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Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 A New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year An Economist Best Book of the Year The life of Urbain Martien—artist, soldier, survivor of World War I—lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. In War and Turpentine, his grandson, a writer, retells his grandfather’s story, the notebooks providing a key to the locked chambers of Urbain’s memory. With vivid detail, the grandson recounts a whole life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father’s work;dodging death in a foundry; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; being haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become. Wrestling with this tale, the grandson straddles past and present, searching for a way to understand his own part in both. As artfully rendered as a Renaissance fresco, War and Turpentine paints an extraordinary portrait of one man’s life and reveals how that life echoed down through the generations. (With black-and-white illustrations throughout)
Shortly before his death in 1981, Stefan Hertmans’ grandfather gave him a couple of filled exercise books. Stories he’d heard as a child had led Hertmans to suspect that their contents might be disturbing, and for years he didn’t dare to open them. When he finally did, he discovered unexpected secrets. His grandfather’s life was marked by years of childhood poverty in late-nineteenth-century Belgium, by horrific experiences on the frontlines during the First World War and by the loss of the young love of his life. He sublimated his grief in the silence of painting. Drawing on these diary entries, his childhood memories and the stories told within Urbain’s paintings, Hertmans has produced a poetic novelisation of his grandfather’s story, brought to life with great imaginative power and vivid detail. War and Turpentine is an enthralling search for a life that coincided with the tragedy of a century—and a posthumous, almost mythical attempt to give that life a voice at last. Stefan Hertmans has published novels, short-story collections, essays and poetry. In 1995 he was awarded the three-yearly Flemish poetry prize. He has also received two nominations for the VSB Poetry Prize. His most recent novel, The Hidden Tissue, received unanimous praise. ‘Hertmans follows in his grandfather’s footsteps in this brilliant and moving imagined reconstruction, his imagination beautifully filling the gaps as he describes “the battle between the transcendent, which he yearned for, and the memory of death and destruction, which held him in its clutches.’ Sunday Express ‘A mesmerising portrait of an artist as a young man, a significant contribution to First World War literature and a brilliant evocation of a vanished world.’ Herald ‘A masterly treatise on the interconnections of life, art, memory, and heartbreaking love...Hertmans’s prose, with a deft translation from McKay, works with the same full palette as Urbain Martien’s paintings: vivid, passionate—and in the end, life-affirming.’ Publishers Weekly ‘Wonderful, full of astonishingly vivid moments of powerful imagery...[Hertmans] brilliantly captures the intractable reality of a complex man...I thought I’d had enough of books about the First World War; I couldn’t have been more wrong.’ Sunday Times ‘Every detail has the heightened luminosity of poetry...The book has such convincing density of detail, with the quiddities of a particular life so truthfully rendered, that I was reminded of a phrase from Middlemarch: “an idea wrought back to the directness of sense, like the solidity of objects”. Hertmans’ achievement is exactly that...War and Turpentine has all the markings of a future classic.’ Guardian ‘A gritty yet melancholy account of war and memory and art that may remind some readers of the work of the German writer W. G. Sebald...Urbain Martien was a man of another time. This serious and dignified book is old-fashioned, too, in the pleasant sense that it seems built to last.’ New York Times ‘[Hertmans] recreates the lives and losses of the deceased with enormous empathy and skill... Like many family dramas, this is a work that veers between sense and sentimentality. It is in many ways an old-fashioned book, and pleasingly so... It is sympathetic remembrance, shaped into lasting elegy.’ Australian ‘A lovingly reimagined life of an ordinary man whose life was forever marked by the first world war. Fine prose from a Flemish-Belgian poet and essayist.’ Best Books of 2016, Australian Financial Review ‘‘Reminiscent of WG Sebald, this intoxicating hybrid of a book combines memoir with fiction...This beautiful and cunning book is the result of that transformation.’ Dominic Smith, Best Books of 2016, Australian ‘A lovingly reimagined life of an ordinary man whose life was for ever marked by the first world war.’ Best Books of 2016, Economist ‘A thought-provoking novel...He comes at the subject in ways that acknowledge the difficulties of remembering.’ NZ Listener
WINNER OF THE VONDEL PRIZE 2017 LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 in The Times, Sunday Times and The Economist, and one of the 10 Best Books of 2016 in the New York Times Shortly before his death, Stefan Hertmans' grandfather Urbain Martien gave his grandson a set of notebooks containing the detailed memories of his life. He grew up in poverty around 1900, the son of a struggling church painter who died young, and went to work in an iron foundry at only 13. Afternoons spent with his father at work on a church fresco were Urbain’s heaven; the iron foundry an inferno. During the First World War, Urbain was on the front line confronting the invading Germans, and ever after he is haunted by events he can never forget. The war ends and he marries his great love, Maria Emelia, but she dies tragically in the 1919 flu epidemic. Urbain mourns her bitterly for the rest of his life but, like the obedient soldier he is, he marries her sister at her parents' bidding. The rest is not quite silence, but a marriage with a sad secret at its heart, and the consolations found in art and painting. War and Turpentine is the imaginative reconstruction of a damaged life across the tumultuous decades of the twentieth century; a deeply moving portrayal of family, grief, love and war.
