to the skies and he was quite right to do so. Home, her next novel, treats the same themes with equal mastery. Home is centered on the family of Reverend Robert Broughton, the closest friend of Reverend John Ames, the hero of Gilead. We see all the author’s main concerns in this novel, too: religious faith, but also the family and its buried secrets and its isolation, thwarted loves, and the approach of death. Marilynne Robinson has a gift for story-telling and for creating characters who come alive; the emotion is continuous and the music of her prose is always just right.