In this dazzling work of historical fiction, the Man Booker International–long-listed author of War and Turpentine reconstructs the tragic story of a medieval noblewoman who leaves her home and family for the love of a Jewish boy. In eleventh-century France, Vigdis Adelaïs, a young woman from a prosperous Christian family, falls in love with David Todros, a rabbi’s son and yeshiva student. To be together, the couple must flee their city, and Vigdis must renounce her life of privilege and comfort. Pursued by her father’s knights and in constant danger of betrayal, the lovers embark on a dangerous journey to the south of France, only to find their brief happiness destroyed by the vicious wave of anti-Semitism sweeping through Europe with the onset of the First Crusade/ What begins as a story of forbidden love evolves into a globe-trotting trek spanning continents, as Vigdis undertakes an epic journey to Cairo and back, enduring the unimaginable in hopes of finding her lost children. Based on two fragments from the Cairo Genizah—a repository of more than three hundred thousand manuscripts and documents stored in the upper chamber of a synagogue in Old Cairo—Stefan Hertmans has pieced together a remarkable work of imagination, re-creating the tragic story of two star-crossed lovers whose steps he retraces almost a millennium later. Blending fact and fiction, and with immense imagination and stylistic ingenuity, Hertmans painstakingly depicts Vigdis’s terrible trials, bringing the Middle Ages to life and illuminating a chaotic world of love and hate.
A bold, inventive novel about a young man’s attempt to make sense of the past while unsteadily growing into adulthood in the old American West. In 1871, Edward Turrentine Bayard III, sick and restless, leaves his Connecticut home to recover out west. But when the private sanitarium in which he is to stay proves to be nothing more than a rickety outpost on the Nebraskan plains, he becomes a buffalo skinner. After returning to the East, Ned teams up with Phaegin, who earns her money rolling cigars, and Curly, a fourteen-year-old coal miner, but the newfound trio is wrongly accused of triggering a bomb at a labor rally, and they must flee. With a Pinkerton agent following their every move, the gang of winsome ne’er-do-wells takes flight on a circuitous escape through northern outposts into Indian country, past the slums of Chicago, and into the boundless Great Plains. En route they become witness to the transformation and growing pains of a burgeoning nation. “An entertaining romp through the American 1870s (Publishers Weekly), Turpentine is a comic, prescient look at the growth of an individual and a country. “Warren knows how to spin a tale.” —Booklist
In the backwoods of Mississippi, a land of honeysuckle and grapevine, Jewel and her husband, Leston, are truly blessed; they have five fine children. When Brenda Kay is born in 1943, Jewel gives thanks for a healthy baby, last-born and most welcome. Jewel is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, like lightning, an unforeseen event can set us on a course without reason or compass. In this story of a woman's devotion to the child who is both her burden and God's singular way of smiling on her, Bret Lott has created a mother-daughter relationship of matchless intensity and beauty, and one of the finest, most indomitable heroines in contemporary American fiction.
Based on a true, still-unfolding story, Silence of the Chagos is a powerful exploration of cultural identity, the concept of home, and above all the neverending desire for justice. Shenaz Patel draws on the lives of exiled Chagossians in this tragic example of 20th century political oppression. Every afternoon a woman in a red headscarf walks to the end of the quay and looks out over the water, fixing her gaze “back there”: to Diego Garcia, one of the small islands forming the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean. With no explanation, no forewarning, and only an hour to pack their belongings, the Chagossians are deported to Mauritius. Officials tell her that the island is “closed”— there is no going back for any of them. Charlesia longs for life on Diego Garcia, where the days were spent working on a coconut plantation; the nights dancing to sega music. As she struggles to come to terms with her new reality, Charlesia crosses paths with Désiré, a young man born on the one-way journey to Mauritius. Désiré has never set foot on Diego Garcia, but as Charlesia unfolds the dramatic story of his people, he learns of the home he never knew and the disrupted future of his people. With the sovereignty of Chagos currently being debated on an international judiciary level, Silence of the Chagos is an important and timely examination of the rights of individuals in the face of governmental corruption. Praise for Silence of the Chagos: “Some twenty years ago, I was struck by a photo showing barefoot women on the road facing the armed police. They were Chagossian women protesting in Mauritius with astonishing determination.” This photo, which she's never forgotten, is the inspiration for the Mauritian novelist and journalist Shenaz Patel's third book. Mingling various voice, Patel describes, in a bitter, clear-cut style, the tragedy of the inhabitants of the Chagos, those coral islands of the Indian Ocean that were turned into an American military base and whose inhabitants had been banished to Mauritius between 1967 and 1972. With a prose that seeps and stings, and a sharp sensibility, Shenaz Patel breathes life into the painful nostalgia, the lingering memories, and the eternal incomprehension of these expelled from a string of lost islands.” —Le Monde “This novel has two voices, those of Charlesia and Désiré, both of whom are foreigners, natives of the Chagos archipelago, living in exile in Mauritius, an island that is a paradise for some but a hell for them. The Chagos are an archipelago that would have been hidden in the depths of the Indian Ocean, had Americans not built a military base to bombard other countries. Charlesia and Désiré live and breathe; the Mauritian writer Shenaz Patel introduces us to them and gives them voice again.” —Libération “From scenes of daily life to the horrors of forced exile, through the grief of deculturation and the experience of an impossible identity, Patel interrogates the relationship between political expediency and its all-too-human consequences, between the abstract needs of international security and the concrete needs of the individual, and above all between the rich and the poor.” —L'Express
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL FICTION A BOOK OF THE YEAR IN THE TIMES, GUARDIAN, SUNDAY TIMES, DAILY EXPRESS, SCOTSMAN and SPECTATOR Three journeys. One road. England, 1348. A gentlewoman flees an odious arranged marriage, a Scots proctor sets out for Avignon and a young ploughman in search of freedom is on his way to volunteer with a company of archers. All come together on the road to Calais. Coming in their direction from across the Channel is the Black Death, the plague that will wipe out half of the population of Northern Europe. As the journey unfolds, overshadowed by the archers' past misdeeds and clerical warnings of the imminent end of the world, the wayfarers must confront the nature of their loves and desires. A tremendous feat of language and empathy, it summons a medieval world that is at once uncannily plausible, utterly alien and eerily reflective of our own. James Meek's extraordinary To Calais, In Ordinary Time is a novel about love, class, faith, loss, gender and desire - set against one of the biggest cataclysms of human history.
"One of the most intriguing and appealing character studies in recent European fiction, and easily the best work of Tabucchi's to have appeared in English translation."—Kirkus Reviews Dr. Pereira is an aging, overweight journalist who has failed to notice the menacing cloud of fascism over Salazarist Portugal, until one day he meets an aspiring young writer and anti-fascist. Breaking out of his apolitical torpor, Pereira reluctantly rises to heroism.